27 compete in Cannon Ball snowmachine race
Cody Sherman, Bubba McDaniel and Shayla Johnson won their respective classes in the Cannon Ball snowmachine race, held Saturday, April 15, in Nome. Under perfectly sunny skies and no wind, 27 racers competed in three classes: Open, 0-600cc and a women’s class. Sherman, riding a Lynx, was the first of the seven open racers to cross the finish line, followed by Mike Morgan (Polaris) and Wilson Hoogendorn (Skidoo).
McDaniel bested 14 competitors in the A Class, riding a Skidoo. Second place went to Steffen Booth (Polaris) and third to Louis Green III (Polaris).
Shayla Johnson (Polaris) dominated the women’s field, consisting of five racers. Second was Stacy West, and Brandolyn Ahyakak placing third.
Dozens of cars and trucks lined up at the Port Road overlooking the inner port basin, where the race started. Race fans and support crews set up shop at Middle Beach where fuel stations were erected to refuel the high-powered race machines after a few laps.
The race began with a Le Mans – dead man’s start- where racers laid on their backs a few yards away from their snowmachines. As race official Kevin Bahnke sounded the start, they jumped to their feet, ran through deep, sugary snow to their machines, started them and blasted off. The starting loop took the racers toward the spectators before making a turn and disappearing in a white cloud of kicked up snow through the “hole” in the breakwater and off onto the 29-mile trail around Nome. They raced along East Beach to the Nome River bridge, then took a turn north and rode along the Beam Road to Dexter, crossed the road into Dexter Creek and ended on the other side at the Snake River, blasting down the river and back to the inner port.
Fans cheered the tunnel-visioned snowmachiners on at Snake River near Bering Air, from the Nome River bridge and a large contingent of race officials and fans waited at the Dexter Girl Scout’s camp road crossing for the competitors.
The men’s racers completed five loops; the women’s race concluded after running three laps.
According to race organizer Bahnke, there were eight scratches, a few crashes but no reported injuries.
The Cannonball Run 150-mile race goes back to 1995, when Perry Burress started the event with the help of Nathan Barron and Mark Wassman. “We were holding a smaller snowmachine races in Nome and needed to come up with something more challenging, something to get more spectators involved,” he told the Nugget. For this reason, the race course runs along portions of the Nome-Council Road, the Beam Road to Dexter, across the pass and crossing the Nome-Teller Highway on the other side, allowing spectators by car to watch racers at many points. That first year, the race was to go all the way to the Cripple River, but the morning of the race the river opened up and the race course was moved to the Snake River. Burress remembered that back then the organizers held a lot of fundraisers, poker runs and raffles and received support from businesses to come up with the purse. Then, there were two classes, 0-500 and an open class. The top three finishers received $2,000, $1,500 and $1,000. In 2023 the payout was $2,200 for first place, $1,100 for second and $600 for third, plus a share of the entry fees. This year, there was also a special $250 prize for the first racer in each class who made it through the ‘hole’ in the breakwater.
Evan Booth, one of the organizers said that after the first race in 1995 it was held through the year 2000 and then it was on and off until it was restarted in 2021.
Burress, who now lives in Unalakleet, said he was happy that the race is still being held. “I had a lot of help with the Cannon Ball from racers along the way,” he said. “Team work at its best!”
The race was organized by Evan Booth, Kevin Bahnke, the Bering Sea Lion’s Club and was sponsored by Wilderness Ski Doo, Morgan Sales and Service, Mr. Gold, Q Trucking, Quality Auto Parts, Bering Air, Graphite One and VFW Post #9569.
Results (not timed)
Open Class: 1. Cody Sherman, 2. Mike Morgan, 3. Wilson Hoogendorn, 4. Nicholas Reader; 5. Cody White. Holeshot winner: Nicholas Reader.
A (0-600) Class: 1. Bubba McDaniel, 2. Steffen Booth, 3. Louis Green III, 4. Donny Johnson, 5. Haylen O’Connor. Hole shot winner: Steffen Booth.
Women’s: 1. Shayla Johnson; 2. Stacy West; 3. Brandolyn Ahyakak; 4. Sara Germain. Hole shot winner: Shayla Johnson.