Bunke Receives USCC “Iron Man” Award

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Pro-Class Star Has Raced at Every Event in USCC Circuit History

At the United States Cross Country (USCC) snowmobile racing circuit’s season awards banquet, the USCC confirmed what everybody already knew: Polaris racer Gabe Bunke is an Iron Man.

Bunke, 32, received the USCC Iron Man award at the 2009 awards banquet in recognition of him having raced in every USCC event – 43 consecutive races.

Bunke’s amazing run has included three USCC class point titles and consistent top-five finishes, and he has done it while sometimes racing hurt.

“I’ve raced through a couple injuries and I’ve been knocked out of races because of bad crashes before,” Bunke said. “But it’s my determination. I want to be good at the end of the year and you have to try to race every race to do well. It almost seems like with some people, if they have a little bobble, they quit. I keep racing.”

He developed a strong respect for determined, never-say-die racers as a child growing up in Roseau, Minnesota, the birthplace of Polaris.

“I remember skipping school to listen to the I-500 [cross-country race] on the radio, and you hear about guys who would come in with just one ski and maybe half a snowmobile, and they’d work on it and keep racing,” he said.

His knack for cross-country racing was also nurtured around Roseau.

“The ditch riding, the riding across open fields, that’s basically what I grew up with,” he said, which is why he has focused on cross-country rather than snocross. “I’ve raced some snocross… but for the most part I stayed away from it. I realized it was something I didn’t really have a knack for. It was all rhythm and jumping, not speed. It wasn’t what I had grown up with.”

Impressive USCC Resume

Bunke has defined Pro-class determination and success on the USCC circuit. Along with racing at every event in USCC history, he has consistently run strong.

In the 2009 USCC season, he finished second in Pro 600 points, and won two of the final three Pro 600 races of the season. He also finished fifth in Pro Open points.

These results are typical of his strong performance every season. Here is where he finished in USCC points in previous seasons:

• In 2008, he won the Pro Open class and finished third in Pro 600.
• In 2007, he won both the Pro 600 and the Pro Open points titles.
• In 2006, he finished second in Pro 600 and sixth in Pro Open.
• In 2005, he finished second in Pro Open and third in Pro 600.

Bunke raced on a Polaris 600 Dragon SP in the 2009 I-500 race, and raced on a Polaris IQ® Race Sled on the USCC circuit.

He has also won the Soo I-500 oval endurance race twice, in 2002 and 2005, both times on Polaris snowmobiles. Bunke is an independent contractor who lives in Moorhead, Minnesota, with his wife and “two and a half kids, you might say. We’ve got our third one on the way.”

Racing in His Blood

Bunke was born in Winona, a city in southeastern Minnesota, but his family moved to Roseau when he was 6 months old because his father, the late Jerry Bunke, was joining the Polaris Factory Race Team.

Jerry Bunke was a tremendously successful oval racer in the late-1970s. Racing on the legendary Polaris race team that was dubbed the “Midnight Blue Express,” he was the 1977 USSA Driver of the Year. He continued to win in the 1978 season before dying as the result of a racing accident in February 1978. He was 26. Jerry Bunke was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1996, and he is still revered by Polaris race fans and old friends in Roseau.

“Everybody plays hockey in Roseau, and I played from the time I could skate until I was about 13 or 14, when I started to drift over to snowmobiles,” Gabe Bunke said. “I was pretty much consumed with snowmobiles.

“The first year I raced was the 1996-1997 season, when I was 20 years old. Burt Bassett at Pro 5 [a Roseau performance shop] was one of my main supporters. I almost want to call him my second dad. He had had a good relationship with my dad when he was young and after he saw what I could do, he really helped me.”

Gabe Bunke has raced several disciplines, but his heart is in cross-country racing, where he has carved out the reputation of a consistent and determined winner.

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