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A cool father-son duo: Fifty-Fifth Annual Strathcona Ice Oval Races takes place


Son and father duo Levi and Ed Lehrke from the Hallock area post together before racing action began at this year’s Strathcona Ice Oval Races on February 12. These two are in their third year of racing snowmobiles together. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Levi Lehrke races in the first race of the day at the Fifty-Fifth Annual Strathcona Ice Oval Races on February 12. Lehrke earned the checkered flag in this race. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

In his sixteenth year of racing snowmobiles, Ed Lehrke competes at the the Fifty-Fifth Annual Strathcona Ice Oval Races. Lehrke earned a couple first place finishes, but as of late his son Levi is the priority on racing day. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The sun shined, temperatures sat below -10 degrees, a light breeze blew, snow dust flew up into and hung in the air as the racers rounded the corners. The first checkered flag of the day flew and crossing the finish line was nine-year-old Levi Lehrke, kicking off the first of 55 races at the Fifty-Fifth Annual Strathcona Ice Oval races on February 12.

He wasn’t the only Lehrke who crossed the finish line first that day. His father Ed did as well.

Before kicking off their racing action at this year’s Strathcona Ice Oval Races, this father-son duo from the Hallock area talked about its snowmobiling backgrounds, the preparation that goes into preparing for the races, what they enjoy most about snowmobile racing, what goes through their minds when they see the other racing, and what it means to keep doing this together.

Ed trail rode throughout his young adult life and Levi was born into the snowmobile life. Levi rode 120 and kitty cat snowmobiles around the yard. When Ed was racing, Levi was just a baby, but now it has come full circle.

Ed and Levi were working on a carbide runner on a snowmobile sled the morning of the race. Levi described a carbide like an ice skate, helping one dig into the ice and turn on the snowmobile. This snowmobile they were working on holds special significance to them both.

“The sled we were working on, my wife was lap counting here, when he (Levi) was about one and a half or two years old,” Ed recalled. “And on a plow break, she passed him (Levi) out of the lap booth and he rode around the track with me while they were plowing. Six years later, he won the same race on the same snowmobile.”

Both sporting the number 99, this father and son are in their third year of racing snowmobiles together. Ed is in his sixteenth year, and Levi, a fourth grader at Kittson Central School in Hallock, is in his third, having raced since he was seven years old.

At the Strathcona races, Levi earned first place finishes in the JR 0-4000 Fan (11-15), and the JR 0-400 Fan (11 and under), and a second place finish in the JR Novice. His father, Ed, secured first place finishes in the Super Stock 340 LQ/includes 440 Fan race and the Super Stock 440 Fan, and a second place finish in the Super Stock 440 LQ.

It wasn’t a certainty Ed would race that day. Prior to racing beginning that day, Ed was having trouble with his machine, but he said his son’s snowmobile took priority.

“I’ve had my run at it,” Ed said. “And if I can race, great. If I can’t, oh well. He’s a lot better than I am.”

Levi didn’t disagree with that statement.

“It’s his turn now and with any luck,” Ed said, “he’ll do the same for somebody else.”

As for race preparation, it’s a family affair. Ed goes over most of the nuts and bolts, the high spots of the snowmobile sled every week before they race. Finding parts is a never-ending process. It’s easier to get their parts during the summertime, Ed explained.

They also have to prep the trailer, including making sure it has heat and that the generator is working, having some trouble with it that morning. Ed’s wife and Levi’s mom makes sure snacks are in stock and that the trailer is clean.

“Levi is getting better and better all the time at pulling wrenches,” Ed said, “but on school nights, he takes care of homework and I take care of snowmobiles.”

As Ed explained, the snowmobile community goes beyond the racing. It’s one big family.

Asked what he enjoys most about snowmobile racing, Levi said, “Racing (and) meeting people.”

Levi has made friends from the middle of Minnesota and met fellow youth up in Canada years ago. The racing weekend before took them to southwest Minnesota, specifically Butterfield, where Levi hung out with a fellow youth who had a Skidoo.

To illustrate the close-knit atmosphere of the snowmobile community, Ed mentioned how Levi passed down his first sled to a young girl racing that day.

“It’s always been that way… Nobody really survives fully on their own,” Ed said. “… I’m using a borrowed generator this morning because my generator quit right in the night last night. So I mean, that’s just how this deal always goes.

The night before the race, Ed mentioned how he and other racers were helping lay the bales that surround the track.

“This is our home track,” Ed said about the Strathcona Ice Oval track. “This is where we test.”

To see the complete story, read the February 16 issue of The Tribune or the February 17 issue of the North Star News in print or online.

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