Sno-crossed racers

Craig snowmobile racers work together on race weekends

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When Tanner Hankins was literally run over by another competitor in a snocross race last weekend in West Yellowstone, half the town of Craig came to his side.

OK, maybe not half the town, but there was no shortage of people with an 81625 area code coming to help.

"My mom mode kicked in immediately," said Teresa Stoffle, who was filming the race. "Nobody would have known that I can't run by how fast I got over there."

Stoffle has earned the nickname of "Momma Stoffle" among the Craig snowmobile contention.

"We're always cheering for each other and looking out for each other," she said. "It's family oriented."

She also books hotels and takes care of the details for the trips.

Hankins and his dad, Bobby, hauled all of the Craig sleds up to West Yellowstone.

Austin Corson, an eighth-grader at Craig Middle School, rode to the race with Phil Vallem, a Craig native.

The Stoffle family loaded up the car with their super star, 7-year-old A.J.

Michael Stoffle, A.J.'s dad didn't race but was at the races to help provide mechanical help.

"He's the prepared one," Tanner Hankins said. "He's always got some spare parts."

"I do whatever I can," Michael Stoffle replied.

Craig's family of racers has a successful tradition behind it.

Vallem and Bobby Hankins have raced in the X-Games.

Before Vallem took over the Mountain States Snowmobile Racing Circuit and Bobby Hankins was injured this year, they were some of the top professional racers in Colorado.

Last year, Craig natives from Warrior Competition Apparel managed the regional racing circuit.

Vallem met Corson when he was with Warrior and took him under his wing. He helped Corson turn into one of the best 14-year-old racers in the region.

Tanner Hankins, of course, learned from his dad.

A.J. Stoffle, who already has an X-Games medal from a race for future stars, absorbs everything he can from all of his elders.

"I watch their lines," he said.

At the West Yellowstone races, Craig was represented well. Tanner Hankins was leading his race when he was injured.

A.J. Stoffle won the final in the 120 Class. There were 60 racers in that class.

Corson finished fourth in the class for 14- and 15-year-olds.

Three weeks ago at the MSSR finals, Craig was represented by a racer in every final except in the pro races. Michelle Stoffle and Michael Stoffle also raced in those finals.

At least twice a month in the winter, the MSSR hosts a race and the Craig crew is there. They don't always travel together but they are aware of who they are going to cheer for.

"I always want Craig racers to win," Tanner Hankins said.

"They're always helping me out with what lines to take," Corson said.

If their passion for racing and ability to improve keep intact, Tanner Hankins, Corson and A.J. Stoffle could all be racing professionally together one day.

"I'll probably be looking at A.J.'s snowflaps," said Tanner Hankins, who is now related to the Stoffles by his father's marriage.

"It's a small community and everybody wants to help each other out," Michael said. "That's what's the most important part of it."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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