For the third time in five finals so far this year, Vermont-native Lincoln Lemieux overcame rough results in his qualifying heat races and won the big race when the money was on the line on the Amsoil Championship Snocross series, earning his latest victory Friday night at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.This weekend, the circuit returned to Minnesota for the annual shootout at Canterbury, and Lemieux won again – and led another Ski-Doo sweep of the podium, with Boss Racing Ski-Doo teammates Aki Pihlaja and Ishoel second and third, respectively.
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Sordid Path To Victory
Heat races at Canterbury Park on an unseasonably warm January evening were a real mixed bag, with some contact, a few mechanicals and various other happenings that seemed to affect everybody.
After two rounds of heats and then a last-chance qualifying race, Finland’s Aki Pihlaja went into the final as the No. 1 qualifier, based on a third and first place finish in his two heats, with Quebec’s Tim Tremblay as the No. 2 qualifier – both on Ski-Doos. Next came Daniel Benham (Arctic Cat), Corin Todd (Polaris), Elias Ishoel (Ski-Doo), Johan Lidman (Arctic Cat), Kody Kamm (Polaris), Logan Christian (Arctic Cat), Lincoln Lemieux (Ski-Doo) and LCQ winner Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo) in the front row. The second row consisted of Kyle Pallin (Polaris), Travis Muller (Arctic Cat), Petter Narsa (Polaris), Montana Jess (Arctic Cat) and Brett Nastala (Arctic Cat).
When the green lights flashed to start the final, it was Todd who lurched into the lead and gained Stud Boy Holeshot honors, but the green sled of Benham and black sled of Lemieux were immediately all over him. After the first sweeping turn, Lemieux wheeled his Ski-Doo into the lead and let the others battle behind him.
About two laps in, it was Lemieux opening a lead followed by Benham, Todd, Pihlaja, Christian and Renheim, then Tremblay and Lidman. They were followed by sleds that got tangled up early on the first lap, including Ishoel and Pallin, with 2017 Pro class champ Kamm running at the rear of the field.
The biggest mover in the early going was Ishoel. The determined Norwegian made quick work of some of the stars of the sport, moving past Tremblay, Renheim and Lidman and up to sixth by the end of lap 4, then mowed down Christian the following lap.
At the front, Lemieux’s lead over the very game rookie Benham oscillated between 1.5 and 2 seconds until the halfway point of the 16-lap final, and then Lemieux grew his gap on the field. Benham, though, would come under attack by a pack of Ski-Doos. First Pihlaja moved past him and into second with a backstretch pass on about lap 10, then Ishoel grabbed the third away from Benham on lap 12.
Lemieux’s lead grew to 5 seconds as he ran fast and consistent laps and won going away, with Pihlaja 4.8 seconds back at the checkered flag in second and Ishoel 7.2 seconds back in third, rounding out the all Ski-Doo podium again. Benham nailed his best finish as a Pro in fourth, followed by Christian, Tremblay, Renheim, Todd and Lidman, with Narsa wrapping up the top 10. Next came Jess, Kamm, Muller, Nastala and Pallin.
A couple of years ago, the host ISOC race circuit went to what’s called an “inverted” starting order for the final, where the top heat qualifier would pick their starting line position ninth while the ninth qualifier would get the first pick, with the eight qualifier picking second, etc.
So far for Lemieux this season, that system is working pretty well because, by his own admission, Lemieux has been quite bad in heat races this year but has been getting great starts in the finals.
“I have the worst best luck, I like to say,” Lemieux said when interviewed by ISOC officials after the race. “I just can’t get any help in the qualifiers, I’m either breaking parts or getting taken out or something, but luckily enough I got ninth [in qualifying], so it gave me the first pick on the [starting] line [in the final] and I ripped a holeshot. So I got out to a great start, put solid laps in and didn’t worry about what was going on behind me, and I got the win.”
Pro rookie Pihlaja from Finland earned his first podium of the year in a final, but he’s definitely flashed his talent in heat races before this.
