Courtesy of The Sault Star:
The No Bull Triple Crown 2015 Series will be staged over a six-week period at three different tracks in Michigan.
The first leg is set for this Saturday morning, Jan. 10, at the Chippewa County Fairgrounds in Kinross, Mich., about 20 minutes south of Sault, Mich.
Thirty teams from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have registered for the Triple Crown points championship, including a local team from the Goulais River area, headed up by Naithen Joseph.
Joseph has raced drag sleds at the amateur level in recent years, but he has yet to venture into the professional ranks of endurance snowmobile racing.
“This will be the first year doing the enduro and the I-500 and the Triple Crown,” said the 29-year-old.
“I’ll be doing the whole circuit this winter.”
In addition to a pit crew comprised of close friends and family, local veteran racer Corey Furkey will also drive for Joseph’s team. Furkey won the I-500 in 2004.
Furkey will suit up with Joseph in the 250 mile Kinross race this weekend, and the International-500, which is set for Feb. 7 in the Michigan Sault.
The I-500 will be the centre piece of the Triple Crown (TC).
The third and final leg of the TC — the Michigan CAT 500 — is set for Feb. 21 in Lincoln, Mich., near Alpena.
Joseph is uncertain if Furkey will be his driving partner in Lincoln.
The Kinross and Lincoln events are both 250-mile races (500 laps around one-half-mile tracks), while the I-500 is run on a one-mile oval.
The main TC sponsor is Mike Higgins, owner of No Bull Graphics, in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Higgins is a former racer who wanted to revive the Triple Crown, which was held some years ago in the Great Lakes State, says Michelle Ellis, an Kinross race organizer who has also helped out with the 1-500 for the past 14 years.
Thirty thousand dollars in prize money is up for grabs in the TC, Ellis said.
“They’re (No Bull Graphics) the ones that are putting the money up this year,” she said.
Ellis expects the field to be nearly full at Kinross when the green flag is waved Saturday morning, beginning at 11 a.m.
Gates open at 7 a.m. Saturday with hot laps starting at 9:15 a.m.
“I want to say there’s probably going to be 35 sleds that are going to start, and 38 is where we have to cut it off,” she said.
Ted Ritchie Jr., another veteran Sault Ontario driver, will also compete in the TC.
Ritchie, 45, has raced in the I-500 for the past 20 years. He has finished near the top of the pack several times.
Ritchie will drive with Mitch Diamond’s Lapeer, Mich., team.
He says TC sponsors have put up a alot of money. “More so if you win all three races, but the odds of that, you might as well buy a 649 ticket,” Ritchie said.
He usually competes at several races in Michigan each season.
“I probably shouldn’t go. I’m getting kind of old and decrepit for this stuff,” he laughed.
Joseph has never driven in a professional endurance race, so he anticipates a few butterfiles when he fires up his 600 cc Polaris IQR at the Kinross track.
“I think once I get out there I’ll be a little bit nervous until I get on the track and see how the sled handles. But I think the excitement is kind of outweighing that.”
Joseph is an avid racing fan who hasn’t missed an I-500 race in the past six years. He made up his mind early last year that he would enter the 2015 race.
“Every since I started going I said, ‘One day I’ve got to do that,’ because I don’t want to be 50, 60-years-old and say, ‘Shit, I wished I would have did that,’” he said. “This spring I finally just said, ‘Screw it.’ And I bought the sled and have been wrenching on it ever since.”
Joseph knows it will not be an easy go when he takes to the track in Kinross on Saturday.
“I’ve been hearing some horror stories just for enduring the race, not to mention the accidents and whatnot. I can’t wait to get out there.”
In addition to racing the TC events, he will also run in a fourth race this winter that is sanctioned by the Midwest International Racing Association (MIRA): the Caro 150, in Caro, Mich., Jan. 24-25.