Craig youth snowmobile racers bring home awards
Nothing comes close to the thrill of racing snowmobiles for A.J. Stoffle.
A.J., 13, started racing when he was 4, and said he still likes to get up for every race and every competition.
“I love the physical challenge,” he said. “To get up and go race in the competition is great.”
A.J. is a member of the Xtreme Mountain Racing circuit in Craig. The racing organization hosted year-end awards April 16 at Wyman Museum.
Michelle Stoffle, Wesley Chapman and Tallyn and Bailey Wagner also capped off successful seasons.
A.J. was the champion in the Junior Novice 10 to 13 class, the Junior Novice 10 to 13 Challenge class, and the Junior 14 to 15 class. He also won Rider of the Year as voted by his peers.
A.J. said he began riding by himself at 3.
“I rode with my parents when I was about 2 years old, but I really started riding by myself when I was 3,” he said. “I always used to watch my cousin race and one time when we went out to his races, I brought my sled and just started racing.”
When A.J. started racing, his sister, Michelle, 18, said she didn’t want to just sit by and watch.
“When I was 11 years old is about when I started racing,” she said. “I was tired of just going to watch A.J. race, so I decided to try it. I wasn’t very good back then, but I am a lot better now.”
Michelle won the ProAM Stock Women’s division and took third place in the Junior 16 to 17 class and the Junior 14 to 17 class.
Chapman didn’t grow up around snowmobiles like A.J. and Michelle did with their mother, Teresa, and father, Michael, teaching them to ride.
But, being around the Stoffle’s often, he said he decided to give racing a try.
“Teresa was my babysitter for five years and so I was always around when they would ride and watched them and thought it looked fun,” he said. “I started racing in 2009 about a week before my first race.”
At the year-end awards, Chapman was champion in the Junior 14 to 17 class and the Sport Stock I class.
When Chapman, A.J. and Michelle leave the state to race in non-XMR events, they have their own team name — Grip It & Rip It.
As a team, they have traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Lake Geneva, Wis.
For each of them, traveling means something different.
“The more we travel the more people we get to meet,” A.J. said. “There is some great competition across the country.”
Michelle said traveling to big competitions brings on nerves.
“The closer we get, the more nervous I get,” she said. “We don’t know who is going to be there and who will show up to race us.”
Chapman said people from Sweden have shown up at events in Wisconsin, but even so, the road is not for him.
“Traveling sucks,” he said. “We pack into a truck and take turns sitting in the middle. For home races, we don’t have to travel and we get to sleep in our own beds.”
The only home meet for XMR racers is the Winter Festival at Wyman Museum.
Racing at home takes a little stress off the physically demanding sport, A.J. said.
“For as many laps as we are out there, with two qualifying races and the final race, at the end of the day it is tiring,” he said. “I race in two classes a day, so that is about six races per day.”
Tallyn, 6, and Bailey, 4, are also dedicated to the sport.
This was Bailey’s first year in competitive racing and Tallyn started about 4 years ago, but both have been riding since they have been able to walk.
“Tallyn’s dad got him a snowmobile for Christmas when he was about 2 years old,” said Lisa Wagner, Tallyn and Bailey’s mother. “When we found out Teresa was racing, Tallyn’s first race was out in Hayden when he was still in diapers.”
Even though Tallyn and Bailey started at a young age, Lisa said her and her husband, Jay Wagner, had no worries.
“We used to ride alongside of them with a tether in case they got out of control, but they didn’t need it for long,” she said. “When we are at home, all they want to do is ride their snowmobiles or dirt bikes. They love to be out riding, so we just encourage them to do it.”
The brother and sister, however, have different reasons why they like to race.
“I like to race with my friends,” Bailey said. “I just go to race with them, not to win.”
“I like racing against people and the awesome trophies I get,” Tallyn said.
Tallyn took third place in the 120 Stock class, the 120 Championship class and the 120 Open Sunday class.
Bailey was an honorable mention for both the 120 Stock class and the 120 Open Sunday class.
With the 2010-11 season now over, Michelle said she’s not quite sure how to feel.
“At the end of the season, we have a mix of emotions,” she said. “We are happy to have a break, but sad we don’t get to race anymore.”
Teresa said she thinks the kids would all continue racing if there was more snow.
“After the awards, we took them all up to Rabbit Ear’s Pass to ride together,” she said. “When it was time to go, they all wanted to race one more time.”
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