It’s said that success is where preparation meets opportunity. Being well-prepared can make all the difference in a sport like Snocross. To be able to compete, you need to have your sled prepped to perform at its best on race day. Your skills need to be well prepped as well. The Team Dennis Kirk families follow this mantra to get ready for their race seasons. (Learn about Team Dennis Kirk in our previous post). They put in the work before the season starts so they can show their best effort when the flag drops.
Preparation for the race season starts with getting the kids’ snowmobile’s ready for racing. While the level of tuning and sled building may not reach the level of the pros, it is still a crucial task. Avoiding mechanical failures on the track leads to better finishes and more fun. Pre-season sled prep for them includes tasks like changing the oil, adjusting the gearing/chain drive system, examining shocks, and adjusting valves. The prep also includes replacing any wearable items like spark plugs, belts, and wear bars.
Part of the sled prep also includes accumulating all the replacement parts that will be needed throughout the season. Having the spares on hand for race day allows the team to repair the sled at the track before the next race begins. Even small things like extra tethers and mouth guards need to be on hand.
“If either of these breaks or go missing, we aren’t racing. Five dollars from Dennis Kirk and we don’t have to worry about it,” said Kyle Roggenkamp.
The Roggenkamps and Balthazors make it a point to involve their children in the process.
“Having the kids be a part of the preparation and maintenance shows the hard work that needs to be done in order to be successful. Throughout the process they learn many mechanical skills and it teaches them to not be afraid to get their hands dirty. It also helps when it comes to tuning the snowmobiles and addressing issues that may arise. If the kids have good mechanical knowledge of the snowmobiles, they can help pinpoint the issues,” said Jared Balthazor.
Kyle Roggenkamp adds, “I have Jack deeply involved in maintenance, tuning, and preparation. My expectation of Jack is that he works at least as hard as I do on his sleds. Jack has grown from knowing how to tighten a nut, to how to take a system apart, to now knowing what happens when we make a specific change, and what that means when he’s riding. We also use a data acquisition system, and we review that data together on a laptop, make a tuning decision, and do the work together.”
Preparing for the race season doesn’t just involve getting the snowmobile ready. It also includes getting the rider ready. Obtaining the proper gear and skills is crucial. Required racing gear includes a helmet, goggles, chest protector, knee pads, and a mouth guard. Neck braces are optional but are a great addition for more protection. Youth snowmobile jackets and pants that are built for riding also help keep the kids mobile on the sled.
Obtaining the skills requires practice. Having the kids practice their race skills before the actual race allows them to get comfortable on the snowmobile and the track. Being confident may be the biggest advantage a rider can have at this level of racing.
“Practice helps in many ways. The number one reason for practice is seat time. The more comfortable the kids get with the sleds, the faster they will be,” said Balthazor.
“We also use practice time to work on start technique,” Roggenkamp noted. “Because these sleds are relatively small and low on power, the kids need to work hard to transfer all their weight to the track and gain as much traction as they can in the first 20 feet of the start. A lot of this is learning how the sled responds to throttle and timing the launch and weight shift correctly. We practice this at the track during practice sessions, as well as in our own backyard.”
All of the prep and practice is done in hopes of a successful season. And with the racing season now upon us, the Team Dennis Kirk families will be hitting the Snocross track and competing in full force. Continue following along to see how the season progresses.