KYLE RICHTER,Bill Cryderman,Derek Kolbus

The Final Approach

By Ric Federau, Contributing Writer

Okay have I got your attention? After all, that’s what writing articles is all about. Generally speaking, the content of the article is always pretty interesting. It’s giving you a little more insight to what’s going on and what’s really important because we’re in this together. When I say we’re in this together, then what I’m speaking about is participating in one of the greatest winter sports spectacles in the world. So, my main objective is to keep you interested and keep you reading as we learn just a little bit more coming into our final approach for the 55th running of the world’s most prestigious snowmobile racing event.

Fact is….. You as a reader are equally a part of this event as much as the volunteers, the race teams, the sponsors, the. fans, yeah, even the media. We’ve all created a. winter sports enthusiasts’ fraternity as we come together with a common interest in a sport that generates a lot of High-Octane excitement.  When you think about it we’re only a few days away from the opening days of race week for the International 500.  Together we’re going to be embarking on Michigan’s oldest city. Historically speaking, that’s a unique story in itself. Now we’re going to transform it into Michigan’s hottest winter sports activity location and vacation destination.  Proclaimed by Michigan’s governor as Michigan’s premier winter sporting event The 55th running of this prestigious event is certain to give you all the thrills of NASCAR and the excitement of professional racing within the winter sports arena.  Does it get any better than this? I don’t think so. Folks.  After last year’s exciting finish (Which, by the way, was one of the closest in professional racing anywhere.) We anticipate the competitive spirit is going to be more alive than ever.  As we move into this final approach for the 55th running of the International 500, The excitement is in the air and the buzz is all around us.   At this point, my little article it’s time to get the adrenaline going.  It’s time for me to stop babbling about this exciting sport and the time to move into the meat of this article. Let’s get right into “ tech chatter”. ( Gotta admit tho… I’m pretty damn good at chatter’n….LOL)

Within my last article, I had mentioned that we’re going to host a “ Sunday sit down” talk with a couple International 500 race drivers and……  the International 500 race director.   Fire UP your brand loyal sled and let’s get rolling……..

I wanna introduce y’all to a good, upcoming driver who’s future looks bright within the oval ice endurance racing arena.  Always great to get the inside perspective of a competitive driver such as KYLE RICHTER.

Driver:  Kyle Richter
Age: 30 yrs.
Hometown: Traverse City, Mich.
Sled # – 62

Ric: Kyle., Before we get too deep in conversation, I don’t want to take the time to thank you for your time and your personal perspective when it comes to professional snowmobile endurance racing.  Thanks again.

Ric: So Kyle. How many years have you been racing and what got you interested in snowmobile endurance racing?

Kyle: Well, Rick, I’ve been around snowmobiles almost all my entire life.  I started riding and racing at 5 years old and continued racing snowmobiles through age 16 when I took a hiatus from the sport. I primarily raced snow cross, but always had an interest. in racing cross country and endurance racing was the coolest available option in Michigan.

Ric; Assuming you’re brand loyal and your fans are as well. What type of sled do you race at the I-500 race?

Kyle: I started out racing an Arctic cat and continued racing Arctic cat through the age of 16. However, once I transitioned into endurance racing, I chose to go with Polaris as they have a pretty good, solid program in regard to this type of racing. This year at the International 500 Ryan Bosek and I will be driving a 2023 Polaris, 600R.

KYLE RICHTER,Bill Cryderman,Derek Kolbus

Ric: How many years have you been racing at the I-500?

Kyle:  This will be my third time racing at the International 500 as a driver. And honestly, I’m just looking forward to finishing the race. The past two years we’ve had some unfortunate luck and we’re hoping the 3rd year is a charm.

Ric:   As a driver, what excites you most about racing at the international 500?

Kyle:  It’s honestly just an honor to be able to race at such a prestigious event. I’ve been watching the race with my dad and my uncle Mark since I was 14 years old and never truly thought that I would have the opportunity to be out there with so many accomplished racers. My uncle passed away last year from brain cancer, so just being in the race that we’ve watched so many times together keeps me motivated and excited for the race.

Ric:  So tell me, how does racing at the famous I-500-mile oval compare to other race venues you’ve raced at?

Kyle:  Quite honestly, there is no comparison. There’s nothing like this venue. It’s in the league of its own.

Ric:  Assuming you have a personal routine you follow the night before the main i-500 event will you share a brief description of your personal routine?

Kyle:  The night before I take it pretty easy. I like to do some stretching to keep the body loose.  I watched previous year’s race videos to keep my focus and I go to bed early for a good night’s sleep.

Ric: Would you mind sharing your morning pre-race routine a little bit? Give people an idea what you go through in the morning of the I-500 race. The morning of the race?

Kyle:  I’m pretty focused and not very talkative. I get a brief work out and get the blood pumping.  Then I spend a lot of time making sure all my gears in order and ready to go. The whole team gets together, and we go over the plan one more time before the big show starts.

Ric:  The I-500 is a long race. Do you get to eat during the race?  If so, when?

