Craig’s AJ Stoffle racing toward pro snowmobile career | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig’s AJ Stoffle racing toward pro snowmobile career

AJ Stoffle takes a jump with gusto during the Deadwood ShootOut race in Deadwood, South Dakota in late January. Stoffle is currently competing in the Sport class of the International Series of Champions circuit for snocross. He has been racing snowmobiles since the age of 4.

At its peak, AJ Stoffle's Ski-Doo can get up to 118 miles per hour. Though during the average race, he'll only use about a fraction of this speed, it's good to know he's got that kind of power in his winter machinery.

Snow may not have been prominent in his neck of the woods this winter, but Stoffle has torn up the powder this season as a snocross racer in AMSOIL's International Series of Champions.

"It's pretty much the elite with people from Finland, Sweden, all over," he said.

Based on his own assessment, Stoffle's status is somewhere "between amateur and professional," as is the case with many who compete, with dozens of hopefuls attending each race.

"We're all trying to make it into the top five and maybe get signed to the factory team," he said. "This is my second year being sponsored by Ski-Doo, and they've been my biggest supporter."

The company supplies the sled and a network of mechanics, though it's Stoffle's parents who provide a lot of the work, just as they have been encouraging him in the wintertime activity since he was a toddler.

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Now 16, his enthusiasm hasn't waned from the racer-in-training he was at age 4, though moving from Junior classification to the Sport division has been a little more challenging.

This season, starting in November, Stoffle has traveled to Duluth and Shakopee, Minnesota, Fargo North Dakota, and most recently, Deadwood, South Dakota.

His best race was at US Air Force National in Fargo, where he finished third in the first two rounds and seventh in the finals.

Hard-pressed to pick a favorite, any track that requires some concentration is a good one, Stoffle said.

"I like a really technical track, a lot of rhythm sections and minefields to pick your way through versus just flat and wide-open," he said. "It's a lot more fun that way."

The finals of the national tour take place in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in mid-March, and Stoffle is eager to finish strong.

"Last time (in Deadwood) I only made one LCQ (last-chance qualifier), there was a lot of bumping and banging," he said. "A lot of teams look at (Lake Geneva) to pick up for the next year, so if I were to be on the podium there, there's a chance they'd pick me for Pro Lite next year."

Whether a professional happens next year or further down the track, for now, Stoffle is just glad to be doing something he loves.

"I'm living the dream," he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

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