Cannonball 150 returns to Nome
The Cannonball 150 snow machine race returned to Nome after a long hiatus and the weather cooperated by delivering an almost perfect day.There was plenty of snow thanks to the series of blizzards which hammered Nome in March and April. On race day it dawned overcast with flat light, so the noon start was delayed by an hour. Once it was time to go at 1p.m. the light still wasn’t ideal, but after the first 29-mile lap the sun was out and visibility was great.
Mike Morgan wound up a successful racing season in which he took the Nome-Golovin, the Archie Ferguson/Willie Goodwin Sr. Race in Kotzebue, and finally the Cannonball. Jarvis Miller won the 600 class and 15-year-old Steffan Booth won the Junior class.
This year the race followed what’s termed the traditional course. Evan Booth described it: “From 1995 it started at the port, same place, headed down the coast to the Nome River, went under the Nome River bridge, really great for spectating there. Then it heads over to the Beam Road and follows that all the way out to Dexter. Depending on how things are bermed up it may cross the road at Osborne or Dexter. This year it crossed at Dexter. From there it goes up Dexter Creek, then over into Anvil Creek, and then to Glacier Creek and the Snake River Valley, and follows the new Glacier Creek Road down, crosses the Teller Road, right down to the coast and you hang a left and right back to the port.”
This year it was 29 miles and racers ran the course five times. “In the past it has varied between 30 and 35 miles to make it a complete 150,” said Booth. “The whole idea behind this race was to get a good spectator race going. Today that really brought it out. The race hasn’t happened for ten years or so and a lot of people were out there today. You can watch the riders coming from miles away.”
According to Booth, who won the race several times in the 1990s, Perry Burress and Nathan Barron started the race back in 1995. They ran the same course except it went a little farther up the coast. “It was a huge turnout in ’95, ’96, through 2000.” Mike Morgan commented there were a lot of riders from Kotzebue who came to race. There would be 20 to 30 riders in each class. “Deadman Le Mans start and a shotgun were used back then.” It quit for a while around 2003 though there were a couple of runnings of the race with low participation. According to Kevin Bahnke, the race was last run in 2017. “This is a comeback for it,” said Booth. “People are wanting it back.”
Mike Morgan ran a warm-up lap before the race. He reported the visibility was horrible. “The first lap it was flat light about 90 percent of the way,” said Booth. “During the first lap there was a lot more carnage. A lot more windshields gone and cowlings gone than if you would have had good light and the sun. So, it’s good if you can hold back. If we could have waited one more hour it would have negated a lot of the carnage.”
“Pretty ideal for this time of year,” said winner Mike Morgan when asked about the conditions. “We had stable snow conditions for the most part. It got rough after a couple laps. But there was lots of snow. The holes just got deeper and deeper. This thing just ran so consistent and smooth,” said Morgan, sitting astride his Polaris 850.
Junior racer Steffan Booth won on a Ski-Doo formerly owned by Johnny Bahnke. Asked what his top end was in the race he said he didn’t look too much. “Last time I looked it was 113.” The junior race was three laps only but Steffan decided to continue on after completing his three laps. He finished fifth overall and ran the fastest of any in the 600cc machine category on all five laps.
Since the race starts with a mass start, no times are kept, with winners and places declared as they cross the finish line.
Eight racers started in the 600 cc class, nine in the open class and four in the junior class.
Open class: 1. Mike Morgan; 2. Bubba McDaniel; 3. Casey Sherman
600 cc: 1. Jarvis Miller; 2. Nicholas Reader; 3. Cody Moen
Junior: 1.Steffan Booth; 2. Haylen O’Conner; 3. Teague Green