Need for speed

The Wausau 525 track expands to add a national championship ATV ice race to its schedule


The Wausau 525 Snowmobile Championship, now in its 14th year.

When Wausau 525 Sports President Ralph Merwin says safety is important to him for a very important and personal reason: His son, Philip “Flip” Merwin, was killed during a snowmobile race in January 2003.

That incident led the elder Merwin to create the Wausau 525 snowmobile race in his honor, an event going on its 14th year that has raised more than $200,000 in scholarships and charities.

This year, the same track will also host the American Motorcycle Association’s ATV Ice Grand National Championships on Feb. 10. The race is expected to bring some 300 ATV racers from across the Midwest and beyond for the races.

That will be a big boost for the local economy, says Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau Project Manager Nick Ockwig. “Motorsports are big in central Wisconsin,” Ockwig says. “They’re going to draw a big crowd and bring their fan base with them, and that crowd really likes to spend money.”

The Wausau 525 itself has a similar impact, and draws nearly 100 racers over the weekend, Jan. 27-28, but also thousands of spectators to watch the racing action at the Wausau 525 track at 8911 Highway NN, near Sunnyvale Softball Complex.

Safety is always on Merwin’s mind, and that is why the Wausau 525 track is one of the widest in Midwest snowmobile racing. Crews bring in 1.7 million gallons of water to create the 110-foot wide, one-third-mile track, as well as the kitty cat track for children’s racing, and the pit area. Hay bales brought in by the semi-load create a double-bale barrier around the track to ensure the safety of the racers.

Merwin’s mind toward safety and the charitable aspect of the 525 helped draw the attention of organizers of the ATV Ice Grand National Championships. “They approached us,” Merwin said. “They heard good things about the track and the races we put on.”

That charity includes more than $200,000 that has gone to both children with disabilities, and scholarships for area high school students. Award amounts are typically in the amount of $1,050. If that seems like an odd number, think of Flip Merwin’s race number, 525. The amount is double his old snowmobile racing number, Merwin says.