On Sunday, the view from the Flying Club offered your typical Dryden January scene on the Wabigoon: an expanse of crisp snow streaked with sled tracks, ice shacks spread along the ice road, bright sunshine, blue skies, and a biting temperature of -42 degrees with the wind chill.
Dryden’s snowmobile enthusiasts were sorry to see the extreme cold weather warning just in time for the first event of the Dryden Drag Race Association’s (DDRA) annual Snow Drag Races at Olson’s Landing. The race, pushed from Saturday to Sunday to avoid the worst of the weekend’s weather, went off as planned but with a smaller turnout than last year.
“Yeah, the cold weather scared some people away,” said DDRA member Shayne Pitchenese. “I think we had 45 racers last year,” while this year’s turnout saw 10 from Dryden, three from the Sioux Lookout area, and three from Ignace. A handful of die-hard spectators, some from Kenora, braved the weather as well.
During registration, DDRA member Laura Zajarny touched the success of last year’s races and appreciated the continued interest and support of locals and sponsors, including the canteen run by the DHS Eagles Girl’s Hockey team. The race was laid out in a four-lane 660-foot track where racers competed across 19 classes.
This year, the DDRA implemented a points system for first and second place winners, numbered the racers instead of the sleds, and introduced two Junior classes for racers between 12 and 15. 2019 is the Snow Drag Races’ second year running, and the DDRA wants to see the event continue for as long as possible.
Pitchenese spoke briefly about Dryden’s racing history, touching on its popularity in the 90s and projecting a hopeful future for the sport: “We’re trying to build it up and we’re hoping that other communities want to get involved, maybe join in and we can have a circuit going on. Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Ignace, anybody that’s interested.” “We want to bring it back, the way it used to be,” said Zajarny. “A lot of the guys that race, they race circuits, the oval track especially.”
The next two races for the 2019 Snow Drag Races will be on Sunday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Mar. 16, hopefully with a little less cold and a lot more locals to watch.