Like any dad, Will Bishop wants to do whatever he can for his sons Joe and Jake.
So when Joe expressed an interest in racing snowmobiles Bishop looked around and began collecting the things needed to go racing.
The family had always been into motor sports, Bishop said, with dirt bikes and ATVs around the house as the kids grew up.
“Joe had a motorcycle before he was born,” Bishop said with a smile. With a baby on the way, he was a dad who went out and bought a motorcycle instead of a baseball glove.
Riding around with friends was something he did as a kid and something he’s watched his boys do as well.
Bishop owns and operates Slate Valley Automotive in Hebron, so tools and working on machines in the garage are a part of everyday life.
During the cold months dirt bikes would gave way to snowmobiles but the riding and the racing continued.
When his son asked about racing Bishop thought the family could give it a try.
After finding a used factory snowmobile locally the family tried to go racing only to find out that one can’t just show up and race in the 600 class; one must prove they’re not going to be a hazard to the other riders out there.
That meant buying another snowmobile to try out in the 500 class.
With a second snowmobile on hand, Joe got his tryout and began racing, now in two classes, and he began to win right away.
“And then we went racing,” Bishop said.
The type of racing is known as snowcross. Racers weave their way around a track full of bumps and jumps for multiple laps in heat races to determine who completes in the final race of the day.
“The main jump is higher than this roof,” Bishop said, indicating the ceiling of the garage. “They’ve been trucking in snow for all of the races and I can’t even imagine how much snow that is.”
Bishop said the boys’ mother, Lori, is getting used to the idea of her boys flying through the air, but she’s less than thrilled with it. “She doesn’t like it too much; it scares the hell out of her,” he said.
But Bishop said they agree it’s been a tremendous time watching the boys compete.
“We do this together and it’s been awesome doing something as a family – the kids are with us and that’s the joy of it. It’s something we do to stay close,” he said.
From the start Joe was showing he had a nose for the checkered flag, racking up a first in a heat race and a fourth in a final in his very first competition. Since then Joe has continued his winning ways.
“We were only going to go to a couple of races,” Bishop said
That was last season.
Joe did so well that Bishop decided the family decided to take it to the next level. They have a truck and trailer, a much smaller version of what sponsored racers have but enough to get the three snowmobiles to each race.
The youngest son Jake also races. Starting out in 400 class 11-year-old Jake is following along in his big brother’s footsteps, or tracks in this case.
“He started going along with his brother and he’s doing really well for an 11-year-old. He’ s starting to feel comfortable with flying these things and if you’re not, you’re not going to be up front,” Bishop said.
Joe’s days and nights have become extremely busy.
Training has been nonexistent this season with the lack of snow locally, but there are plenty of things to keep busy with. Following school, he goes home to work at the family business, do homework and make adjustments and repairs to the snowmobiles for the upcoming weekend’s racing.
The family leaves town each weekend to go racing returning Sundays. The time demands have had a positive effect on Joe’s grades, however, as he made honor roll during his senior year.
“The whole thing has really been a big boost for him, I think,” Bishop said.
Helping out is Keith Williams or “Wrench” as he is more often referred to. Williams was a mechanic for the Ski-Doo factory team owned by Jeff Harrison and now helps out with Joe’s snowmobiles.
“I can’t say enough about Keith; he’s been great. We couldn’t do this without him,” Bishop said.
Like any racing story this one comes complete with a rival. A racer out of Long Island, Jake Scott, held the points lead by 11 points following the previous weekend when Joe made up 10 points in the standings at Farmington, carving into the lead.
The Bishops say this rider is well equipped with sponsorships and a setup much like that of professionals like Tucker Hibbert and others who ride for a living with elaborate trailers and multiple machines.
Heading into the final four races of the 2010 season, Joe is just 11 points off of the lead in the 600 class and well out in front in the 500 class. Three races remain, two in Barton, Vt., and the final one near Lake Erie out past Buffalo.
In the first of the final four weekends of the year in Salem, N.H., Joe hoped to close the gap if not take the lead in the 600 class outright.
He likes his chances if he continues to be steady. “As long as I stay smooth and finish I should be good,” he said.
“He’s been creating a buzz by coming in like that and winning,” his father said.
Joe said he’s hoping to draw some attention from sponsors as he nears graduation. While he’s racing for trophies and recognition now, they could translate into cash and equipment later.
“I’d like to get somewhere in there with the big dogs,” he said.
Although drawing a big-name sponsor could put him on the right track as a pro, he said, college is in his future and he’d like to learn graphic design.
Someone has to produce and create the logos that adorn every available inch of the trailers and sleds and that would be a great way to pay for future racing, he said.
The brothers work together, with Jake helping out his big brother when he’s getting ready to run and Joe helping his little brother with advice and encouragement.
Jake said as a sixth-grader it’s pretty cool to be going racing.
“I’ve been getting up there; I’ve got a second place this year,” he said.
Jake turned in a fourth-place performance just a week ago.