Polaris Oval Star Named USSA Driver of the Year

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While most high school juniors hope to scrounge up gas money or get a prom date, Polaris snowmobile racer Nick Van Strydonk is focused on loftier goals such as adding a snowmobile racing World Championship to his already impressive resume.

Just 17 years old and a high school junior, Van Strydonk was recently named “Driver of the Year” for the USSA racing circuit, and the T & N Racing team for which he runs was named USSA Family of the Year.

Van Strydonk won season points titles in the Pro Champ 440, Pro Sprint 600 and the Semi-Pro Champ classes and was the overall High Point Driver of the season on the USSA circuit.

Despite this remarkable success in just his second season of competing in any Pro classes, Van Strydonk still has a major goal in racing: A World Championship at the Eagle River [WI] Snowmobile Derby, the historic race contested a short drive from Van Strydonk’s home in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

“Nick really wanted to be the youngest kid ever to qualify for the World Championship, and he wanted so bad to win it this year,” said his father, Alan Van Strydonk, whose Polaris-Victory dealership in Tomahawk is Erv’s Sales & Service. “He also wanted to be the youngest kid to ever win a Pro Champ race, which he did this season.”

Nick qualified for the prestigious World Championship at the 2008 Derby, but finished 10th in his first try for the sport’s oval racing hold grail. That finish did nothing to diminish his confidence or long-term goals.

“I was confident enough that I would make the race at Eagle and pretty confident that we would finish in the top three, but that was short-lived,” he said.

“It was [largely] because of the cold weather. It was the coldest day of the season so far, and I have trouble finding gloves to keep my hands warm… My hands got so cold I couldn’t feel them anymore and I hit a rut in Turn 1 and my handlebars broke right off. That was on lap 18 [of 25]”

But he got a taste – at a very young age – of competing in the World Championship, and he plans to return year after year. He hopes to not only match the current record of three career WC wins, but to surpass it and win the title five times.

“To win an Eagle River World Championship was always my ultimate goal.”

Early Start to Racing Career

Van Strydonk got started in racing at age 4, after him and his father discovered youngsters racing youth-sized snowmobiles on a lake near Minocqua, Wisconsin. They returned the following week with Nick’s sled and he won his first time out.

He proceeded through several levels of youth racing, and then ran in the USSA Junior classes. Four years ago he was named USSA Junior Racer of the Year and he soon began racing in Semi-Pro classes.

During the 2006-2007 race season, the Van Strydonks petitioned USSA officials to allow Nick to run in some Pro classes. He wasn’t yet old enough, but the family felt he was ready, and he proved as much by winning several Pro-class races on other race circuits before the USSA season got underway.

“The older racers didn’t want me there at all at first, but as the season went on, they accepted me as one of their own based on my performance and didn’t care about age,” Nick said.

Historic 2006-’07 Race Season

He split time between the Pro and Semi-Pro classes last season, and in January 2007 he made history on the legendary ice oval at Eagle River by winning four classes at the 2007 Eagle River Derby – Pro Sprint 600 and 500 and Semi-Pro Sprint 600 and 500. That tied the record for most class titles at a single Derby, and was a highlight of a season that included 36 first-place finishes.

This winter Van Strydonk achieved goals of winning a Pro Champ 440 race and of qualifying for the World Championship. He competes on sleds comprised of Wahl Bros. racing chassis powered by LRM-built Polaris Liberty® engines. His sponsors include Polaris, River Valley State Bank, Advance Compressor Technologies, Woody’s, LRM, Blue Marble Oil, Castle and Spy.

Pro Champ 440 is his favorite class because of “the speed, how the sled handles and the competition,” he said.

Time to Avoid the Garage & Run

Van Strydonk said few of his high school friends understand the racing success he has had so far. But with the race season completed, he’ll now spend more time with friends and the Tomahawk High School track team than in the garage prepping his race sleds.

“Right now my focus is to stay out of the garage,” he laughed. “I have spent too many months in there. Right now I’m focusing on track, school work and working. I work construction for my uncle.”

He runs pretty much any event they ask him to at track meets, and is extremely excited for his senior cross-country season next fall. He is the team’s No. 1 runner, and since the top four team members will be seniors next season, they are determined to return to the Wisconsin state meet.

Once his cross-country season ends, he’ll head back to garage to prep his sleds and focus anew on his ultimate goal, that of World Champion.

Supertrax Online
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