Don’t blink – you might miss the race.
With speeds reaching up to 150 miles per hour and snowmobiles with 600 horsepower motors, there will be some fast-moving specialty-built rigs on Little Detroit Lake this weekend.
That’s right, ice drag racing is back, and this year it will be held off the public access on West Lake Drive instead of on the ice off the Holiday Inn.
“We expect about 100 race sleds to show up” for the Minnesota State Championship Ice Drags, said Clint Holst, president of the Northern Drag Racing Series.
Four snowmobiles at a time will race down the eighth of a mile long straight track, with races held in five classes: Stock, improved stock, pro stock, open mod and outlaw sleds — which involve hand-fabricated snowmobiles that cost as much as $40,000, Holst said.
The track will be shaved “glass-smooth,” for the races, he added. “At those speeds you need a good track,” he said. “We prepare them so they’re safe.”
The Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn is the host hotel for the event, but the race was moved to Little Detroit from Big Detroit over concerns about ice conditions.
“We felt the ice is in better condition over by Zorbaz, so we felt we should hold them over there – safety first,” he said.
Testing will be held Friday, and the races will start at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Depending on how many racers show up, “we’ll probably run until almost dusk on both days,” he said. “It depends on the number of entries.”
Registration is Friday evening at the Holiday Inn and 9 a.m. Saturday on the ice. The cost is $20 for stock, $25 for most other classes and $50 for the specialty classes, Holst said.
Winners collect 100 percent payback of the entry fees, plus an added purse of $3,000.
But not just anybody can hop on a sled and show up to race: The racer’s upper body must be protected with a safety jacket, shin guards are required, the snowmobile must have proper ice studs or picks — no trail studs allowed, and it must be equipped with a shut-off tether to kill the engine if the rider falls off.
The Northern Drag Racing Series owns the race timing system and is organizing, promoting and running the race in Detroit Lakes.
“We’re a new club,” Holst said. “We just formed in March, due to the lack of other organizations putting on races – we stepped up to fill the void.”
Snowmobile ice drag racing in general “took a downturn in the mid-2000s, there was a decline in the sport,” he said. “We feel the need to keep it going, restore it to what it was, so to speak.”
The board of directors has members from North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada.
“We’re spread out,” he said. “We all came together for the good of the sport.”
The club will also hold races in Eau Claire, Wis., Jan. 29-30 and Ashland, Wis., Feb. 20.
The group doesn’t have an advertising budget, but gets the word out about races via social media and local posters.
“We’d love to see the people from Detroit Lakes come out to watch the event,” Holst said.