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AMSOIL NATIONAL SNOCROSS

Snocross Returns to Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino Feb. 22-23

Imagine 500-pound machines flying through the air, racing at top speeds around tight turns and dips with other machines just a fraction of an inch away. Now, consider those machines are snowmobiles, roaring their way around a technically designed manmade track as part of a professional race circuit.

Snow guns have been pushing out the white stuff on the grounds of Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino in Salamanca since early January, and crews have been working on-site for weeks to build and shape a professionally mastered snowmobile race track in anticipation of the return of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, which is set to wow crowds in February.

Yes, you’ll see some amateur racers out there for the fun of it, but you’ll also see some seasoned veterans racing for a paycheck. Plan your calendar now to catch some of the world’s premier snocross racers, who are striving to earn points and find their way at the top of the leaderboard as part of this 8-stop series.

Closing in on a decade of experience on the track, 15-year old Taven Woodie is a permanent fixture on the Women’s Pro Circuit. She’s been racing since the age of five, and said she has no intention of slowing down. “I want to do this for as long as possible,” the Alpine, WY native said.

For some, the idea of a five-year-old out on a sled, pushing it across a track may seem a bit out of the ordinary. Taven said it was a family thing. Growing up in the sport, she sees the time and effort that goes into it. “My dad bought my brother and I sleds when I was 5 and we both wanted to race so he let us,” she said. “[The racing tour] takes a lot of time out of your schedule. You're constantly back and forth from home to hotel rooms.”

While Taven is working to catch the Women’s Pro points lead, her counterparts over in the men’s divisions see the race life in similar ways.

Pro-Lite points leader, Francis Pelletier, said it all started for him about four years ago when he and a friend bought used sleds and began racing them around their native Quebec. The 22-year old has found some success but has a challenger right on his heels, looking to make the weekend in Salamanca more difficult.

Twenty-year old Hunter Patenaude has been riding for 12 years. His road to the track was a family one as well. “My dad brought my brother and I to a local race,” Patenaude said. “We had an old sled that my brother raced. He raced for one full season before I started. I was 8-years-old at my first race.”

Having to race eight tracks total in four different states presents an interesting challenge for the riders. Each track is different - track layout, snow make-up, even elevation plays a role in adjusting riders at each stop through the series. Drivers all approach the situation in their own way, but they all take the challenge as professionals.

“We walk around,” Pelletier said. “We [watch the] other heats before [us] and check where we think it will be fast and what lane to use to pass people.”

Woodie says she tries to work on a variety of conditions to get a feel for whatever may come. “Before the race we go to a track that’s about 20 minutes away [from home], ERX motor park,” she said. “The guy who usually runs the groomer there makes the track look like how it was last year.”

Patenaude uses his heat runs to get progressively better. “Depending on snow conditions and how warm or cold the weather is, we will adjust the suspension and clutching as the track changes,” he said.

The series will be hitting Salamanca, the sixth of eight stops, after a weekend in Mt. Pleasant, MI and will leave Western New York for Dubuque, IA. The Salamanca stop is one that Taven said she is looking forward to. “The fans at Salamanca can expect some super fun, kick-butt racing,” she said.

Hunter, looking to catch Pelletier in that Pro-Lite division, says he is ready as well. “Salamanca is always an awesome venue and [race fans] can expect a lot of exciting racing,” he said.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Casino Logo Shop or online at the AMSOIL website, https://snocross.com/us-air-force-snocross-national/. Presale starts at $25 for a single day and $35 for the weekend. Add $10 for day-of purchases. Children 12 and under are free!  For lodging availability and other entertainment at the casino, go to www.senecaalleganyasino.com.