Tucker Hibbert has been a snocross dominator for about 14 years, but he made a statement Saturday night in Duluth that he might just be getting started.
The 29-year-old sensation from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, earned his 81 national snocross victory in amazing fashion, lapping the entire field and storming away to an historic victory.
While other drivers struggled with the rugged track,the driver known as T-Train and his Monster Energy/Ram Trucks/Speedwerx Arctic Cat were always in time with the track. The rougher the backstretch got during the race, the further ahead Hibbert got.
“I haven’t done so good in Duluth the last few years, so I wanted to come out this year and make a statement on where I should start the season,” Hibbert said after the race.
Consider the statement delivered in front of a huge crowd of witnesses on a beautiful night.
The Rough Final
Hibbert set the stage early with victories in each of his heat races on the longer-than-normal track at Duluth, Minnesota’s Spirit Mountain ski hill. But he was matched in that fete by fellow Arctic Cat racer Cody Thomsen, who is back after an injury shortened 2012-13 season. Those two would enter the final as the No. 1 & 2 qualifiers.
That final was the ultimate in brand parity, as it featured five Arctic Cat, five Polaris and five Ski-Doo snowmobiles, along with a surprise in the back row. Ross Martin continued a weekend of struggles at Duluth this year with a fifth and a third in his two heat races, which meant he’s have to go through the last chance qualifier to make the final. He won that race, but still had to start in the second row.
The front-row qualifiers for the final, in order, were Hibbert (Monster Energy Arctic Cat), Thomsen (Speedwerx Arctic Cat), Kyle Pallin (Mystic Polaris), David Joanis (Drift Racing Arctic Cat), Tim Tremblay (Amsoil Ski-Doo), Kody Kamm (Pirtek Polaris), Robbie Malinoski (Amsoil Ski-Doo), Iain Hayden (Rock Star Polaris), Zach Pattyn (Stud Boy Ski-Doo) and Logan Christian (Christian Brothers Arctic Cat). Coming through the LCQ and starting in row two were Ross Martin (Dupont Polaris), Johan Lidman (NSK Ski-Doo), Mike Bauer (Jess Racing Arctic Cat), Justin Broberg (Pirtek Polaris) and Petter Narsa (Jimmy John’s Ski-Doo).
On green, Hibbert and Thomsen launched at the same time and got to the first bend in the track side-by-side, along with Pallin and Robbie Malinoski. While most sleds charged ahead, though, there was a pileup in the snowdust on the front stretch that collected at least three drivers, including last year’s Rookie of the Year, Kody Kamm, along with Petter Narsa.
It took Hibbert all of a half-lap to gain an advantage on his Cat teammate, who settled into second ahead of Malinoski and Pallin. Martin blasted from the second row starting position into fifth, with Christian on his flap. Friday night winner Tremblay, meanwhile, was pulling off the track with a mechanical failure and would finish 15th.
While Hibbert checked out up front – building an 8.5 second lead just a few laps in – Martin was making his way through traffic in rapid fashion. He moved past Christian, then Malinoski and then Pallin, and used a strong undercut move coming out of the turn at the bottom of the hill to pull even with second-place Thomsen.
On the drag race up the hill, though, Martin had to choose an unfamiliar line, and that bit the Burlington, Wisconsin, racer – hard. The back end of his sled started swapping and then squared up, dumping him to the track surface directly in front of a hard-charging Pallin. Pallin immediately locked up the brake on his No. 324 LaVallee Racing Polaris, but he still plowed into the unavoidable Martin, pushing him forward. Seemingly unhurt, Martin scrambled to his feet and got out of Pallin’s way so the young U.P. racer could continue his pursuit of Thomsen.
As the race grew longer, other riders started getting ejected on the increasingly rugged backstretch, creating a bit of a minefield. Hibbert, though, seemed unphased, coasting through occasional yellow-flag zones and then pouring on the power through other sections to build more and more time on his lead.
With about three laps left, Pallin caught Thomsen and used an undercut move similar to the one Martin tried earlier. In this case, however, the two sleds banged bars and then Pallin won the drag race up the hill. But right in their wake was Hibbert, looking to place the last two drivers he hadn’t yet lapped a full lap down. It happened quickly, and at about the same time that Pallin always lost his sled through the bumps and slid back to third behind Thomsen.
At the checkered, Hibbert was all business, winning at Spirit Mountain for the first time in a couple of years in a true statement victory.
