A great weekend of racing at Eagle River in Wisconsin was shaping up nicely. After a fifth in time trials and a fourth in the Sweet 16 warm-up race, Barry Bennett and his son Tyson thought they were on track for another win.
They're part of the MPH race team out of Lockport. The bitterly cold weather didn't worry their driver, Travis Macdonald, but he didn't want to freeze his hands or get lost in the cloud of snow.
"He just wanted to pace himself, let the field stretch out, then start picking off guys," said Barry Bennett, recalling their race strategy.
"He started to do that. Worked his way up to fifth. Then we had a clutch bolt break and then the primary clutch came off the crankshaft," Bennett said with a grimace.
A sled on the Champ 440 circuit can easily cost $30,000 to $40,000 and a weekend can go down the tubes in a heartbeat, when a part fails. At 100 mph, thing's happen real fast.
(Photos courtesy Darryl Gershman / Barry Bennett)
MPH Racing won back-to-back world titles in 2008, 2009 with Brian Bewcyk and Skidoo.
Between December and March, Bennett and his son Tyson are the most dedicated on the circuit, since they'll put on more than 40,000 miles. While the closest is neighbouring Beausejour, but the farthest is 34 hours one way to Valcourt, Quebec. Most are 10 hours away.
"It's a lot of night driving," he said. "Everybody else is usually off the road, because it's cold. It's snowy. The roads aren't good."
Still, safety is number one, as they've got families at home worrying about them.
"I'm not sure how much longer I'm gonna do it," he says with a bit of a grin. "As long as I'm having fun."
His love affair with racing goes back to when he was 12 and 13 years old, watching drivers at Beausejour.
"I have deep hard feelings about snowmobile racing," admits Barry Bennett,
"I saw all my heroes, and I said to myself 'One of these days, I'm gonna try that,' " he recalled.
By 16, he was hauling his own machine around on the back of his truck, as he drove to events in Dryden, Red Lake and International Falls.
Bennett himself won the national title in 1984, when he was racing against Jacques and Gilles Villeneuve. However, a bad crash in '99 put him on the sidelines for good. With a wife and a young son, it was time for him to take over the family business.
In 2017, Barry Bennett was recognized for more than 40 years in racing. Last year, though, Bennett turned the page a bit, as he watched his son Tyson race in the enduro event at the new Lake of the Woods Speedway.
The father and son will also be back this summer, with a race car of their own.
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