NASCAR Winter Wonderland

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The holiday season gives me a chance to leave the RacingOne headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina and head back to my hometown of St. Charles, Illinois. The break not only gives me a chance to see family and friends, but it also gives me an opportunity to do something I love to do in the winter, and that's snowmobile.

Many NASCAR drivers and team members also like to use the offseason to go snowmobiling, including Ricky Craven and Greg Zipadelli, who both hold an annual charity ride in January. This weekend I had the chance to Snowmobile in Wisconsin, the home of Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Winston Cup champion and Travis Kvapil, the 2003 Craftsman Truck champion.

With positive trail reports and 15 inches of snow on the ground my Dad and I headed up to Arbor Vitae in the northwoods of Wisconsin to hit the trails.

The majority of people who own recreational vehicles, including snowmobiles are NASCAR fans. During my 5-hour trek north I noticed many NASCAR driver number sticker's on the back of numerous trucks and SUV's pulling sleds.

Riders pick their favorite brand to ride, from Polaris, Ski-Doo, Yamaha and Arctic Cat, similar to choosing what brand to pull for in NASCAR racing.

Bars and restaurants become pit stops on the trails, which give you an opportunity to get in from the cold and warm up with a cup of soup or your favorite beverage. Just like NASCAR drivers, snowmobiliers usually pack along their favorite hat, many of which are NASCAR related, to hide that case of helmet head.

Just about every bar will spark an interest to any NASCAR fan. This weekend I saw everything from posters, flags, die-casts, autographs to even a Jeff Gordon sticker used as a target in the men's urinal.

In two weeks, Eagle River, Wisconsin known as "The snowmobile capital of the world" will host the snowmobile version of Daytona Speedweeks with the 41st annual Snowmobile Derby. The event, which will be held Jan. 10-18, will hold snocross and oval racing at the historic Derby Track.

Last Friday and Saturday I was able to turn in 200 miles on my Polaris before warm temperatures hit the area, turning the trails to mush.

With the snow melting faster than a qualifying lap at Bristol, it was time to pack-up and head home, but not before making a stop in Kenseth's hometown of Cambridge, Wisconsin.

When Kenseth was asked what he wanted to do in the offseason after winning the championship, he replied "I really want to go on a snowmobile trip somewhere so that's one of the things I'm going to try to find time to do."

As the snowmobile trails were marked heading into the town of Cambridge it looks like Kenseth will have to wait to go snowmobiling in his hometown, as temperatures reached 50 degrees this weekend and snow was no where in sight.

However the nice weather did allow for the town to throw a party to honor the Winston Cup Champ.

This past Saturday Kenseth was honored with a parade and a party. In a state that usually displays the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers, Cambridge however was decked out in Dewalt black and yellow. Championship flags were hung from the telephone poles through the city. Bars, restaurants, banks and even the fire department paid tribute to Kenseth in some way. After the parade the Matt Kenseth Fan Club held a party at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Kenseth's son, Ross, also enjoys snowmobiling. He currently races in junior leagues, including the Wisconsin Kids Snowmobile Racing Association (WKSRA).

Last month Ricky Craven, who has raised money for a variety of children's charities with an annual snowmobile ride, was given the $100,000 USG Person of the Year Award. Last season over 500 riders participated in the ride raising over $185,000.

This season Craven will hold his seventh annual charity ride on January 31, 2004. Contact Ricky Craven Motorsports North at 1-207-338-0700 or visit rickycraven.com for more information.

Greg Zipadelli will hold his 2nd Annual Crusade for Kids Charity Snowmobile Ride to benefit various children's charity organizations, on Friday and Saturday January 23 and 24, 2004, in Old Forge, New York.

Participants from the NASCAR Family will include Mike McLaughlin, Jimmy Makar, Matt Yocum and more.

Please visit gregzipadelli.com for more information.

Now that I had the chance to snowmobile, it's time to return to Charlotte, as testing will begin in Daytona in only 9 days!

For everyone else that will get the chance to snowmobile this season, have fun and be safe.

HAPPY SLEDDING!

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