Thomsen held on for second behind a surviving Pallin. Christian was fourth, giving Cat racers three of the top four positions. Next came the Canadian Hayden, followed by a resurgent Kamm who had to work his way through a ton of traffic after that first lap crash. Next came Broberg, the rookie Joanis, then Malinoski and Narsa wrapping up the top 10. Pattyn, Bauer, Martin, Lidman and Tremblay made up the bottom five.
Words With Friends
After the race, Hibbert as usual credited his strong team and tried so somewhat deflect the attention from his own greatness. It didn’t work: Folks in attendance and watching online live were in awe of his performance.
“It’s awesome, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Hibbert told the ISOC pit reporter. “We had some awesome racing tonight and had some good starts… I just kept hammering down lap after lap.”
The second and third place drivers were significantly more emotional about their spots on the podium. Thomsen, 22, of Nisswa, Minnesota, twice referred to himself as “speechless.”
“It’s amazing – the whole team has been working so hard,” Thomsen said on the podium.
Pallin, also 22, earned his first Pro class podium.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve been waiting so long for this moment,” Pallin said. “Then, two times I thought I almost blew it,” he added, referred first to tangle with the downed Martin and then to his late-race tail swap while running second.
Racing continues tomorrow in Duluth. Team Snow Goer will be there live, so look for stories and photos online tomorrow evening. Also, you can watching the racing live on snowgoer.com using this link.
Here’s the official ISOC Press Release on the race:
Tucker Hibbert makes history, laps the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Open main event field!
DULUTH, Minn. (Nov. 30, 2013) – With a massive crowd in excess of 17,000 lining the track and packing the lodge at Duluth, Minn.’s Spirit Mountain, the green flag flew on the opening round of AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram on a perfect Saturday night for racing high above the shores of Lake Superior. And picking up right where he left off at the end of last season’s premier class Pro Open championship run was local Minnesotan Tucker Hibbert (Monster Energy/Arctic Cat), who pulled off the incredible – lapping the entire field of the world’s top snocross racers en-route to the round one victory.
“I haven’t done so well at Duluth the past couple years that I really needed to make a statement,” said Hibbert. “I needed to get back where I should be – and I did. You couldn’t ask for a better night. We just had an awesome race.”
And in the Pro Lite division DuPont/Jack Links/AMSOIL/Polaris’ James Johnstad won his first career race, topping fellow Minnesotan Andrew Carlson (Sportech/AMSOIL/Polaris) and Sweden’s Marcus Johansson (Polaris).
Railing his Arctic Cat from the No. 1 gate pick to the Stud Boy Holeshot, Hibbert more or less checked out on the opening lap. The five-figure crowd that packed the south side of the track and filled the lodge to the brim were going crazy, cheering Hibbert on as he lapped up through the pack, picking off one after another of the world’s greatest snocross racers before catching Kyle Pallin and Cody Thomsen on the white flag lap to complete the first-ever entire lapping of an AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Open class field.
“There were a lot of crashes in the uphill rhythm section – which was easily the most technical portion of the track,” explained Hibbert. “I had to be real careful through there, not miss any yellow flags with all the carnage (crashed sleds). But it was also in that area that I was able to make up the most time.”
The two racers most likely to challenge Hibbert, former Pro Open champs Ross Martin (DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris) and Tim Tremblay (Scheuring Speed Sports/Ski-Doo), both were non-factors. Tremblay left the race early with what looked like a mechanical issue while Martin crashed and was momentarily pinned under Pallin’s sled (though uninjured).
Pro Open results
Pos/Racer #/Sled Brand/Hometown
1 Tucker Hibbert Monster Energy/Arctic Cat 68 Arctic Cat Pelican Rapids, MN
2 Cody Thomsen Arctic Cat 62 Arctic Cat Nisswa, MN
3 Kyle Pallin Team LaVallee 324 Polaris Ironwood, MI
4 Logan Christian Christian Brothers Racing / Drift / Arctic Cat 43 Arctic Cat Fertile, MN
5 Iain Hayden Rockstar Energy Polaris 93 Polaris Chatsworth, Ontario
6 Kody Kamm Hentges Racing 53 Polaris Kenosha, WI
7 Justin Broberg Hentges Racing 168 Polaris Mukwonago, WI
8 David Joanis Christian Brothers Racing / Arctic Cat 115 Arctic Cat Cochrane, MN
9 Robbie Malinoski Amsoil/Air Force/Makita 4 Ski-Doo Stacy, MN
10 Petter Narsa Team Jimmy John’s/Ski-doo/BossRacing 271 Ski-Doo Moskosel,
11 Zach Pattyn Stud Boy Racing 99 Ski-Doo Ravenna, MI
12 Mike Bauer Jess Racing 717 Arctic Cat Westminster, MA
13 Ross Martin Judnick Motorsports 837 Polaris Burlington, WI
14 Johan Lidman Warnert Racing 52 Ski-Doo Pitea, Sweden
15 Tim Tremblay Amsoil/Air Force/Rockstar 11 Ski-Doo Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec
Johnstad, who was injured last season, would blast off the start of the 15-lap Pro Lite event, pulling the holeshot and leading the rest of the field up the hill and into the Air Force Fly Zone. The first-time winner on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross tour then led the field through the entire race, finding the right speed combination through masterful throttle control and corner setup aboard his Polaris sled.
