Where many forms of motorsport these days are comprised of near-identical equipment, creativity and innovation are alive and flourishing at Snow Outlaws snowmobile drag races. The Weenie Roast World Finals at Lakewoods Resort in Cable, Wisconsin, on March 4 saw a radical new sled debut, and a sled that was radical just three short races ago take a championship-scoring win.
Although the brand new, nitro “Harley” V-Twin Samson Exhaust/Hammer Down Racing “Hate Tank” didn’t play a winning hand on this trip to the table, the Pro Outlaw class sled performed exactly as expected on its first lap, taught the crew a clutch-plate lesson on its second (digging a hole in the snow and “dropping a hole”), and suffered an unusual parts failure on its third.
That last one was the opening round of eliminations. The sled—built and tuned by Jack Romine, and ridden and owned by Matt Musselman—failed to make the transition from alcohol to nitro that is a standard starting procedure that Romine has performed countless hundreds or thousands of times on nitro Harley motorcycles. This time, though, no nitro found its way to the injector.
“I pushed my luck and tried it three times,” said Romine, who eventually traced the problem to the hex drive on the fuel pump.
In the other lane, Jeff Ratzlaff patiently waited to start his own nitro snowmobile—the screw-supercharged “Grinch” that debuted (and won) at the delayed season opener at Rice Lake. At some point, though, starters always insist on keeping the show moving and Ratzlaff was told to start up and stage.
He and rider Mike Allen were having a good weekend with The Grinch. After the E1 gimme, Allen beat Long Lake winner Dominic Ernst on his turbo-methanol HRC-4 Eagle 1 sled, then took the final against wheelie king Matt Luke. And this time, the weekend passed without the aluminum-melting carnage that The Grinch experienced in the first two events.
“I have learnt not to have an electrical issue!” said Ratzlaff. “When you have an injector not working half the time, due to a bad wire on the harness that plugs into the injector module, it can really do a lot of damage to the engine! I found the issue this past week when I was doing an injector test, when the injector number 1 was going on-off, on-off. Here it was that bad plug!”
With that problem solved, Ratzlaff is now faced with a long off-season to ponder the limit on his bright green toy. “I kind of wish we weren’t done now, because we are just getting a good start figuring it out. I found a bunch of power in timing this past week. It loves fuel and timing! I kept tweaking on the CVT drive and also kept working on the rear skid suspension. We went 3.45 (at 151mph) with a 1.00 flat 60 foot. That is crazy fast for that track!”
Warming temps made for a tricky surface at Cable. In fact, the whole event was run on Friday to beat a serious ice storm that started just over an hour after the finals were complete. “The track was nice and smooth all day but got pretty tore up pretty quick,” said Ratzlaff, who was thrilled to find a spot to lay down that 1.00 60.
“We will keep tweaking on this thing and I’m sure we will be faster next year. I’m sure we can go 3.30s and that’s my goal for next year.”
Making it all look easy in the seat is Allen, who knows all too well just how uneasy the sport can be, This season was his first after breaking his neck in a top end crash a few years ago. “Definitely an unbelievable comeback year, with us being in all three finals and winning two of them,” said Allen, who’s proud of his team’s battle to hold the ET record.
The Grinch set the mark with a 3.47 at Rice Lake. Luke bested that with a 3.46 before The Grinch—designed and assembled by Craig Campton of Hypersports—took it back with the .45. “That’s a huge accomplishment, to say the least, for the whole Ratzlaff Racing team,” said Allen. “Considering the gremlins we ran into with The Grinch being a new build, and having a very talented field of drivers and very well-tuned machines.
“Jeff Ratzlaff has the determination and drive to win that will rival any! With Jeff and Howard Haack doing the tuning, it’s a tough combo to beat.
“I would like thank the Ratzlaff family for the opportunity to be a part of their team. I just met the family for the first time this winter and they make me feel like I’ve known them for 20 years.”
Family is at the very heart of Brian Sullivan’s story this weekend. The defending, unbeaten in ’21, Pro Xtreme 55 champ and his brother Corey were going to miss the season finals. Their dad Dave was receiving hospice care and the brothers decided they couldn’t be gone racing for a few days at this crucial time.
They didn’t bring it up but their dad did. “I want you guys to go race,” he said. “I know how much it means to you guys.”
“We still weren’t sure,” Brian said. “What do we do here? So basically, we waited till the very last second. And when they put all the racing on one day, that actually was a huge deal for us. Because it was like, ‘Okay, now we can go leave here at five in the morning, drive up there, and then we got back at 4:00 am the next morning. So we were only gone like 23 hours.”
