Ever since he began snowmobile racing, P.J. Wanderscheid has had two goals: win the Eagle River World Championship race and be in the Snowmobile Hall of Fame. This week, both goals will be checked off that list as Wanderscheid is inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame Feb. 14-15 in St. Germain, Wis. He will be recognized as both the youngest racer to be crowned Eagle River World Champion and also the only racer to win that distinction four times.

“You don’t do it by luck,” Wanderscheid said. “My dad always said, ‘There’s no such thing as luck. Luck is when hard work and opportunity meet.’ You’ve got to align those and that’s where your luck comes in. People always say, ‘It’s lucky he won that,’ but you didn’t see all the behind-the-scenes stuff that led up to it, years of work and getting the right people in place to make that happen.”

The groundwork for Wanderscheid’s success was laid with his family. His dad, Dick, was also a snowmobile racer, and Wanderscheid’s three older brothers – Dave, Mark and Brian – helped build Wanderscheid’s first racing snowmobile and financed the team before they had sponsors. Dave and Mark also founded Country Cat in 1991, an Arctic Cat dealership south of Sauk Centre.

Wanderscheid was 3 years old when he rode his first snowmobile, and by age 11, he was racing in radar runs. In March 1998, Wanderscheid drove in his first serious snowmobile competition, a junior division at Big Lake, and placed third. Not long after that came his first win at Roseau, and he remembers exactly how it happened.

“Last corner, last lap, and I passed him on the outside for the win,” Wanderscheid said. “That’s definitely one thing I’ve never forgotten.”

The moment which launched Wanderscheid into the spotlight was the 2002 Eagle River World Championship. An 18-year-old rookie, he became the youngest racer to win the event, a surprise to the thousands there to see the famous race. The prize for the championship was a Victory motorcycle.

“I didn’t know what the prize was,” Wanderscheid said. “That’s not why we’re here. We’re just here because we want to win, and that was just a little bonus.”

Proving his victory was not an accident, Wanderscheid went on to win the Eagle River World Championship three more times in 2003, 2006 and 2011. He is the only snowmobile racer to have won that championship four times.

“A lot of people said that first year, ‘It’s a fluke, he’ll never do that again,’” Wanderscheid said. “To back it up again the next year and do it again, that kind of put a lot of people’s doubts to rest. They can’t really dispute we were there because we were supposed to be there. Eagle River was definitely the turning point where people took you seriously. That was one of the things I remember from starting out; people you looked up to gave you the respect.”

Other premier venues Wanderscheid won include three back-to-back Wausau 525 Championships in 2009-11, two back-to-back Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in 2010-11 and the Woody’s Triple Crown Championship in 2003. In 2003, he was named Snow Week magazine’s Racer of the Year. He has a recorded total of 72 professional wins and captured a 17 Year-end High Point Championship over the course of his career.

Wanderscheid attributes much of his success to his focus on physical fitness, running multiple miles a day and strengthening his back, core, arms and legs, to his success. The workouts paid out in race stamina, especially during the Eagle River World Championship; while most snowmobile races are about 10 laps long, the championship is 25 laps. While Wanderscheid worked on his strength, his crew worked on the snowmobiles.

“When we brought that element of racing 25 laps at 100 percent, that was a big joke,” Wanderscheid said. “I heard some of the track officials, when we qualified on Saturday, were like, ‘He’ll never last; you have to pace yourself for 25 laps. You can’t run flat-out for 25 laps, you’re going to crash or fall off.’ They learned in January 2002 that you can run that race flat-out for 25 laps. That’s how we passed for the win.”

Wanderscheid has made plenty of passes in his races; he has never had an Eagle River World Championship race where he started out in the lead, but to him, that makes his wins that much more of a triumph.

“From a driver’s standpoint, I would love to just get out front and then not have to pass anybody, but I always thought it was pretty neat that I had to fight to get it,” Wanderscheid said. “There’s no feeling in this world that’s better than crossing that finish line first.”

After 17 years of competition, Wanderscheid retired from snowmobile racing in 2016. He works for Country Cat, now the largest Arctic Cat dealership in the world, and they continue to sponsor snowmobile teams. Wanderscheid, his wife Jeni and three kids, Miah, Mason and Kelsie enjoy watching snowmobile races, and Wanderscheid has plenty of racing stories to tell his children.

“When I was done, it was time for me to be done,” Wanderscheid said. “I really think when you’re a racer you’ve got to choose that right time when you don’t have any regrets. I don’t regret doing it. I loved it; I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I have no desire to race anymore.”

When he looks back on his racing career, Wanderscheid sees the people who helped him to the top, including his wife, family, parents, brothers and teammates: Butch VonWahlde, Dan Merten, Todd Kemper, Jeremy Kerzman, Brian Kuhlmann and Jim Determan.

“I’ve been writing this speech for the hall of fame, and I feel bad because my name is in the hall of fame but there’s so many people who contributed to this,” Wanderscheid said. “It’s kind of like an iceberg; everybody sees the tip, but there’s so much more – all the people who have helped me to get there, all the work behind the scenes and all the failures along the way. The whole thing came with this ride, and I wouldn’t change anything.”