Hobbies and passions come in all types. For some, it may be collecting rocks, stamps, or coins. For others, it may be something adrenaline-pumping like skydiving or rock climbing. For the Goede family of New Germany, it’s racing vintage snowmobiles.
Brothers Jacob and Matt Goede have been racing nearly their entire lives, collecting a plethora of titles, trophies, and accolades along the way.
It began in the early 1980s when their parents, John and Lisa, began dating. At the time, John raced motocross, gradually progressing to the somewhat safer dirt stock cars, according to Lisa. When their first son, Jacob, was seven in 1992, he started quarter midget racing.
“This was a great family racing sport for kids ages 5 to 16,” Lisa said. “All three boys enjoyed many years of racing, traveling, learning, and winning.”
Matt joined the racing team upon birth in the late 1980s, and began racing at age five. As the boys grew up, they began racing at Elko Speedway (Elko) and Raceway Park (Shakopee).
“My dad is the one that got our entire family into racing,” said Matt, now 24. “We started out racing cars and still do that, but the last couple years we started racing the snowmobile more seriously and got very good at it.”
Although the brothers both started racing young, they didn’t begin racing snowmobiles until much later. Jacob, now 28, began in 2001 with a 1973 Polaris Starfire.
“The first race was a big surprise and realized we had a lot of learning to do,” Jacob said.
After a few years of helping and watching Jacob, Matt joined the snowmobile circuit in 2006.
A 2003 graduate of Waconia High School, Jacob went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from Minnesota State University – Mankato in 2007, something that comes in handy when working on the sleds. He has earned many titles, including 2006 and 2011 Vintage World Championships, 2010 and 2012 Heteen Cup championships, and the 2012 Vintage Snopro champion.
His 2011 world championship is his most memorable title because, in recent years, the addition of an independent front suspension sled had made it nearly impossible to win for Jacob and others on leaf spring snowmobiles.
“I have always been very fast, but 10 laps on a leaf spring snowmobile is no easy task, and that is why the Chaparral’s (front suspension sleds) have such an advantage,” Jacob said. “So when I was able to hold them all off in 2011, it was huge.”
Matt, a 2006 graduate of WHS, is also a decorated athlete. A two-time Woody’s Cup winner, he was the 2012 Aaen Cup winner, victor of the 2012 Cornwell Toolbox race at Eagle River, and the 2011 and 2013 Snopro champion, along with nearly 90 other victories over the last four years.
His recent 2013 Vintage World Championship holds the most significance for Matt.
“Winning the World Champion race at Eagle River is definitely the highest award of vintage snowmobile racing. It’s where the best of the best all come together from all over the U.S. and some racers from Canada,” he said. “To win the world championship you have to beat the best competition in the country.”
The brothers design their own racing schedules, but try to hit many of the larger races as often as possible. They compete in the Vintage Snopro series, Pro Vintage Racing, as well as the Oval Racers Alliance.
“We make our own schedule,” Matt said. “We like to go to the biggest races with the best competition.”
Jacob and Matt have become something of celebrities in the vintage snowmobiling world, but remain humble about their fame.
“It’s pretty cool sometimes, but at the same time you know pretty much everyone wants to beat you,” Jacob said. “I don’t worry about it, and I don’t think about it. We just work on our stuff, and go to the track and try to win.”
“I know every time we go to a race we have targets on our back,” Matt added. “We are the ones everyone wants to beat.”
Mom Lisa holds nothing but pride for her sons and the impact they make on others. Shortly after the World Championships in January 2012, she received an e-mail from someone she had spoken to at the races.
“He wrote to say that talking to me and watching my boys race, they decided to give vintage racing a shot,” she said. “That had to be one of the biggest compliments — to be able to help grow the sport that we’ve come to love, to share our passion with others.”
The best parts of racing vintage snowmobiles are the people and the low-cost, according to Jacob.
