Questions over the ability of the Tuscola County Fairgrounds to handle a major snowmobile race have forced organizers of the No Bull Triple Crown to cancel a big race scheduled during Caro Winter Fest in January.
No Bull Triple Crown, which took over sponsorship of the Winter Fest snowmobile races prior to the January, 2016 event, has dropped Caro Winter Fest from its Triple Crown schedule, according to its website.
“We regret to inform everyone that due to track conditions, per insurance, we must move the race out of Caro, MI.,” the website states. “The adjacent building and width of track have thrown up red flags. The safety of our drivers in No Bull Triple Crown is a main concern.”
It is unknown if a different sponsor has been found for this year’s races at Caro Winter Fest, to be held Jan. 19-21, or if the festival will even feature snowmobile races.
The Advertiser was unable to reach Winter Fest Board President Debra Lipan before deadline.
As recently as November, Caro Winter Fest was being promoted as part of No Bull Triple Crown. A full-page advertisement on page 32 in a November issue of The Winning Edge, a motor sports magazine, features an advertisement for the event.
Prior to the 2016 event, the previous seven Winter Fest races were stand-alone occurrences.
But in fall of 2015, the track, at Tuscola County Fairgrounds, received extensive improvements and was given the OK by No Bull to host one of its three No Bull Triple Crown races.
To make room for the increase in competitors that come with the No Bull circuit, the Caro track was widened to about double its original width a year ago. Before No Bull took over, the Winter Fest races were governed by Midwest International Racing Association and were run as a single event.
The Caro portion of the Triple Crown was the first leg of the competition last season, and was run January 22 and 23. The second and third events were in Mount Pleasant and Lincoln, Michigan, respectively, in February. The Lincoln event has also been pulled from the Triple Crown schedule and this season all three legs will be held at Isabella County Fairgrounds in Mount Pleasant.
No Bull Triple Crown featured a $50,000 prize pool last season, split between the champions of each race and the teams that accumulated the most total points through the three legs of the competition. That meant more racers — and more paying spectators.
Seemingly, everything went well at the 2016 Winter Fest.
“From what I’ve heard, it was the best enduro track guys have seen in years,” No Bull Triple Crown owner Mike Higgins told The Advertiser after the 2016 event. “It was a total success, total hit. Our gates were great, we’re totally pumped about making some small adjustments for next year and really excited to move forward with Caro Winter Fest in partnership with No Bull Triple Crown.”
The main event at each leg of the Triple Crown, which last year reserved $30,000 of the $50,000 in total prize money, is the Pro Enduro Race, a grueling 250-mile race that requires each team to switch off multiple drivers throughout. Last year’s Winter Fest Pro Enduro winner was Faust Racing, out of Rubicon, Wisconsin.
And the champions had praise for the Caro track, too.
“I think the track was awesome,” said Ryan Faust, member of Faust Racing. “I was extremely impressed on how well it held up, it had nice and wide-sweepinng corners, and it was fast. Plus, everyone was really welcoming, we had a blast.”
A track staying in good enough shape to hold up for an entire 500-lap race is rare, Higgins told The Advertiser after January’s Pro Enduro — the last race of Winter Fest.
“We went the full 500 laps, I don’t think there was a single race in Michigan last year that completed the full 500 laps,” Higgins said to The Advertiser in January. “It went flawless, we ran 500 laps of race in six hours, eight minutes — and five hours, 40 minutes was green-flag racing. We only had 28 minutes of cautions and that included four plows.
“That is impressive.”
The Advertiser was unable to reach Higgins, or Michelle Ellis, Race Operations for No Bull Triple Crown before deadline.
The Advertiser will have more on this story as details become available.
John Schneider is sports editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org