Snow in his blood
When it comes to snowmobile racing, and specifically snocross, household names for the industry likely include Tucker Hibbert or Blair Morgan.
But if you're from West Fargo, there's only one name you need to know: Jayme Cheney.
The West Fargo native eats, sleeps and breathes snowmobile racing. At 33 years old, the 1996 graduate from West Fargo High School has completed a competitive racing career spanning 15 years and two forms of motorized missiles: snowmobiles and jet skis.
The latter is one that saw Cheney hit his stride, winning two national championships and five world championships, the last of which came in 2005.
But since then, he's focused on water's other elemental state: ice, or more specifically, snow. It's snowmobiling where you'll find Cheney now as the crew chief of Boss Racing's West Fargo Ski-Doo snocross team.
"You don't see a lot of guys who continue on after racing," said Cheney, who lives with his wife, Tammy, in West Fargo. "They just kind of disappear."
Cheney was not impervious to the strain of racings, and suffered several injuries including a broken knee, torn ACL, and broken tibia. But that's all behind him: now, it's Cheney at the helm.
"Being crew chief is better than racing because now I can tell (the riders) when to go faster," he said. "And my knees feel a heck of a lot better."
With headquarters in Winnipeg, Boss Racing is a relative newcomer in the Fargo-Moorhead area, but not in the industry.
"A lot of people know Boss, but don't even know we're from North Dakota," Cheney said. "They all just assume we're from Canada."
Last year, Cheney ran Star Performance, a Polaris-backed snocross team. But when things got shaky and Boss Racing came knocking, he couldn't say no. Now he has full corporate sponsorship for three years by one of the kingpins in snowmobiling.
To help spread the word, Cheney and the rest of his team got to work during the recent Amsoil Duluth Nationals snocross race Nov. 26-28. With two semi-pro racers and one pro racer, they hit the snow flying, and finished the weekend with several top qualifying times, a third-place pro-open finish and a championship in semi-pro super stock.
"We had a really good weekend," Cheney said.
The reasons behind the success could come from anywhere. Cheney, himself, works on and tunes the machines. His father, Jay, who owned Cheney Motor Sports in West Fargo for 15 years before selling it, helps with engine development. North Dakota native Mike Burgad is the team mechanic, and Mike Boser, a 2003 West Fargo grad, drives the truck.
But a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and Cheney's does its best as a cohesive force.
Brett Turcotte is Cheney's pro rider. A one-time Blair Morgan racing team member, Turcotte is the one pitted up against guys like Hibbert. At the Duluth National, Turcotte raced both Pro Stock and Pro Open classes.
In Pro Stock, he started with a 2-1 finish in qualifying. But during the final, Turcotte crashed shortly after the hole shot and lost nearly a full lap. He managed to gain three spots and finish 13th. In Pro Open, Turcotte went into the main event as the No. 2 qualifier, and hit the checkered flag third overall.
Derek Ellis and Corey Watkinson are Cheney's semi-pro racers. Watkinson is new to the team, but Ellis has been with Cheney for three years, transferring with him from Avalanche Racing to Star Performance and now to Boss.
Ellis and Watkinson also made a splash at Duluth, taking first and third in the first round of Super Stock 1. Ellis then took first place in Super Stock 2 for Boss Racing's big win.
Now, Cheney will get the chance to show off his riders much closer to home. The West Fargo team will be hauling its 53-foot black and yellow Boss Racing trailer a short distance to Newman Field this weekend for the Dakota Magic Casino Fargo Nationals.
The event starts at 7 p.m. Friday, and noon Saturday. It is the second stop of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series. Besides races, which will involve top names like Hibbert, there also will be some gravity-defying freestyle stunts both days.
Single-day and weekend passes are available at www.fmredhawks.com or by calling 800-303-6161.