So, who was the best player in the NBA: Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? How about in the NFL – would you take Joe Montana in his era, or Tom Brady in his? How does Jimmy Johnson compare to Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty in NASCAR?
And then there’s snocross. Blair Morgan completely changed the sport when he showed up with his stand-up riding style in 1997 and became an immediate dominator. But a couple of years later, a 15-year-old kid named Tucker Hibbert threatened Morgan’s dominance, starting with a shocking 2000 Winner X Games victory in Vermont.
Blair or Tucker?
The two race side-by-side and split a lot of victories for a few years, but between Hibbert’s sometimes shortened seasons as he chased motocross dreams in the early 2000s and a few injuries to Morgan, they didn’t face off often enough to really say that one was significantly better than the other.
Then it all ended with Morgan’s devastating spinal injury in a motocross race in 2008 that halted his career. The two were reunited for a snowmobile trail ride last winter, when Hibbert showed up when Morgan was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall Of Fame in Wisconsin, providing the two drivers a chance to bang bars in a less competitive venue.
On a bitterly cold Saturday night in Bessemer, Michigan, Hibbert claimed his fourth Pro Open final of the young season, earning another dominating victory on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series. In doing so, he tied Blair Morgan’s record of 84 Pro victories on the top snocross circuit in North America. The way he’s dominating, there’s little doubt he’ll leave the record in his snowdust. But for a night, the two names were tied together again.
“It’s an honor for sure,” Hibbert said. “Racing with Blair back in the day was some of the best times I have ever had. I am honored to have this tie with him, I wish he was still out here racing with me today.”
Hibbert For History
For the second night in a row, Hibbert was just slightly imperfect. He finished second in one heat race to Kody Kamm after getting pinched off in a start of that race and then charging through traffic.
Ross Martin was the No. 1 qualifier on his Dupont Polaris after going undefeated in his heats. Joining him in the front row for the final, in order of how they finished in qualifying, were Kamm (Polaris), Hibbert, (Arctic Cat), Kyle Pallin (Polaris), Darrin Mees (Ski-Doo), Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), Cody Thomsen (Arctic Cat), Justin Broberg (Polaris), Jake Scott (Polaris) and Robbie Malinoski (Ski-Doo). Starting in the second row after going through a last chance qualifier were David Joanis (Arctic Cat), Petter Narsa (Ski-Doo), Levi LaVallee (Polaris) Danny Poirier (Ski-Doo) and Logan Christian (Arctic Cat).
The white-hooded Polaris sleds of the Team LaVallee team has been strong on holeshots all weekend, and Pallin of neighboring Ironwood, Michigan, might have also been boosted by a partisan crowd. He lurched into the lead when the starting lights flashed green, charging up the hill the first time in front of the 14 otehr sleds in the 10-lap Pro Open final.
Immediately on his heels, though, was Hibbert, with the Ski-Doos of Tremblay and Mees right along side.
Pallin was digging hard and looking possessed up front, but given his dominance so far this season, Hibbert’s move to the lead mid-way through the first lap seemed inevitable. And it was.
At the end of the first lap, Hibbert was ahead and already opening a gap, followed by Pallin, Tremblay and Mees. Then came Broberg in fifth, followed by Martin and Kamm – both high qualifiers who got pinched a bit in the first turn and trapped deep in the pack. They were followed by Joanis, Thomsen and Narsa.
By the second lap, Hibbert already had opened up a 3.5 second lead on Pallin, but the game young driver wasn’t going away. He held the second spot throughout the race, holding off one charge from Tremblay and then never letter the Quebec racer get close again.
The real movers in the unbelievablely blinding snowdust were Kamm and Martin. Kamm made his move first, moving past Martin on the second lap, then getting past both Broberg and Mees on the next lap to lock onto fourth. Martin followed suit, hunting down Mees and Broberg a couple of laps later and finishing fifth.
That’s how they finished: Hibbert, then Pallin and Tremblay on the podium. Next came Kamm, Martin, Mees and Broberg, with Thomsen, Joanis and Christian wrapping up the top 10. Rounding out the field in positions 11-15 were Narsa, Poirier, Malinoski, Scott and LaVallee.
After the race, Hibbert paid honors to Morgan, then turned his attention to plotting his continued domination.
“We’re just going to keep doing the same thing, working our tail off,” Hibbert said of him and his Monster Energy/Ram Trucks Arctic Cat race team.
While Hibbert was cool and calculating post-race, Pallin was bubbling with excitement after notching another podium finish – this one in front of a highly supportive audience.
“This is so special – to do good here in front of my home crowd, all my friends and family,” the driver of the Mystic Oils Team LaVallee Polaris said enthusiastically. “They’ve been sticking with me since the beginning and I can’t thank them enough.”
Tremblay notched the season’s first podium for the Amsoil/U.S. Air Force Scheuring Speed Sports team.
