Photos and captions by Aaron Kennedy

Aaron Christensen has had a number of close calls with the I-500. With a 3rd place finish in 2017, and a 2nd place podium in 2013, he has done everything but win the fabled race. Throw in a recent win at the TRF250, and Aaron was one of the front-runners for this year’s edition.  No I-500 is a gimme, however. Zach Herfindahl (2017 I-500 champion) and Wes Selby recently won the 2018 edition of the SOO-500, and they too are familiar with the ditches in the region. Sprinkle in ditch-racing luck and anyone in the pro class is capable of winning the race.  Three days of 100+ mile awards those that know when to push it, but also dial it back to live and race another day.

Racers welcomed the near-clear skies that held throughout the race. Like the previous year, temperatures were brisk at the start, a nice wake-up for racers like Alex Hetteen (#154) and their pit crews.

On Day 1, Zach Herfindahl (#312) charged through the snow dust to take the lead. Others would not be so lucky. Semi Pro driver Andy Junglen (#31) has a substantial recovery ahead of him after breaking both wrists during a snow-dust induced wreck.

Even with good visibility, the ditches were challenging to navigate with some packed nicely with snow, and others with minimal cushion. Of the three days, the 2nd day posed the roughest terrain to navigate as Semi Pro driver Josh Wilson (#272) quickly found out.

While ditches are always hot spots for spectators, the I-500 is more than ditch running. Numerous sections are composed of river and woods and test riders’ handling abilities on machines setup for ditch.

Day 2 became the defining day of the race for the pro class. Machine troubles plagued a number of pro riders including day 1 winner Zach Herfindahl- a cruel birthday surprise for one of the race’s favorites. Wes Selby (#15) also had issues, but was able to limp his machine in. While this effectively put him off of the podium, Wes came out strong on Day 3 and laid down the fastest course time by over three minutes.

With Zach and Wes out of the hunt, a strong run by Aaron Christensen on Day 2 put him up by over 7 minutes. This was enough to seal the victory and give him his first I-500 title.

Behind Aaron, Ross Erdman (#311) and Dillan Dohrn (#5) left within a minute of each other to determine the rest of the podium. At one point, Dillan caught Ross at a road crossing, but Ross was able to pull ahead to notch 2nd place by a mere 8 seconds!

 

While the Pro winners are often those that are remembered, the I-500 is more than a race for just the pros. While some classes compete the entire three days, others (such as Vintage and Jr. classes) tackle the final day for a unique point-to-point endurance race. One of the more exciting additions to this year’s race was the opportunity for Jr. riders to pair up with an adult. Jr. 10-13 class rider Easton Dickinson (#515) took advantage of this opportunity.

A number of other notable stories were written during the race. Semi pro racer David Brown (#871) finished 7th overall to take the win by over four minutes.

Mattison Racing was also out in full force, with 7 riders competing in classes ranging from Masters 50+, to Vintage, to Classic IFS. With 5 of the 7 making it to the finish, it was another successful weekend, including a couple of victories such as James Mattison (#139) in the Classic IFS 1980-1997 class.

Another fun story for the weekend was Sam Braaten (#175) winning on board his like-new Yamaha Phazer in the Classic IFS 50+ class.

To cap off the weekend, Savannah Landrus (#402) notched wins in the Women’s and 600 Limited classes.

FULL RESULTS