Matt Goede of Mayer, Minn., poses for a trophy presentation with Derby Queen Ashley Hopkins. —STAFF PHOTO
Matt Goede of Mayer, Minn., poses for a trophy presentation with Derby Queen Ashley Hopkins. —STAFF PHOTO
A fast sled, a late-race change of his front right carbide and a little bit of luck helped push Matt Goede of Mayer, Minn., and his No. 28 Formula III Ski-Doo to victory lane as the heralded ice oval driver was crowned champion of the 60th World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River Sunday afternoon.

After it had looked as is Blaine Stephenson was well on his way to an unprecedented fifth World Championship, a spin out by his Wahl Bros., teammate grouped the field back up with two laps to go leading to Goede’s opportunity.

A relatively uneventful race through the first 15 laps saw the field settle in early as Goede moved into the lead on lap three. Behind him, racers spaced themselves out across the half-mile ice oval as a bumpy, dirty and difficult track worsened over the course of the 25-lap final.

The track prior to the race was the hot topic as what had started the weekend as a smooth and fast oval of blue ice had turned to dirt in a number of areas after a weekend of hard race competition took its toll.

Goede said however it wasn’t the track or his equipment as much as his inability to see, due to a light mist, which caused him to pull back off the throttle with under 10 to go, opening the door for Stephenson to take the lead with just over seven laps left in the race.

“There was a freezing rain or fog that I could wipe away at the beginning of the race, but then it started to freeze on my goggles,” said Goede. “I didn’t feel safe driving and it got worse when you’d get into lap traffic.”

From there it seemed as if Stephenson was on the way to his fifth title when Olson got tangled in turn four causing him to spin to the track and bring out the race’s first and only red flag, with two laps to go.

During the race break as track personnel attended to Olson’s sled, some teams and drivers took the opportunity to add a new carbide to their skis, helping regain what they thought would be some front end handling for the final two laps.

Off the staggered restart with Stephenson on the front of the line, it was Goede who got the hole shot to turn one to take the lead and he never looked back, winning over Zach Dewald of Au Gres, Mich., while Stephenson settled for third.

“I’m thinking my track just held up better than the rest of the guys,” said Goede about getting the late hole shot. “I tried hard not to spin my track hard until Blaine passed me. I am assuming he didn’t have any studs left.”

Stephenson said though he tried to do the opposite, he got into his throttle too hard off the restart and once the track spun he knew he’d have nothing for Goede.

“I sort’ve knew once the red came out, our chance of winning wasn’t good,” said Stephenson after the race. “But that’s racing. I mean, we sort’ve won one like that a few years back. Still, it’s just tough after what this team did this week to get us here. I am really proud of my guys and the way they battled.”

As far as the carbide change, Goede said the plan from the start was, no matter when the red came out, he was changing his front right carbide on the machine.

“We had a carbide for that reason and I was putting it on no matter what,” he said. “Evidently though the left carbide is just as important because even after changing the front right I had no steering. A lot of it too was the track. There just wasn’t ice to dig anymore.”

Celebrating after the race Goede said he appreciated being able to win what he said was the biggest race of his career so far.

“I would say this is the biggest race I’ve ever won,” he said. “We’ve had success on just about everything we’ve been on and now we can say we’re a world champion. It feels so good to say that.”

With the change to Formula III two years ago, this was the first year Goede decided to give it a go on the bigger machine and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I actually really enjoy driving the F-III, and actually I almost prefer it over the Champ,” he said after the race. “Especially after the way we ran Friday night. And maybe that just gives me a bad taste in my mouth because I didn’t do well. It’s just really fun to drive. It wasn’t at first, but now it seems we’ve got it handling pretty good. I like having more power. And after driving a Champ and then hopping onto these it feels good to have the extra power there.”

Goede thanked his team and had a special thanks to his family who he said this year more than ever helped him through getting ready for Eagle River.

“This year my older brother did a lot with this sled, especially to get it to handle as good as it does now,” he said. “Everyone came in saying Ski-Doo wasn’t going to be any good. But we showed them wrong. I think if this track would have held together we still had the fastest sled out there.”

Dewald said after the race that he was elated to have even made the field for Sunday, so to finish with a podium finish in the runner-up spot was outstanding.

“We partied pretty hard last night just happy with the fact we made the big show,” said Dewald. “We’re just stoked. To be up on the box with a silver means we’re really going to party tonight.”

