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Catching Up With Former Fergus Falls Late Model Standout and Snowmobile Hall of Famer Steve Thorsen



Steve Thorsen of Fergus Falls was a highly-accomplished snowmobile racer decades ago. Turns out he was pretty dang tough on the dirt race track, too. Thorsen ran the No. 82 late model at Wee Town Outlaw Speedway outside of Fergus Falls, Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo and Viking Speedway in Alexandria in the 1980s. In fact, one year he won three late model track titles at the three tracks. Prior to his dirt racing success, however, was a remarkable snowmobile racing career — he raced Polaris and Arctic Cat sleds and also raced a Super Stock Mercury at one time. His first snowmobile team owner was the late Jerry Simison of Detroit Lakes, who also was a championship boat racer. That group was called Team Frustration. “I’ve raced every kind of sled,” Thorsen said. “The pro racing, it was big back years ago. We’d go to races, go on TV and radio shows to get people to come. We had to go to interviews and pump the races up.” He was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1989 at age 33. He joined the Polaris Factory team in 1977 and won back-to-back World Championships at Eagle River in 1977 and 1978— on aero Scorpion sleds he built for himself. In 1978, he won an incredible 45 features, including 11 in a row. “We had a lot of guys at the factory helping us. It was a factory-against-factory thing back then,” Thorsen said. “It was development work the whole time. Every week we were trying something different and make them better. That is what was fun.” Back in the late 1970s, Thorsen’s dad had some friends who raced, and Steve would fill in before eventually getting his own car. “It just kinda happened,” Thorsen said. Soon, the No. 82 late model became a force to be reckoned with locally. He mentioned top local runners such as Mitch Johnson, Rick Aukland and Bob Sagen during that time. In 1985, he recorded a trifecta — winning three late model track championships in one season. He won the title at Wee Town Outlaw Speedway outside of Fergus Falls, at West Fargo and at Viking Speedway in Alexandria. “I had an Oldsmobile motor in it,” Thorsen said. “The motor ran good. And you have to race a lot and not break down.” He added another track title in the late models in 1986 at Viking Speedway to give him back-to-back championships at the half mile. “Working on them and improving them is what I liked the best,” Thorsen said. “Week to week, you see in a couple of days what you did. You want to beat everybody, but you want to see improvements. You always wanted to make the car better than the last week.” Thorsen retired from dirt racing in his early 30s — arguably in his driving prime — in 1987 and hasn’t returned to driving since. He is, however, still involved with snowmobile racing — since that time he’s worked for Amsoil Snocross Team, building sleds and working in development. “I like helping other guys,” Thorsen said. “It’s like watching your kid do something. I’d been there, and won it, once you did it, you get more excited about someone else to do it. Especially when you know how much work it takes.”



 

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