Polaris enduro racers Gabe Bunke and Aaron Christensen enhanced their place in snowmobile racing history on Saturday, Feb. 1, by winning their third straight Soo International 500 race on the famed Soo I-500 track in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The victory was the third Soo win of Christensen’s career, and the fifth of Bunke’s career.
For the second straight year, the second-place team was made up of brothers and co-drivers Ryan Faust and Travis Faust driving a sled owned by Bunke Racing. The Fausts were joined by co-driver Spencer Kadlec, a fellow Polaris cross-country racer who in the 2013 Soo race was a co-driver on the winning Bunke Racing team. Finishing third to complete a Polaris podium sweep in the 2014 Soo I-500 was the sled campaigned by Beard Motor Sports with Michael Haynes as the lead driver.
The 2014 Soo I-500 was dominated by Polaris race sleds, as the race has been in recent years. Polaris race teams clamed six of the top 10 finishing positions, and 13 of the top 20 finishing spots.
The two Bunke Racing sleds were the only sleds to run all 500 laps, and the third-place Beard Motor Sports team had completed 499 laps when the checkered flag flew. The winning Bunke Racing team had posted the sixth-best qualifying speed, and the Faust brothers qualified ninth.
Bunke and Christensen are elite cross-country racers who compete in the Pro classes on the USXC circuit, as do the Faust brothers. Bunke has also raced snocross and ice LeMans in his career, and has competed in the Soo I-500 several times. Later this month he will run for the first time in the Iron Dog cross-country race across Alaska, where he will be a Pro class teammate of Scott Faeo.
In recent years, Bunke has begun to position himself for the next stage of his career, his post-driver years. He owns Bunke Racing, which campaigns cross-country and enduro sleds, and his son Taylor is among the drivers racing cross-country for the team. Working with the Polaris Racing staff, Gabe Bunke has been instrumental in recent years in the development of Polaris cross-country and enduro race sleds.
Yet the elder Bunke remains at the peak of his game as a driver. Along with winning a third-straight Soo I-500 and preparing for the Iron Dog, he is the current points leader in USXC Pro Open points, and is second in Pro Stock points.
Gabe Bunke previously was on the winning team at the Soo in 2005 (with co-drivers Josh Davis and Corey Davidson) and 2002 (with Mike Gentz, Jr.).
Along with a trophy, winner’s purse and place in history, this year’s winning drivers also won the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball game this spring. Bunke and Christensen are scheduled to throw out the first pitch on Saturday, April 5, when the Tigers host the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Listed here in order of finish are the Polaris race teams in the 2014 Soo I-500, with the primary driver listed.
1. Bunke Racing, Gabe Bunke
2. Bunke Racing, Ryan Faust
3. Beard Motor Sports, Michael Haynes
6. Yovich Racing, Brian Anderson
7. R&R Racing, Josh Ware
8. Kovar Racing, Dan Maki
11. Russell Racing, Shane Felegy
13. Team Applebees, Karl Schwartz
14. Hoos Racing, John Hoos
15. Team Blu Racing, Cardell Potter
16. Eckert Racing, Kyle Eckert
18. Team Diamond, Mitch Diamond
20. R&R Racing, Rich Spranger
22. Tommie Bauer Racing, Tyler Nickels
24. Team Traction, Greg May
25. Piche Racing, Larry Young
26. Gentz/Bouchard Racing, Chad Dyrdahl
30. Holeshot Motorsports, Billy Skea
32. Performance Dyno Racing, Jeramie Piippo
33. LMB Speed Shop, Eric Bouman
36. Felzke Farms, James Heiler
37. Mayer Racing, Anthony Mayer
Polaris is a recognized leader in the powersports industry with annual 2012 sales of $3.2 billion. Polaris designs, engineers, manufactures and markets innovative, high quality off-road vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and the Polaris RANGER® and RZR® side-by-side vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and small vehicles. Polaris is among the global sales leaders for both snowmobiles and off-road vehicles and has established a presence in the heavyweight cruiser and touring motorcycle market with the Victory and Indian motorcycle brands. Additionally, Polaris continues to invest in the global on-road small vehicle industry with Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), Goupil Industrie SA, Aixam Mega S.A.S., and internally developed vehicles. Polaris enhances the riding experience with a complete line of Polaris and KLIM branded apparel and Polaris accessories and parts. Polaris Industries Inc. trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “PII”, and the Company is included in the S&P Mid-Cap 400 stock price index.
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