“I had a good race with Daniel Benham, it was a fun race – of course the best part was passing him,” Pihlaja said through a chuckle. “After that I tried to catch Lincoln for a couple of laps, but he was too fast for me.”
Ishoel overcame early problems to finish a workman-like third and retain his season points lead.
“I got tangled up in the first corner after the finish line on the first lap so I did go to the back and just tried to find good lines,” Ishoel said. He said he was racing for a couple of friends of his who passed away over the holidays.
More Racing: From The ISOC Press Release
Your Pro Lite Winner is….
Adam Peterson! The Pride of Medford, Wis. came into round five of AMSOIL Championship Snocross sitting all the way down in 16th in the season standings, but the rookie didn’t make a mistake in the final on his way to his first career pro win.
Peterson, racing out of the Team LaVallee program, became the third rookie to win a Pro Lite race this year. He pushed his Polaris ahead of a bunched up crowd to start the final, and the only pressure he felt came early from round four winner, Trent Wittwer.
“As soon as I saw that gap off the start, and I was out front, I just tried to hit smooth lines and stay consistent,” said Peterson atop the podium. “I knew Trent was right behind me the whole race, so I just stayed consistent and focused and got ‘er done.
Arctic Cat’s Wittwer picked up where he left off in Jackson Hole in December, finishing second ahead of Ski Doo’s Max Taillefer, who came into Canterbury sitting fourth in points. As for the three men ahead of him in the championship race, each had a night they will look to put behind them prior to Saturday’s racing. Points leader Francis Pelletier crashed his Ski Doo hard on the eighth lap before finishing 11th. Brothers Leo and Hunter Patenaude respectively sat second and third in points, but each finished out of contention on Friday with Hunter 9th, just ahead of Leo.
Another Wild Finish
Taven Woodie and Megan Brodeur are turning into Must-See-Snocross as the two Pro Women contenders continued their budding rivalry on Friday night.
The 15-year-old Woodie made it two-in-a-row over Brodeur, as Brodeur once again did everything in her power to reel-in the upstart Arctic Cat driver. Woodie grabbed the Stud Boy Holeshot and the early lead over third place finisher Melane Anderson, while Brodeur had to fight back from a sixth place start. By lap five, Brodeur had caught Woodie, but couldn’t find a way to push her Ski Doo into the lead, thanks in large part to Woodie hitting a tricky triple, coupled with an impressive move that spliced two lapped riders on the last lap, giving her enough cushion to hold off the points leader.
Friday Night Lights:
Hole shots were key to a lot of the success in the pro classes on Friday night at Canterbury, and the amateur classes proved no different.
- Zach Pattyn picked up his second win of the year in Pro Am Plus 30. Points leader Matt Pichner came home in second, just ahead of Andy Lieders.
- X-Games gold medalist Brock Hoyer brought some star power to the growing Snowbike class as 18 riders lined up under the lights in Shakopee. Points leader Jesse Kirchmeyer was the early leader, but a crash on lap three pushed him back to fourth. That allowed Harris Huizinga to grab the lead. He was pressured by Hoyer for a moment but was able to pick up his second win of the year. Kirchmeyer made his way back on the podium, finishing the race one spot behind Hoyer. “I tried to get out as fast as soon as I could,” said Huizinga, “and Jesse went down, and I got around him and just tried not to make mistakes.”
- While Hoyer finished second on the podium, he was later disqualified after failing to report to the ISOC Tech trailer following the race. The move puts Kirchmeyer in second and Keaton Ward in third.
- Thief River Falls, Minn. native Baily Frost continued his ascension up the podium on Friday night. The Arctic Cat driver picked up his second straight win in the FXR Sport class. His nearly ten-second win was his fifth podium of the year.
- Arctic Cat’s Andy Pake used a great start to take the first turn lead in the Sport Lite final. He utilized the clean air in front of him to dominate the six-lap final, winning over Matt LaMourea by six seconds. Jordan Lebel finished third.
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