Coming into the race out of the enduro circuit, Dewald was excited that after last year he got the opportunity to make the switch.

“We sort’ve decided last summer that we were going to put a little more time into it, build an F-III and go for it,” he said. “And we’re pretty happy with how it turned out.”

Stephenson, who ended the day in third, commented on a few key points that were make-or-break across the 25-lap final.

“The studs were just gone at the end there, we had no traction,” he said. “It took everything I could do to just keep the sled straight off the restart. There just wasn’t anything.”

Stephenson was on his way to victory, having passed Goede and put almost half a straight away between himself and Goede when his teammate Tom Olson was bumped by Calvin Cook and spun out in turn four to bring out the caution.

“I was able to find it where we weren’t too rough getting into one, but then (turn) three was the hardest one,” said Stephenson. “There was a patch that everyone was running low but it was through the dirt. The problem with riding it high is you take that risk of turning it up into the bales like I did twice this weekend already. But I got to where I could sort’ve put it on rails and it really helped me put a dent into Matt’s lead there.”

Finishing in fourth place, just one-tenth of a second from a podium finish, was Eagle River’s Zach Herfindahl. The accomplished factory rider for Arctic Cat came to his hometown track having never turned a single lap on the high banks prior to Friday’s qualifying run.

He nearly put himself in the front row in Saturday’s qualifying races, but a late-race pass in corner four from Gunnar Sterne of West Chicago, put him into Sunday’s last chance qualifier race where he took one of the two transfer spots.

“It’s been a great weekend and we’ve definitely learned a lot over the course of the last few days,” said Herfindahl prior to Sunday’s championship race. “Really proud of the guys and the team to be able to do this. It’s been a lot of fun. Hope to be back next year.”

Herfindahl will continue his ice oval season at the Soo 500 endurance race in a couple of weeks. From there it’ll be back to the cross-country circuit as a member of the Team Arctic Cat squad.

Rounding out the field in fifth place was Colt Dellandrea of Sundridge, Ontario, Can., on his No. 53 Arctic Cat. Sixth went to Andy Shoemaker of Pinconning, Mich., followed by defending champion Jay Mittelstaedt of La Valle, Mike VanDolder of Barrie, Ontario, Can., Calvin Cook of Dayton, Minn., Tom Olson of Lodi, Gunnar Sterne of West Chicago, Ill., and Luke Olson of Ishpeming, Mich.

The following are the results of the Derby Oval events, listed by class, finish, racer and hometown:

World Championship: First, Matt Goede, Mayer, Minn.; second, Zach Dewald, Au Gres, Mich.; third, Blaine Stephenson, Hutchinson, Minn.

World Championship Pro Enduro: First, Tyler Town, Traverse City, Mich.; second, Zach Dewald, Au Gres, Mich.; third, Joey Burch, Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Sport F-500: First, Haven Bouverette, Bad Axe, Mich.; second, Markus Catlin, Merrill; third, Cameron Spencer, Flushing, Mich.

Pro Lite: First, Ashten Christensen, Luck; second, Calvin Peterson, Eden; third, Sean Shively, Shawano.

Pro Champ: First, Danick Lambert, Sorel-tracy, Quebec, Canada; second, Calvin Peterson, Eden; third, Ashten Christensen, Luck.

Outlaw 600: First, Joe Schneider, St. Germain; second, Curtis Kurth, Big Bend; third, Jordan Grabowski, Eagle River.

Junior 2 F-500: First, Jazalyn Rathke, Wausau; second, Miranda Peterson, Lancaster, Minn.; third Cale Maciag, Goetzville, Mich.

Junior 1 F-500: First, Derek Meyer, Michigamme, Mich.; second, Benjamin Meyer, Michigamme, Mich.; third, Alex Neumann, Merrill.

F-500 / Sportsman 600 Combo: First, Dustin Schwandt, Markesan; second, Nick Wickerham, Belding, Mich.; third, Collin Henderson, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

F-500: First, Markus Catlin, Merrill; second, Tyler Foster, Fairgrove, Mich.; third, Austin Graber, Clear Lake, Minn.

F-440 FC: First, Johnathon Proctor, Trufant, Mich.; second, Spencer Sears, St. Francis, Minn.; third, Tavish Perry, Eagle River.