Corey was a two-time finalist this season, and that consistency had him in the championship hunt. Brian, however, was winless and struggling. “I wasn’t able to get the sled to 60 foot like I wanted. Last year that sled just jumped out of the hole.”
This year, not so much. His ethanol-fueled, “John Deere” themed Hypersports HRC-2 performed a little too much like the farm tractor it was named for. And with drag racing, you’re not getting enough passes to tune with if you’re not winning.
“When you’re winning, it’s like you get six test passes and you give your opponent one, So it’s a huge deal to keep winning.” And Brian wasn’t.
To top it off, both Sullivans found themselves on the tough side of the ladder at Cable. Even without judging quality, their side had quantity, with the other side getting a bye.
So right off the bat, Brian raced the guy he was most scared of—Long Lake winner Casey Ausloos. “He’s got the new 174 and I feel was the guy to beat this year. So going up there. I figured my probability of winning was probably 10 to 15 percent. But it’s drag racing, anything could happen.”
And it did. “They had some issues,” said Brian. “They went down the track, but they just didn’t go as fast as they normally would.”
First round win in hand, Brian next faced another farm tractor sled—the “Farmall” owned by Chad Nyhus (who originally had Brian’s John Deere built) and ridden by Scott Kostman. “It’s the one that won Haydays this year,” said Brian. “So I’m racing two of the fastest guys one after the other. But I got out on him a little bit and at the finish line, I was about a sled ahead of him.”
Then came the semis and Brian faced the combination whose consistency (after points were tallied) earned them the ’22 championship—his brother Corey. The result was pretty much identical to Brian’s second round win, with about a sled length on Corey at the stripe.
The sled on the other side of the bracket that Brian was most worried about was the one ridden by Mike Sweeney Jr. But 17 year-old Samantha Martin took care of that worry in the semis when she slapped a light on Sweeney for a holeshot win.
First-time finalist Martin’s holeshots were over for the night, though, as Brian put a big gap on her at the hit for the win.
“There’s so many people on our crew to thank, but just to name a few of them: my stepson Brandon, Gavin, my brother Corey, Dakota, Charlie, Mike, Skylar. Without all them, there’s no way. You gotta have the people behind you.
“And we’re thankful for Glenn Hall. When we don’t know what the hell is going on, Glenn’s amazing and answering the phone and like, ‘Hey, show me a log, I’ll look at it.’ We’re definitely no amazing tuners, but we’re figuring it out every year.
“And I really want to say a shoutout to Chad, because I know how many hours he works to build this track. And without him, It don’t matter how much we spend on our snowmobiles or how fast they supposedly are, we can’t race anywhere without a track. And the whole Snow Outlaws staff, and I’d like to congratulate the other winners.”
So the Sullivan brothers made great use of the green light granted by their father for the weekend, bringing home a win and championship. Dave Sullivan passed away peacefully on Tuesday following the Cable event.
Snow Outlaws kingpin Nyhus scored his second straight Pro Mod win and secured the class championship.
Nyhus beat Casey Rosenbrook and Tyler Stelton on his way to a semifinal pairing with Blake Saltzman. “The lane was a little mushy and we trenched pretty bad, and we actually were behind for the first time, but we were able to drive around him on a big end. We had to go to the tape to see if I had won.”
That set up the final with Cole Myers—where Chad was out first and never looked back.
His “Dirty Allis” sled seems to excel in the dark. “I just love the night racing,” said Nyhus, who adapts well to these changing schedules but prefers the more laidback camaraderie of the planned, two day Snow Outlaws routine.
“We were really happy with the great turnout, and how everyone adapted to the changing schedule.”
Nyhus thanked his wife and Snow Outlaws partner Jenny, Glenn Hall and Hypersports, Supreme Tools, Woody’s Traction, Sullivan Custom Farming, Hogan Racing, Gibas Racing, all the Snow Outlaws sponsors (listed below) and the whole Snow Outlaws team that helps put these shows on.
Chad and Jenny Nyhus, and the Snow Outlaws staff and family can hardly believe the season is already over. They’ll be spending the off months figuring how to better deliver the hottest show on snow in 2023.
Snow Outlaws thanks STM Powersports , Hypersports , Rice Lake Tourism , Woody’s Traction , Samson Exhaust , Tracks USA , Days Powersports , St. Joseph Equipment , Knutson Fab Inc. , H&H Performance , Pro-Stock Inc., Transport Refrigeration , Corey Sullivan , Studio 77 , G-Force Race Team , Musselman Home Improvements , Bormann Performance , ISH Racing, Red Cup Racing, CARSTAR Hamlin Collision Center, Hogan Racing, Xtreme Sound, Badger State Electric, Chris Connelly, and Kostman Racing.
story and photos by Tim Hailey