Who was it that said, ‘You can’t go home again?’
Well, they may be right, who knows?
But Toby Allen did find out for certain that he could go home to the site of his biggest sports moment, and recreate the magic.
Ten years to the weekend of his title run at the World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River, Toby found himself back in the winner’s circle in the Pro Sprint 500 Class.
“I was pretty happy,” Allen said. “It’s a fun place to be, yet it’s nerve-wracking because everybody goes there to win a championship. That’s where the big dogs go.
“It’s been in the back of my mind lately, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s been 10 years.’ “
It certainly wasn’t an easy task.
“Ten laps at Eagle River at the age of 34 is quite the challenge compared to ten years ago,” Allen said. “Ten laps on a half-mile track and it’s Eagle River, the Daytona of sled racing. Ten laps at up to 82 miles per hour on the straightaways wears you out in a hurry. The ice gets all rutted up and chunked out, it gets hard to hold onto the sled.”
Allen ranked third in Saturday’s 3-lap heat and pulled out a narrow win over Minnesota’s Max Hoglund in the 7-lap final on Sunday.
“I didn’t realize it because when I race I look straight ahead,” Allen said. “On Lap 7, I looked over my shoulder and the second-place sled was on me, probably a sled-length off my shoulder.
“I just told myself, ‘You’ve got to go.’ After the race, my crew told me that he was 2-3-4 lengths behind me the whole race.
“I kept trying to take his line away from him. I ran the middle so he would have to pass on the outside, on the rough stuff where it’s almost impossible to pass. I wouldn’t let him underneath me. Out of Turn 4, I exited low, knowing I’d be faster and I just jumped to the finish line.”
Toby took a several-year break from racing after crashing and breaking his leg in Merrill in 2003, but returned whole hog in 2009 for Jeff Brown. Brown built a custom chassis with a Polaris motor.
“We’ve been hitting all the USSA-sanctioned races and the Gleason races when we have the weekend off,” he said. “Jeff owns the sled and works on the sled. Mark Powers is the clutch king. I feel very comfortable being on a sled they work on, because they are so picky and thorough. I feel safe when I’m on it.
“We found a couple of things this weekend that can make us faster. We hope we can win a couple of USSA races this year. We were second in Amherst in the first USSA race, in the Sprint 600 Class.”
Toby also placed third in the Sprint 600 Class in Eagle River. He won in the Sprint 440 Class back in 2001.
Toby’s brother, Joey Allen, took fifth place in the 340cc vintage race the previous weekend on a 1983 Polaris.
“Their mother and I are proud of both of the boys,” John Allen said.
Tomahawk’s Nick Van Strydonk placed 8th overall in the World Championship main event, and had been 4th at the halfway point of the race. He ranked first in Heat 6 and his Semi-Final, second in his Sweet Sixteen Qualifier and fourth in the Sweet Sixteen Final.
“Nick was having drive-belt issues that weekend,” Toby Allen said. “I always root for him because he’s from Tomahawk and because they’ve helped us out in the past.”