“I’m coming off an injury last year and it was a long off season,” said Johnstad. “But I felt great coming into today’s heats and the main event and was happy I could ride well and get the win.”
Close behind Johnstad off the start was Andrew Carlson aboard the #151 Polaris. Both Johnstad and Carlson would avoid a massive wreck on the second lap that collected four of the sleds near the front, but the carnage would play in the favor of Lincoln Lemieux (Ski-Doo) and Corin Todd (Polaris) – who (Corin) won the opening Pro Lite heat race, but was forced to start in the back row of the main event when he broke the start light before the green light.
Johnstad would run clean through lap three and continued to put time on Carlson and the rest of the pursuers, running a clean and mistake-free Pro Lite main event at Spirit Mountain. Carlson, though not as fast on this night, would limit the mistakes as well and placed easily into the 2nd position at the checkers. The third and final position on Saturday’s Pro Lite podium would be a toss-up at the end – with Sweden’s Marcus Johansson (Polaris) rounding out the podium.
Pro Lite results
Pos/Racer #/Sled Brand/Hometown
1 James Johnstad Judnick Motorsports 154 Polaris Beltrami, MN
2 Andrew Carlson Carlson Motorsports 151 Polaris Big Lake, MN
3 Marcus Johansson Carlson Motorsports 227 Polaris Ostersund,
4 Filip Eriksson Team Yngvesson 423 Arctic Cat lycksele, Lycksele
5 Trevor Leighton Leighton Motorsports 931 Polaris Eagle, ID
6 Lincoln Lemieux Lemieux Racing 113 Ski-Doo St. Johnsbury, VT
7 Nisse Kjellstrom 342 Polaris Sodermamn, gavleborg
8 Matt Pichner HAALA Racing 193 Arctic Cat Owatonna, MN
9 Corin Todd LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 136 Polaris Otego, NY
10 Andrew Lieders Team LaVallee/Lieders Racing 857 Polaris Colby, WI
11 Zak Mason LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 863 Polaris Gaylord, MI
12 Kevin Wallenstein Ingles Performance 122 Ski-Doo Cadillac, MI
13 Corey Watkinson Watkinson Motorsports, Arctic Cat 173 Arctic Cat Port Carling, Ontario
14 Justin Parnell factory recreation/huber motorsports 186 Ski-Doo Ennismore, Ontario
15 Brett Nastala Goodwin Performance 248 Ski-Doo Milton, WI
Action continues at Spirit Mountain on Sunday with the round two of the 2013-’14 AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram. Racing gets underway at 9 a.m. Tickets for the event are available at the gate, $27 for adults, $22 for youths and seniors and children five and under are free. For more information call 1-800-4-DULUTH or link to www.visitduluth.com
2013-’14 AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram
1 – Nov. 29-Dec. 1 Duluth, Minnesota
2 – Dec. 6-7 Bessemer, Michigan
3 – Jan. 3-5 Shakopee, Minnesota
4 – Jan. 31-Feb.1 Deadwood, South Dakota
5 – Feb. 7-8 Salamanca, New York
6 – Feb. 21-22 Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
7 – March 7-8 Fargo, N.D.
8 – March 14-16 Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Beginning with AMSOIL Championship Snocross’ season-opening round in Duluth, Minn. and running through the season finale in Lake Geneva, Wis. CBS Sports Network will air 16 half-hour programs of the ACS races.
About ISOC Racing
The International Series of Champions (ISOC) is the premier snowmobile race sanctioning organization in North America and sanctions national AMSOIL Championship Snocross, in addition to affiliating with nine regional circuits. Visit www.isocracing.com for more information, fan and racer memberships, schedule details and more.