Craig’s AJ Stoffle racing toward pro snowmobile career
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.
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.
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.
When in doubt, stick to the animal kingdom, blockbuster movies and children’s literature. The winners of the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous were named Saturday evening to conclude the yearly festival that sees tree stumps become works of art in a matter of four days.