Not one Fort Frances snowmobile racer has been seen on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Yet, the magazine’s world-famous jinx for those who grace its title page seems to have extended to the local powder pilots who represent Team Polaris on the World Snowmobile Association circuit.
Ice oval specialist Steve Arpin was the latest victim of an amazing string of bad luck that has befallen the Polaris posse when he was sidelined before the start of Sunday’s finals at the latest WSA stop in Roseau, Mn.
“It’s a pretty sickening feeling to sit there the whole day watching everyone race when you know your sled was one of the top ones there,” said Arpin, whose health woes are rooted in a crash during last year’s world championships in Eagle River, Wis. that left him with a serious back injury.
The 19-year-old entered the season with high hopes—and got off to a good start with two second-place finishes to go along with a third and a fourth-place result at the opening weekend in Beausejour, Man. on Dec. 14-15.
Then after posting some of the best times in the field during testing on Friday, Arpin proceeded to qualify for the finals of all four categories he competed in Saturday.
But trouble reared its head during Saturday night’s special Triple Crown race in the Pro Stock 440 division.
“The track was pretty rough from all the racing that had gone on during the day,” recalled Arpin. “I was running third when I got a few good jars from the track and the Eagle River injury started to come back.”
Arpin battled through the pain and finished fourth in the night race, despite having his motor burn out on the last lap.
But the soreness of his evening excursion still was present Sunday morning when he returned to the track for the final qualifying session of the weekend in the Pro Stock 500 class, which had been postponed due to darkness the previous day.
“On the first corner, I took a big bump and my leg went numb,” said Arpin. “I couldn’t do it no more, and parked the sled for the day.
“What was going through my head when I pulled out? About 15 years from now. It was a mutual agreement between my dad and I that I should pull out,” he added.
An appointment with a specialist is set for Jan. 9.
Arpin said it’s anyone’s guess whether the final diagnosis will have him back in action at his next scheduled race at the world championships Jan. 18 in Eagle River, or knock him out of competition for the rest of the season—or even longer.
“I can’t even say right now,” he said. “This is a new experience for me. I don’t know. We’ll see what they see. I’m pretty down right now.”
As to whether the injury may end his racing days, Arpin paused deeply before simply replying, “It’s a possibility.”
The injury bug first struck Fort Frances sno-cross racer Johnny Lundon, who shattered his ankle at his opening race Nov. 28 at Duluth to bring an abrupt end to his season and possibly his competitive career.
A week later, local sno-cross racer Brad Loveday suffered two hairline fractures in his right leg and a lacerated right hand after falling off his sled and then being run over by a fellow racer at a Northwest Racing Association event at Loch Lomond, near Thunder Bay.
Loveday returned to action Dec. 21 at an event in Thief River Falls, Mn. but his results were not known as of press time this week.