“It was really hard tonight,” Tremblay said. “It’s really cold here and the vision was tough. I’ve had a rough season so far, and being on the podium means a lot to me. We’ll keep building on this.”
Lieders Again In Pro Lite
After getting his machine dialed in and then his confidence back Friday night in Bessemer, Team LaVallee’s Andrew Lieders was unstoppable in Saturday’s fourth round of the Amsoil Championship Snocross Series in the Pro Lite class.
Lieders swept through his heat on his #857 Polaris, which made him the No. 1 qualifier for the class final on a frigid night. That gave him lane choice and he picked the most inside position. From there, he got a tremendous launch and had a several sled-length lead the first time up the hill.
It certainly never got any closer than that. Lieders lead was 2.8 seconds after the first lap, and grew to 6.5 seconds by lap 5 of the 7-lap final. He cruised to an easy looking victory.
Behind him, Andrew Carlson on the Carlson Racing Polaris held second until the last lap, when he finally succumbed to the pressure of Leighton Motorsports Polaris racer Corin Todd, which knifed by and claimed second. Carlson hung on for third, with Carlson’s teammate Marc Johansson right behind him for the second straight night in fourth. John Stenberg wrapped up the top 5.
After the race, Lieders went back to a theme he hit on last night: He basically said he sucked last weekend and felt he had a lot to make up for this weekend.
“I am just so pumped for this weekend. Like I said, we struggled in Duluth, but the whole team was behind me and we got it turned around for this weekend,” Lieders said. “This is just unreal.”
“I had such a good race with Andrew, the whole race we were close,” Todd said. He acknowledged that both drivers made mistakes during the race, but said he was able to make “a good clean pass at the end of the race” to grab second.
“I’m pumped to be up here for the fourth time in a row,” Carlson said. “I just need a little help with my speed.”
Physical Battle In Pro Am Women
We predicted last week that Jennifer Pare and Marica Renheim would battle all year in the Women’s class, but we didn’t expect this!
In a rough and tumble final that included a lot of contact, Renheim used a last lap pass to edge her new rival in the Pro Am Women’s Final at Bessemer, but Pare certainly wasn’t going away. During the last lap, she initiated contact with Renheim three different times. It never seemed like purposeful rough riding, just two riders often ending up in the same spot in corners.
Finally, Renheim got away and won by a wide margin on her Christian Bros. Cat. Pare was second on the Leighton Motorsports Polaris, with Victoria Hawley third on a Ski-Doo.
Here’s the official press release from the ISOC race circuit:
Tucker Hibbert completes Northern Clearing Snocross @ Blackjack sweep, ties Blair Morgan’s all-time wins record
The fourth race of the season on AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, at Michigan’s Blackjack Ski Resort sees temps dip to minus-30
BESSEMER, Mich. (Dec. 7, 2013) – With temperatures plummeting well below zero degrees Tucker Hibbert (Monster Energy/Arctic Cat/Ram) managed to remain red hot, winning his fourth-straight AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, contest with yet another convincing victory at Blackjack Ski Resort, completing the weekend sweep and, in the process, tying the great Blair Morgan for the most pro snocross race wins at 84.
Saturday’s support Pro Lite class at Blackjack would go to Andrew Lieders (Mystic/Polaris/Team LaVallee), who completed the weekend sweep in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with a 1st/1st effort.
Saturday Pro Open
Despite his lowest qualifying position of the year (3rd), Hibbert caught a break on the start when the racer lined up next to him, AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sport/Ski-Doo’s Robbie Malinoski, false started and was moved to the back row. This gave Hibbert a bit of extra elbow room off the start and he used that to his advantage to move up to 2nd place early, right behind Kyle Pallin (Mystic/Polaris/Team LaVallee) – who pulled the Stud Boy Holeshot.
“We got a good start and got into some lappers pretty quick, and it got a bit scary (due to the poor visibility issues),” said Hibbert. “But the track was better tonight, not as much ice underneath.”
With the No. 1 and No. 2 qualifiers – Ross Martin (DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris) and Kody Kamm (Monster Energy/Hentges Racing/Polaris) – getting hemmed in at the start and out of the top five, Pallin, Hibbert and Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sport/Ski-Doo) would break away from the rest of the field.
Hibbert would make his way past Pallin with a slick inside move on the left hander at the base of the “Dirty Dozen” jumps, breaking away down the start straight unchallenged. By then end of the next lap (lap two) Hibbert would have already built a 3.5 second lead.
Pallin would stay on it as well, motivated in part by the legions of Upper Peninsula snocross fans that packed the Blackjack lodge and balcony to cheer on their homeboy.
“This is so special, to do good here in front of my hometown fans – I can’t thank them enough,” said Pallin.