“We can do a lot of the work on the sleds as far as building ourselves, or with the help of great friends, so it isn’t nearly as expensive to run,” he said. “The people we race with make it a lot of fun. Everyone is mostly friendly, so we basically get to go hang out with our buds and race snowmobiles, what’s not to like with that?!”
Matt also enjoys the camaraderie, alongside the construction of the sleds.
“The best part is close competition and meeting new people and making new friends,” he said. “It’s also fun building the sleds out of nothing and turning them into something you can race and win with.”
A mom’s worry is never ending, especially when her children are involved in a dangerous activity. But Lisa said she just has to believe that all the safety equipment (helmet, neck restraint, tech vest, and pads) will keep her sons safe.
“I guess it’s always in the back of your mind, but it doesn’t pay to fret over,” she said. “There are so many ways to get hurt in life.”
A few minor injuries over the years haven’t deterred the brothers from continuing to do what they love, although Lisa recalls a race when perhaps medical attention should have taken precedence.
It was in 2012 at a race in Amherst, Wis. Matt took a tumble from his sled and was hit by another sled’s studded track. He finished the race, and upon returning to the trailer, realized he had punctures in his arm from the other sled’s studs. His race jacket was shredded in back, but thankfully his back was protected by his tech vest.
“A trip to the in-field care told him he needed stitches,” Lisa said. “They decided to duct tape his wounds and get stitches after the races. Ugh.”
The snowmobile racing season for the Goedes usually runs from mid-December to early March. But if there’s no snow or ice, the race season can be delayed until early January, as it was this year. The Goede family wrapped up the 2012-13 season in early March at Glenwood.
“It’s nice to end with all the sleds and boys in good condition, no crashes or tumbles this year, yes!” Lisa said. “Now onto the race cars.”
Even though the snow may melt and the snowmobile races discontinued until the next winter, there never is a break from racing for Jacob or Matt. They race snowmobiles in the winter, cars in the summer, and when not racing, work on the sleds and cars.
Jacob is adjusting to a less race-intensive life after getting married to his wife, Erica, in 2011, and welcoming their first daughter, Reese, in August of 2012.
“My wife’s family is a racing family, and I grew up in it, so it’s kind of all we know and for the most part, we race as a family still,” Jacob said. “Erica also has to put up with me being gone a lot, working on the sleds or at the races, so thanks to her for letting me.”
The passion for racing flows in the blood of the Goedes, who have turned the sport into a group activity. Their crew is their family, consisting of John, Jacob, Erica, Matt, brother Alex, and Lisa, who dubs herself chief food preparer. Alex, the youngest of the three brothers, doesn’t race much, but plays an integral part in the pits on race day and at home in the shop whenever he’s home from college. He is currently a sophomore at MSU – Mankato pursuing a degree in civil engineering.
“I attribute most of the boys’ success to their dad willing to devote his time and talents toward them and their passion for racing all of their growing up years,” Lisa said. “It amazes me their collective wheels keep turning out new ideas all the time to try to go faster.”
“I couldn’t be racing without my parents and brothers,” Jacob said. “My dad has taught us a lot about snowmobiles and racing in general. We build and maintain everything together.”
The Goedes are also thankful to Larry Dressen of Performance Specialities Unlimited, who does most of the team’s engine work and some machining.
“We’re lucky enough to have our main motor tuner/building right here in Waconia,” Lisa said. “Thanks to Larry Dressen, he gets things done for the guys in record time. That means a lot when trying to keep five sleds tuned up and race ready.”
Neither brother intends to stop racing anytime soon. Jacob has hopes of becoming the first three-time Vintage World Champion. Having two titles (2006 and 2011) already under his belt, he hopes to focus on big events in the future and work on adapting to sled changes.
Matt also has plans to continue racing and hopes to build a few sleds.
“I plan to keep racing and hopefully if we have enough time, I would like to build some new sleds for next season and hopefully get even faster,” he said.
“Together, hopefully we’ll all keep going in circles as long as everyone enjoys it,” Lisa said.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]