Wind, grey skies, and 20-degree temperatures didn’t stop people from coming to the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Strathcona Cup Race for snowmobilers. Sporting winter coats, snow pants, and snow boots, people stood and others sat in their vehicles parked around the fence outlining the one-third mile snowmobile track in Strathcona on Saturday, February 11.
Snowmobile racers pulled up to the starting line on their machines, bouncing up and down a couple times on them to get their studs into the ice to create some traction. They continued to rev up their engines. Then the green flag waved and the racers took off around the track, making loud sharp noises as they did so. The announcer spoke into the microphone, notifying fans of the competitors place in the race, much like at the races that take place on a summer night.
The sun came out from behind the clouds around 4 pm, shining down on the smooth ice and snow-covered track. A little after that time, 68-year old Armand Westlund took his spot on the starting line for the 300 Liquid Super Modified Final race. In his black and white snowmobile decked with a red number 113 and flames, he finished second, but this wasn’t the only honor this man received on a night celebrating 50 years of snowmobile racing in Strathcona, Minn.
Starting as a fundraiser by Byron Staie for the Oak Ridge Wranglers 4-H in 1968, the Strathcona Cup Race has evolved and become the longest-standing snowmobile race in Minnesota, according to the race’s 50-year celebration history book, and the second longest consecutive running snowmobile race in the continent, according to Westlund, behind just the AMSOIL World Championship Derby race in Eagle River, Wisc.
In its first year, the Strathcona Snowmobile Race took place at the old ball diamond at the end of Main Street in town. In 1969, the Community Club in Strathcona formed and began raising funds for this race. Holding the races at the Chrest Hamness farm in 1972 and 1973, the Community Club acquired the land the race currently takes place on in 1973, according to the celebration history book.
As a racer or an organizer, Westlund has taken part in this race in Strathcona from the “get-go.” Actually, Westlund competed in his first snowmobile race before the Strathcona Cup even started, racing in 1967 east of Greenbush, where he went four or five miles before blowing a belt on the snowmobile.
After graduating high school in 1967, Westlund went to work at Arctic Cat and raced on the Arctic Cat local team until 1972. At this time, he then raced a Thunder Jet snowmobile for Harvey Hanson until 1975. In this race last Saturday, he used the same engine he used in that Thunder Jet over 30 years ago.
Westlund also raced at last year’s event in Strathcona, where he suffered numerous injuries, including a punctured lung, spleen, and kidney, four broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and a torn rotator cuff. This obviously didn’t stop him from rounding the tracks this year.
“Snowmobiling has been my life and racing has been my life…” Westlund said. “I drove today with the torn rotator cuff. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to finish or not, so I thought, well, I’m going to do one race in Strathcona today and see. I thought this was going to be my last race, but I got the fever. Now I’m going to buy a decent tech vest and I’m going to buy a neck brace to make myself safer. I’m going to keep racing.”
To read the complete story and see more photos, read the February 15 issue of The Tribune in print or online. To see full race results from this year’s Strathcona Cup Race, read the February 22 issue also in print or online.