Kyle:  I might eat a granola bar and possibly a couple bananas during the race, but that’s about it.

Ric:  How many drivers are on your team, Kyle?

Kyle:  2 – Myself. and O’Ryan Bosek

Ric:  How often do you change drivers between you and Mister Bosek?

Kyle: We typically try to change drivers at the end of our fuel range, but that could. increase with fatigue this year. I am recovering from a torn MCL and a meniscus, we’ll have to see how the ole leg holds up.

Ric:  This past summer, as many people know, the international 500 embarked on a summer tour to promote the sport of oval ice endurance racing as well as the International 500 race itself. Do you think promotion at auto race venues during the summer and off season is beneficial to your sport and the I-500 race? And why?

Kyle:  I absolutely think that promoting oval ice racing in the off season is beneficial to the sport and to the international 500.

Ric:  What does it mean to you and your team to win the international 500 race?

Kyle:  Obviously, no team goes racing with a mindset of not winning. We’re a new team to the I-500. Right now, we just want to figure out how to make it to the end of the race. Once we can do that, we can focus on the possibility of winning it. At this point I just consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to be out there racing with other professional drivers.

This next “Sunday sit” down has a unique twist to it that’s really cool when it comes to drivers who race at the international 500.  You’ll Understand more as the shutdown begins. So, let’s get rolling……..

KYLE RICHTER,Bill Cryderman,Derek Kolbus

Name:  Derek Kolbus
Age: 48
Hometown: Slidell, LA.
Sled # – 8 (Kolbus Racing)

Ric:  How long have you been involved in snowmobile endurance racing and what got you interested in the sport?

Derek:  I’ve been involved on and off for the past 20 years. My interest came from watching my dad, Mike Kolbus Sr. race for many years, starting back in the 70s.

Ric: So Derek, What brands led do you race when you race at the international 500?

Derek: For the past six years. we’ve been racing on a Polaris.

Ric:  I’m about to ask you an interesting question. Derek, noting where you currently reside. You travel thousands of miles to race at the International 500, are you originally from Michigan and how many years have you been traveling to race at the SOO?

Derek: I grew up in Munising, MI. And I’ve been traveling to the International 500 from Louisiana for the past eight years (2650 miles round trip).

Ric:  You’re obviously committed to the sport. Preparing for the International 500 takes months of planning and practice time on a sled. How do you get practice time for the I-500 when residing in such a warm climate.

Derek:  I spend a lot of time on my KTM riding single track in the DeSoto National Forest. 100% Is a lot of fun.

Ric: With minimal ability to get sled practice time. I assume your team members have your sled totally ready so when you do get to Michigan you can get some practice time. When do you normally arrive in Michigan prior to racing at the International 500? 

Derek:  I normally make about two trips back to Michigan in December and January to help the guy’s finish building the sled. The. week before the International 500 I show up and we do our testing. My practice time is a few straight line runs on some ice or a dirt road. I get the most practice during qualifying laps when I’m at the International 500 track.

Ric:  How Many drivers do you have on your team? What are their names?

Derek:  For the past two years, it’s been me and Ryan Dalsky. We’ve been the only two drivers this year were excited to add Michael Haynes as our third Driver on the # – 8 team.

Ric:  The International 500 is a tough physical race. It’s like the race is based on “ man versus machine “. As drivers you have to be in shape physically. Do you work out year-round?  And what do you do to keep yourself in shape?

Derek:  I have a regimented training cycle that starts about six months before the International 500 race week begins. I do a lot of cross training to prepare.

Ric:  I’m sure it’s exciting for you to have three drivers for the 55th running of the International 500. But how many team members do you have on your team?

Derek:  Three drivers and 12 crew members.

Ric: When you make pit stops during the race, what is your average time of each pit stop?

Derek:  It’s quick. but we focus more on efficiency of the pit stop rather than the time it takes. It’s just very quick.

Ric:  Obviously, racing is in your blood Derek. Is it a hobby? And what is your real job?

Derek:  It’s a hobby and a passion. I am a private practice chiropractic physician.

Ric:  Holy Moly….. That’s very unique. What do your clients and staff think about your involvement with snowmobile racing?

Derek:  My clients and staff can’t believe the speeds that we go during the race at the International 500. We have many followers from Slidell, LA that watch us on race day.

Ric:  Again, Derek, you certainly are committed to the sport and racing at the International 500. You have the utmost mutual respect from the fraternity of race teams who race there. You also have a large fan base who follow and support your team. In a nutshell, what does winning the prestigious International 500 mean to you personally and your team members?

Derek:  It means everything. It means a legacy for Kobus Racing, for my Kolbus family and my home town Munising Michigan. It would mean everything to our co drivers and several of our team members who are locals from Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Ric:   I’d like to share a little tid-bit about the bond between drivers and teams who race at the I-500.  Dr. Kolbus while racing at the I-500 has helped hurting drivers from other teams during his own pit-stop.  Who does that?….. The drivers and teams who participate in this sport, that’s who.  Always there supporting each other while being competitive as well.   It’s a testimony to all teams and drivers who race in this sport arena of oval ice endurance racing.  And… as I said,  a unique twist to a story about a class act driver and Doctor.   Thanks for the interview, Doc….. Gotta love it, right?

