Levi LaVallee remembers the 60-mile trip from his hometown of Longville to Brainerd and traveling with his family as a kid to the place that had everything.
"Brainerd was where we went to go the movies," he said Friday. "If we needed anything Brainerd is where we go. It was the closest place with any malls and stores."
The way things have been going for LaVallee on the Powersports Snowmobile Tour he will be the attraction that people are coming to see.
He is one of the bright new stars on the tour, which is at Brainerd International Raceway through Sunday.
Levi LaVallee had a breakout season last year
LaVallee started riding snowmobiles at the age of seven. He and his family and friends would find all of the trails and he developed a love for the sport. His father then encouraged him to participate in a regional race at Pine River and he decided to give it a try.
He had a breakout season last year after blowing out his knee early in the 2004-2005 season. It taught LaVallee lessons that he carries with him today.
"Last season was really big for me," he said. "The previous season I blew my knee out in the first race so I missed the entire season.
"I came back last year and said, 'You know what? You just have to go out and have fun and just do your thing.' I think that's what I got away from the year before was the fun of the sport."
LaVallee had a long list of accomplishments for the 2005-2006 season. In the Pro Stock class he made the finals in seven of 10 races and had one win at Michigan. In the Pro Open class he had the same results, making the finals seven of 10 times with a first-place finish at Green Bay, Wis.
LaVallee believes that his fresh mindset after his injury was a major factor in those results.
Levi LaVallee of Longville flew over a jump in the pro qualifying session Friday in the Polaris BIR Championship WPSA snocross race. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I really tried to make sure that I was having fun at all times and it paid off," he said. "We had some good races. At the X Games I ran real well but had a little misfortune. I fell off with a lap to go, but I was still pumped on the second-place finish. The end of the season I finished real strong.
"The last three races I got on the podium and won at Green Bay. It gave me a lot of motivation to work hard for this season."
This year LaVallee has joined Hentges Racing. The Hentges team has acquired new equipment and new drivers with LaVallee and T.J. Gulla. It has paid off with both riders doing well at the opening race at Duluth and being in the thick of the season points race.
LaVallee finished 14th at the Amsoil Duluth National in the Pro Stock class and had a second-place finish in the Pro Open. This season is presenting him with new challenges.
"I definitely have more confidence this year knowing that I can run with the top guys," he said. "Being able to win some races last year, and almost win the X Games, that boosted my confidence but at the same time I expect to do well now so you put a lot more pressure on yourself."
LaVallee feels lucky to be doing something that he loves for a living and he also sees the sport giving kids the opportunity to find something they may also develop a passion for.
"It's really good to see all the young guys out there riding," he said. "It costs a lot of money but fortunately there are regional races the kids can go to. You don't have to travel far. The whole sport is about getting out and having fun with your family and friends."
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