With Pallin up 2.5 seconds on Tremblay, Kamm and Martin would charge through the pack – in horrible conditions (due to the lingering snow dust) – and up to 4th and 5th places, respectively. But the lead that Hibbert, Pallin and Tremblay built would hold strong over the ten-lap contest.
“It was really hard, really cold and the vision was real tough,” said Tremblay. “So I’m just happy to be up here on the podium tonight.”
Blackjack Saturday Pro Open results
1 Tucker Hibbert Monster Energy/Arctic Cat 68 Arctic Cat Pelican Rapids, MN
2 Kyle Pallin Team LaVallee 324 Polaris Ironwood, MI
3 Tim Tremblay Amsoil/Air Force/Rockstar 11 Ski-Doo Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec
4 Kody Kamm Hentges Racing 53 Polaris Kenosha, WI
5 Ross Martin Judnick Motorsports 837 Polaris Burlington, WI
6 Darrin Mees BossRacing 9 Ski-Doo stanchfield, MN
7 Justin Broberg Hentges Racing 168 Polaris Mukwonago, WI
8 Cody Thomsen Arctic Cat 62 Arctic Cat Nisswa, MN
9 David Joanis Royal Distributing/Christian Brothers Racing 115 Arctic Cat Cochrane (Kok rane),
10 Logan Christian Christian Brothers Racing / Drift 43 Arctic Cat Fertile, MN
11 Petter Narsa Team Jimmy John’s/Ski-doo/BossRacing 271 Ski-Doo Moskosel,
12 Danny Poirier Ingles performance 312 Ski-Doo St Theodore d’Acton,
13 Robbie Malinoski Amsoil/Air Force/Makita 4 Ski-Doo Stacy, MN
14 Jake Scott Team LaVallee 42 Polaris Port Jefferson Station, NY
15 Levi LaVallee Team LaVallee 108 Polaris Longville, MN
Saturday Pro Lite
The No. 1 gate pick, a holeshot, flawless racing and the night’s fastest Pro Lite lap (62.65) allowed Lieders to complete the weekend sweep of Blackjack, running green-to-checkers for the second-straight night in the 1st/1st effort aboard his Team LaVallee Polaris.
“I am just so pumped for this weekend,” said Lieders. “We got things turned around after Duluth and I can’t thank this team enough for the support and equipment they gave me.”
Following Lieders off the start up the steep pitch of Blackjack’s front ski run were Andrew Carlson (Sportech/Polaris) and Zak Mason (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris). The early podium run would soon welcome another racer when Mason’s teammate, Corin Todd, came charging up and into 3rd place on the second lap (of seven).
While Lieders opened up his lead up front, thanks to his error-free riding, Todd caught up to Carlson with two laps to go, then passed his fellow Polaris mount on the last lap on the top section of the course.
“I had such a good race going with Andrew, we both made some mistakes and I was able to finally get past him with a clean pass on the last lap,” said Todd.
Carlson would hold off a spirited charge from his Carlson Motorsports teammate, Marcus Johansson, for 3rd place – his fourth podium in four races on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross tour this year.
“I’m just pumped to be up here for the fourth time in a row,” said Carlson. “I know I’ve got to work on my speed, but have some time to do that before Canterbury.”
Rounding out the top five in Saturday’s Pro Lite main event at Blackjack were Johansson in 4th.
Blackjack Saturday Pro Lite results
1 Andrew Lieders Team LaVallee 857 Polaris Colby, WI
2 Corin Todd Leighton Motorsports 136 Polaris Otego, NY
3 Andrew Carlson CARLSON MOTORSPORTS 151 Polaris Big Lake, MN
4 Marcus Johansson Carlson Motorsports 227 Polaris Ostersund,
5 John Stenberg Team Bauerly Racing 259 Ski-Doo Lofsdalen,
6 Zak Mason LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 863 Polaris Gaylord, MI
7 Nick Pattyn Stud Boy Racing 198 Ski-Doo Ravenna, MI
8 Chase Rosemeyer Team Bauerly Racing 675 Ski-Doo Chippewa Falls, WI
9 Corey Watkinson Watkinson Motorsports, Arctic Cat 173 Arctic Cat Port Carling, Ontario
10 Maxime Taillefer Taillefer Motorsports 144 Ski-Doo Laval West, Quebec
11 Travis Muller Warnert Racing 436 Ski-Doo Windom, MN
12 Trevor Leighton Leighton Motorsports 931 Polaris Eagle, ID
13 Dylan Hall Royal / Hall Racing 421 Ski-Doo Ayr, Ontario
14 Michael George MFG Racing 307 Arctic Cat Pine Plains, NY
15 Riley McClelland McClelland Racing 310 Arctic Cat Red Wing, MN
AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, returns to action following the holidays, Jan. 3-5, for the Canterbury Park (Shakopee, Minn.) Traxxas Snocross, presented by Jimmy John’s, round five of the series.