Jarrett Green loves the thrill of taking a big jump and sliding through the corners of every snocross course he races.
His crew estimates they've put about three months of labor and thousands of dollars in custom parts into his highly modified racing snowmobile in order to get it ready for his first race of the season - Saturday's high noon showdown at the Hayden Speedway.
All he needed was a little help putting on his goggles. Then the 7-year-old could focus on the primary goal of beating his 5-year-old brother Kyler in the junior 120cc division of the day's Mountain States Snowmobile Racing series event.
The boys' father and "crew," Scott Green, is a Riverton, Wyo., resident and former snocross racer who jokes that he feeds his tenacious competitors "raw meat" in their travels to various snowmobile events across the region.
The stock 120cc race event was an unofficial event that was a comical display of pint-sized racers getting their miniaturized sleds stuck on the jumps and veering off the course that wrapped around the inside of the speedway.
But the families and racers who live the sport know they could be looking at the next generation of national-caliber snocross racers.
"This is a necessary step," said Terry Selby. "You have to start at the local level."
He should know. The Granby resident started taking his son, Wes, to similar, regional Colorado circuit snocross races at age 12. After the "turkey went out and won his first race," Wes Selby didn't stop.
Wes Selby now is ranked No. 18 in the World PowerSports Association's standings on the national circuit's semi-pro open division.
Back in his home state for Winter X Games 11, starting Thursday in Aspen, Selby said he was excited to race in the more laid-back atmosphere. He races every weekend from "Thanksgiving until the end of March," criss-crossing the country at courses lined with thousands of spectators and broadcast on the SPEED Channel. He's used to racing in classes of 80, where you "have to make it to the top three to be in the main event."
There were just eight racers in the semi-pro open division of Saturday's event and only a modest crowd that braved the zero-degree temperatures to watch, but the races still yielded many doses of healthy, fuel-injected competition.
Craig's Austin Corson took sixth-place in both the MSSR's sport stock and sport performance classes last season. Now 16 years old and eligible to race at the semi-pro level, Corson was excited to get second place in a first-round race at the first stop in the seven-race series.
MSSR event directors divided some 50 competitors into 13 race divisions. Two qualification rounds of races for each class throughout the day determined points for the evening's finals races under the lights.
Racers like Parachute's Shawn Murphy enjoyed the course that race director Phil Vallem spent 24 hours sculpting with sizable jumps and banked corners.
"You can get a lot of air, there's a nice table and a variety of jumps," Murphy said.
MSSR race organizer Brent Gates was pleased with the turnout of new racers, especially the growth of the beginner stock division.
"It's a good sign to see the sport growing up from the bottom," Gates said, hoping to increase the race series' and sport's visibility with more events closer to towns like Hayden. "You get more spectators, then the sponsors - it can snowball."
While Vallem plans to host more races in Hayden, Randall Reed agreed bringing the races to the people can lure the manufacturer support necessary to elevate the MSSR to the level of other regional race series.
"If they can continue to have the races close (to Hayden and Steamboat), it will only mean more participation," said Reed, owner of Planet Powersports (formerly Action Motor Sports), whose 13-year-old son Austin won the first round of the junior 10-13 division.
Grand Junction's Dennis Durmas started racing in Colorado's regional snocross races in 1989 and is well aware of the races' ability to bring out young riders and mold them into sponsored experts.
"It's good to see talent come out of (Colorado/Wyoming)," Durmas said. "It's a good way for kids to get started and you can tell if the talent will come out - the cream only rises to the top."
Oksana Burkhardt was one of the racers on hand who has used extensive race experience, exclusively at MSSR events, to catapult her to WPSA races. The Leadville resident now ranks 12th in the national circuit, where she says "if I'm not in the front, I'm definitely in the way." With the WPSA's recent addition of an amateur female class, she believes MSSR races can give women valuable "seat time" and practice to step up to the next competitive level.
That was Ashlen Wilkerson's intent in the sport women's class. The 19-year-old Steamboat native is in her second year of racing and voiced the sport's allure for all present:
"I can't explain the feeling - it's like nothing else," she said. "You're jumping and everything else just disappears. You can put your anger down."
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