After Elias Ishoel wrapped up his fourth consecutive points championship on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series in March, an intense debate was initiated among Snow Goer family and friends about where this young racer fits among the greatest to ever participate in the “modern” form of snocross racing – meaning the deep-snow, big bumps sort of racing that the sport evolved into in the early 1990s.
That discussion blossomed into this: The Top 10 Snocross Racers Of All Time list. It was created after polling many top snocross industry “insiders” including select race circuit officials, factory race directors, major team owners, media personnel, aftermarket industry leaders and others who were involved very directly in the sport over the past 30 years. We combined their input with an intense review of past race results and points standings to finalize our rankings. In addition, we also created an online poll and let fans create their own list. Read about No. 1 below, then check out No. 10 Dennis “DJ” Eckstrom, No. 9 Kirk Hibbert, No. 8 Chris Vincent , No. 7 Robbie Malinoski, No. 6 Tim Tremblay , No. 5 Ross Martin ,No. 4 Toni Haikonen, No. 3 Elias Ishoel and No. 2 Blair Morgan by clicking on each of their names.
The numbers tell most of the story: 138 Pro snocross victories (50 more than anybody else in history), 10 X Games gold medals in snocross (twice as many as anybody else, plus five additional medals) and 11 national points championships. But there’s a lot more to the Tucker Hibbert story.
The son of legendary snowmobile racer and designer Kirk Hibbert, Tucker was seemingly born to race. From a very early age, he showed composure and the ability to read lines on a track that were both well beyond his years. That led to his first X Games gold medal at age 15.
The numbers above are impressive on their own, but it must be remembered that he spent several years in his early 20s chasing his motocross dreams and only raced very condensed schedules in snocross for about six years. When he returned to the snow full-time on his trademark No. 68 Arctic Cat with white skis, Hibbert picked up where he left off with his winning style, and kept that up until the very end of his career. He never eased up on his training or focus, and never slowed down, and won 11 of the 17 finals in his very last season before retirement in 2018.
SNOCROSS CLAIM TO FAME: When you race for 25 years, including 17 years as a Pro, there are bound to be times when you trade paint with another racer in a corner, but Hibbert’s aggression never seemed directed toward another driver but instead toward the track itself. He was smooth and strong, constantly reading the track as it changed and finding the most efficient way around the track lap after lap.
He also had seemingly unending drive – every year, the very best snocross athletes in the world would spend the entire off-season training to try to get on par with Hibbert, while their crews would critically hone and prep their machines to do the same. Then each winter would arrive and Hibbert would have raised the bar again. He was the rabbit that everybody was chasing for the vast majority of his career, and to the very end, nobody caught him.
To hear Tucker tell the story (see video below), he started riding Kitty Cat snowmobiles at age 2, and would soon thereafter practically burn holes in the yard running laps on a variety of motorized toys including a Yamaha SnoScoot. By about age 12 or 13 – when most kids’ biggest decisions was between Lucky Charms vs. Fruit Loops! – Hibbert said he had a “light-switch moment” to get serious about his racing career.
When he won the aforementioned X Games gold at age 15 in 2000 – the youngest X Games gold medalist in any sport at the time – he was still racing as a Semi-Pro during the regular season. He turned Pro the next season at 16 and immediately started picking up victories. In fact, he won the Pro Open points championship at that tender age and earned Snow Week Racer of the Year honors. The next year, at age 17, he won both the Pro Stock and Pro Open championships.
After a couple more years trading wins with Blair Morgan, Hibbert “retired” from snocross at about age 20 to chase his motocross dreams. Some years, X Games was the only snocross he’d enter; other years, he’d run a partial schedule of 4-6 snocross races before returning to the dirt. When he finally returned full-time to snocross in 2009-2010, he immediately slotted in at the top spot.
In fact, Hibbert was so good, he was blamed by some for ruining the sport! He was adored by his fans, but those cheering for other racers became discouraged. Some say X Games gave up on snocross after Hibbert was the repeat winner an incredible 9 times in a row from 2007-2016 (with an average margin of victory of 18 seconds) – the predictable finish made snocross less appealing to TV viewers, some insiders said. Similarly, the host ISOC race circuit took several moves during Hibbert’s career to make racing more competitive – including the so-called “Tucker Hibbert Rule” which made the top Pro qualifier pick ninth when assigning front row starting positions for the final. No matter, he just kept winning anyway. When the worst thing they can say about you after all the time he spent on the track is that you were too good, that’s a healthy endorsement.
MOMENT IN TIME: With all of his Pro victories, picking one moment is tough, but a favorite of many was his 100th career victory. After chasing that triple digit benchmark for a couple of weekends, Hibbert crashed in turn one of the Friday night final at Deadwood, South Dakota. When the rest of the Pros drove away by a wide margin, Hibbert was wrestling his Cat back onto its skis.
However, in blizzard conditions, Hibbert was not deterred. On a tight track where it’s reportedly tough to pass, Hibbert passed everybody over the next 20 laps, finally steaming past Ross Margin before the white flag and then storming away to a victory by a rather broad margin. It’s definitely worth the watch at this link.
BALLOTING: Hibbert finished as the top-ranked racer in both the “expert” panel balloting and the fan balloting.
CATCHING UP WITH TUCKER: Tucker is laying rather low at his home at Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, as he seeks his next challenges in life. He sat down for an interview with Snow Goer recently — it’s posted below or can be watched on Youtube here.
Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.