In a result that was about as predictable as the sunrise or a teen pop star going bad, Tucker Hibbert once again earned the gold medal in SnoCross at the X Games Aspen Sunday afternoon, earning his seventh straight gold medal in his usual dominating fashion.
Racing on a long track on a sunny, 34-degree day in Aspen, Colorado, the Arctic Cat-mounted Hibbert got ahead right away and never looked back, winning his eighth X Games gold and staying undefeated in snocross finals so far this season (7 for 7).
Coming a couple of weeks after Hibbert passed one-time rival Blair Morgan’s record of most career national snocross victories, the ageless Hibbert is showing no signs of slowing at age 29.
Also Sunday, Mike Schultz kept his own streak doing with a similarly dominating victory in Adaptive SnoCross at the special, made-for-TV ESPN event.
Qualifying Creates The 15-Racer Final
The 8-lap heat races went exactly as planned: The 24 racers who were invited with X Games all timed in earlier on the bumpy snocross course to get seeded into heats, but then in those heats the 10 fastest qualifiers advanced.
Hibbert missed on the holeshot on heat 1, but grabbed the lead coming out of the first turn and led the rest of the way out. At the checkered, it was Hibbert’s Cat followed by the Polaris sleds of Justin Broberg and Kyle Pallin, then the Ski-Doos of Tim Tremblay and Johan Lidman.
Second fastest qualifier Kody Kamm got the holeshot in heat 2 on his Polaris and was never seriously challenged. He was followed all race by Logan Christian’s Cat, then the Ski-Doos of Darrin Mees and Petter Narsa. Cody Thomsen moved up on the last lap to grab the fifth and final transfer spot away from Mathieu Morin.
In the LCQ, Pro Lite racer Andrew Carlson took the early lead but quickly gave it up to Mike Bauer. Bauer then led the rest of the way, but there were a lot of changes behind him, as Carlson and fellow Pro Lite Polaris racer Andy Lieders each came off their respective sled while in a transfer spot (meaning, top 5). In the end, it was Bauer’s Cat followed by Mathieu Morin’s Ski-Doo, then Iain Hayden (Polaris), Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo) and Dave Joanis (Cat) advancing to second-row starting positions.
All Tucker, All The Time
The only thing that Tucker Hibbert hasn’t been perfect on this season has been the holeshots. It seems that, at most races, one of the Polaris race sleds usually gets to the first turn first, potentially raising some false hope for Polaris fans or others who want to see a different winner or an upset. Usually Hibbert dispatches of those hopes within the first couple of laps, however, and runs and hides.
In today’s X Game SnoCross final, Hibbert wasn’t even going to give his competition that sliver of hope. His Cat hooked up hard when the light flashed green, and he won the drag race to turn one with 14 hungry competitors behind him. Throwing up a rooster tail of snow, Hibbert drifted in front of the pack and charged out to the lead. That’s right: In this race, he didn’t just lead every single lap, but every single inch of the race – he was always in the front.
In that first lap, the white-hooded Polaris sleds of Hentges Racing teammates Kody Kamm and Justin Broberg grabbed second and third, followed by Darrin Mees’ Ski-Doo. In the pack on that first lap, Logan Christian got ejected from his Arctic Cat and landed in a low spot, with several sleds charging toward that spot. Miraculously, Christian didn’t get run over, but he would soon pull off after a very short X Games final.
By lap 2, Hibbert’s lead over a game Kamm was 1.8 seconds. It grew to 2.5 seconds the next lap, then up to 5 seconds by lap four. As per usual, without a mistake, the competition didn’t stand a chance. Kamm was chased by Broberg throughout, though he was never seriously threatened. Mees ran fourth in the early going, with Tremblay, Pallin, Thomsen, Lidman, Buaer and Joanis chasing. Pallin would charge up to fourth and Trembaly would maintain fifth while Mees faded to sixth in the early going, then toward the end Tremblay got by Pallin to take fourth.
That was the only notable passes in the top group, however, as Hibbert was flawless up front while Kamm and Broberg tried to keep him honest. After 16 laps, the always cool Hibbert had earned his 7-peat in X Games SnoCross with a victory gap of 13.7 seconds – less than his recent X Games margin of victory of 17.9 seconds, but still dominating. The 19-year-old Kamm earned his first X Games medal – a silver – as did Broberg with the bronze.
“It’s rewarding to get another gold,” Hibbert said in a statement issued after the race. “X Games is a super fun race and an event I’ve been taking really serious for quite a few years. It’s the goal to have everything go as smooth as it did and I’m really excited about it. I felt really confident and comfortable on the track all weekend. I know that confidence comes from the hard work, practice and testing we put in as a team before the race. I strongly believe in our program and it pulled us through this weekend again. The racetrack was pretty technical. The timing sections up the hill were tricky and it was choppy coming down the hill. It was really a mix of everything and one of the more challenging tracks we’ve had at X Games. I’m a racer and I’m motivated to win. I have to keep working hard and doing what I’m doing. I believe I have more years of winning in me and am excited for what the future holds.”
FINAL RESULTS: 1. Tucker Hibbert (Cat); 2. Kody Kamm (Polaris); 3. Justin Broberg (Polaris); 4. Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo); 5. Kyle Pallin (Polaris); 6. Darrin Mees (Ski-Doo); 7. Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo); 8. Petter Narsa (Ski-Doo); 9. Johan Lidman (Ski-Doo); 10. Dave Joanis (Cat); 11. Cody Thomsen (Cat); 12. Iain Hayden (Polaris); 13. Mathieu Morin (Ski-Doo); 14. Mike Bauer (Cat); 15. Logan Christian (Cat).
Monster Mike Schultz In Adaptive SnoCross
Monster Mike Schultz lived up to his nickname, getting monster air and winning by a monstrous margin in Adaptive SnoCross Sunday afternoon at the X Games Aspen in Colorado.
The Pilliger, Minnesota-based competitor was the class of the field of partially disable riders again, winning the Adaptive event gold medal for the fourth straight year.
“That was a blast, I loved it,” Schultz said during a TV interview immediately after the race. “It was so fun hucking that big triple going up the hill.”
Seven drivers with varying levels of afflictions started the adaptive final on the bumpy course under bright blue skies. The start was amazingly even, with all seven sleds pouring into the first turn together, but soon Illinois racer Garrett Goodwin charged into the lead on a modified Ski-Doo which included a roll cage. Jim Wazny, 43, of Michigan fell in behind, with Schulz and Doug Henry immediately behind.
Goodwin held the point for awhile, but then Wazny cut under him into the lead on the second lap. Schultz used a similar move to pass Goodwin a half lap later, then double-jumped past Wazny on the same lap to take the lead.
After that, it was all Schultz. He opened up a big lead and ended up winning by 13.7 seconds in the five-lap race. Wazny ended up coming off his sled, and fell back into the pack, giving Goodwin second. Motocross superstar Henry charged close to Goodwin late in the race on his Yamaha, but then faded late and settled for the bronze.
Schultz, 32, was an up-and-coming Pro Snocross racer when he was injured in a crash in December of 2008. Later that day, doctors would amputate most of his left leg. Rather than quitting for feeling sorry for himself, however, Schultz looked for prosthesis that could allow him to continue to race dirt bikes and snowmobiles, and ended up inventing the Moto Knee, which utilizes a Fox shock and unique linkage to mimic the motions and energy absorbing abilities of a leg and knee.
“Me being an above the knee amputee, the toughest part is if you get off balance it’s really hard to recover,” Schulz explained. It also makes it more difficult to preload the suspension before a jump, he explained, but it hardly seems to slow him on the track, as he proved again at X Games this year.