Let’s head into the final lap and some “ Tech – Chatter “ whereby we’re going to have a Sunday sit down with the race director for the International 500 race.

KYLE RICHTER,Bill Cryderman,Derek Kolbus

Name: Bill Cryderman
Age:  48
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Title:  I-500 Race Chairman and Race Committee.

Ric:  The I-500 is officiated by a governing body known as the Race Committee. Can you give a brief description of what the race committee is and does?

Bill:  The Race Committee is a group separate from the board of directors of the International 500. It officiates and operates the race week events throughout International 500 race week. Any activity that happens on the track is operated by the race committee. We are sanctioned by ISR Racing and follow their rule book that is provided by them.

Ric: Your title is race director?  As race director for the International 500 you’re responsible for overseeing everything and everyone involved with “on the track” participation and within the infield pit areas. Your responsibilities are many and cover a wide variety of areas related to the I-500 race. Can you touch on some of the areas for which you oversee?

Bill:  The reality is… Once I sign on as race director, I’m responsible for the whole facility from gate to gate. It’s a huge task, and it’s not possible to do it all. So, we have it broke into pieces and everyone has a piece of the puzzle to deal with. But truthfully, my main focus is on the track activities and anything in the pit areas or track areas during. race week.

Ric: How long have you been race director for the International 500?

Bill: Well, that’s a tough question, because I’m not 100 percent sure on what year I first started. I’m not very good with that kind of stuff, but I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when I first became race director. So, let’s just say 15 or so years. 

Ric:  The responsibilities of a race director are many. Do you have an assistant and who is that person?

Bill:  Absolutely it’s a necessity. my co-race director is Scott “Lucky”  Lacoursiere.  Scott is fully certified as an ISR race director. He and I have been friends for over 30 years, and we work well together. It’s pretty seamless.

Ric:  As race director, what do you consider to be your highest priority?

Bill:  Our highest priority is always safety, hands down. I tell all these racers and teams that we want every one of them to go home in the same or better condition than they showed up in.

Ric:  The I-500 track being the only mile oval ice track in North America, is very large.  How many track officials are trackside during I-500 race.

Bill:  For sure running a one-mile oval track is no small feat to staff and operate. We have between 75 and 80 workers in the pit area on race day with 28 of them being trackside doing various flagging duties.

Ric:  Being a total volunteer project, we’re by a lot of people volunteer to work the race. Are the trackside officials all local people?

Bill: No, not all trackside workers are local. We’ve worked years to assemble a group of workers we currently have, and many of them come from all over Michigan and Canada. We get people from other states as well. This group is second to none in the business, but then again, I’m pretty biased.

Ric: As race director, you have direct involvement with the International 500 “tech crew”. Can you briefly explain what “tech” is and what type of things they go on in tech?

Bill: Tech is a huge aspect of our race week. This is headed by our tech director Jamie Vincent.  What happens in there is making sure that each sled that hits the track is safe and legal in every aspect. Sleds are looked at from front bumper to rear bumper to make sure it’s safe and within the guidelines.  This includes fuel inspections and inspections of the driver’s safety equipment as well.  The “tech crew” are the heartbeat of the race itself.

Ric: Do all the people who work in tech have to be certified by the sanctioning body?

Bill:  No, not all workers in tech have to be certified by ISR, but they all work under Jamie certification.  Jamie Vincent is the master of the tech crew.

Ric:  After qualifying, how many sleds make up a full field in the starting grid for the I-500?

Bill: A full field of sleds on the track at the I-500 is 38. We usually hover really close to a full field each year, which is pretty remarkable in itself.

Ric:  Race teams come from Michigan and other states throughout the Midwest, along with Alaska. Do any teams come from Canada?

Bill:  We get teams here from all across the United States, including Alaska. And yes, Canada, it’s usually represented for sure this year. This year, Furkey racing and Ritichie racing are both preregistered for the race. We’re excited to have him here.

Ric: I’m sure a lot of people wanna know, what criteria does a driver need to be able to race at the International 500?

Bill: The criteria a driver needs is this, the driver has to be a pro racer somewhere else. They must submit a resume to our committee, we will approve them or not to enter our rookie program throughout race week. If they complete the rookie program and we approve them, they will be eligible to race the first Saturday in February at the I-500.

I’d like to thank all the “Sunday Sit Down” people who were willing to share their respective answers to the questions asked.   This is it folks……  The Final Approach to the 55th. running of the most prestigious snowmobile race in the world.  The Grand-Daddy of them all…  Time to fire UP the high-octane excitement and come on UP to the 55th. running of the International 500.    Always the first Saturday in Feb.  A vacation destination that will build memories that last a lifetime.

Thank YOU, the reader, for your support of the sport.    We’re always looking for volunteers to help host this outstanding event known as the International 500.

Visit our I-500 web site at: www.i-500

YUP, y’all got it……  “ All left turns from here…”

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