Yes, Tucker Hibbert won again and kept his 2013-14 race season perfect streak intact at a cold and blustery Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota, Saturday night. But the man known as T-Train truly had to work for this one, overcoming a near-off early in the race and then charging into the lead with a couple of laps left to secure victory.
A night after becoming snocross racing’s most winning driver, Hibbert outdueled rival Ross Martin in the most entertaining final thus far this winter on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series. Instead of seeing Hibbert run away and hide, this one was a battle. Also, a Pro Lite final included many interesting stories.
Hibbert vs. Martin
The temperature was 2 degrees when the Pro Open sleds lined up Saturday night for the final, and a stiff wind held the windchill well below zero ahead of cold front that was promising to plunge Minnesota into minus 40 windchills by morning.
Coming out of the heats, Tucker Hibbert (Arctic Cat) was again playing with perfection and held the top qualifying position. The rest of the front row, in order of qualifying results, were an impressive Darrin Mees (Ski-Doo), then Ross Martin (Polaris), Cody Thomsen (Arctic Cat), Logan Christian (Arctic Cat), Kody Kamm (Polaris), Johan Lidman (Ski-Doo), Jake Scott (Polaris) and Levi LaVallee (Polaris). Scott and LaVallee’s teammate Kyle Pallin (Polaris) qualified for the front row, but was injured in an off in his second heat and was unable to answer the call for the final due to a concussion. This final would have 14 sleds.
The second row, in order of their finish in the last chance qualifier, featured Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), Justin Broberg (Polaris), Petter Narsa (Ski-Doo), Bobby LePage (Polaris) and Zach Pattyn (Ski-Doo).
Martin grabbed the holeshot and crossed the finish line first on the first half-lap, though Hibbert and Kamm were right with him. Coming out of turn one, Hibbert grabbed the lead but Martin found a fast line on the backstretch rhythm section and was on the charge as the two drivers neared the hard right turn that led to the “gravity cavity” part of the track. As Martin fired around the outside, Hibbert got in too hot, popped a ski up in the air and actually drifted out into Martin. It took a nice save for Hibbert to not come completely off his sled, but the bobble dropped Hibbert to third, behind Martin and Kamm.
Given the opportunity, Martin looked to take full advantage. He put down fast lap after fast lap, looking especially fast in that backstretch section and opening up a lead while Kamm fought to keep Hibbert behind him.
By lap 6, it was Martin with a 2.2 second lead over Kamm, who had a second over Hibbert. Lidman held fourth ahead of Christian, then came LaVallee, Tremblay, Scott, Broberg and Mees wrapping up the top 10.
The lead ballooned to over 3 seconds momentarily, but then Hibbert’s charge really kicked into action. Using a triple on the backstretch where everybody else was doubling, Hibbert rifled into second past Kamm and then started eating into Martin’s lead.
At lap 8, Martin’s lead was 2.4 seconds over Hibbert, with Kamm now 4 seconds further back in third. Hibbert was gaining most of his distance in that rough gravity cavity, and that’s where he would take the lead. His pass was eerily similar to the move earlier in the race that dropped him to third. He charged hard into a rutted corner and popped an inside ski into the air as he caught and edge. Again he saved it, but this time without losing too much momentum as he sprinted out of the corner with the lead.
Once in front, Hibbert immediately opened a 1.7 second lead by lap 11, and 2.8 seconds on lap 12. Other than the top drivers having to avoid a crashed Christian in a dark part of the track, there was no more drama: It was all Hibbert.
At the finish line, it was Hibbert gaining victory for the sixth time in six finals this year. Martin was second, 4.6 seconds back, followed by Kamm 13.7 seconds behind Martin.
“I was sleeping a little bit on the start that time; Ross nailed that start and I was still sitting there,” Hibbert said afterwards. “The fastest lines around the track were kind of sketchy and it was easy to make mistakes early on.”
“It was just an incredible race and I got a great start,” Martin said on the podium. “I had a clear track and tried putting on as many fast laps as possible and just stay out there.”
Kamm admitted to trying Hibbert-esque lines, but…
“I tried tripling a couple of times but it didn’t work out,” Kamm said. “I stuck with the doubles [after that] just to keep it safe.” It worked as he locked down his second podium finish of the weekend.
Comeback Kid Johnstad Wins In Pro Lite
The Pro Lite podium was filled with interesting stories, as it featured one driver coming off of an injury and two up-and-comers who each got his first top-three finish in the Pro Lite class.
James Johnstad (Judnick Motorsports Polaris) of Beltrami, Minnesota, went into the final as the No. 1 qualifier after a first- and second-place finish in his heat races. He blasted off the starting line with an awesome holeshot and grabbed the early lead.
Meanwhile, recent class dominator Andrew Carlson continued his rough night. He had trouble in his second heat, which sent him to the last chance qualifier, which he won. But a rough start with a big front-stretch case sent him toward the back on green on the final.
Up front, Johnstad immediately started opening up a lead. By the time the sleds came back around, Jordan Krause had moved to second ahead of Corey Watkinson, with Maxime Taillefer fourth, then Zak Mason and Corin Todd.
Krause would soon fade into the field, as top drivers started firing through the pack, Watkinson had second for one lap, then Todd grabbed the spot on lap four, then back to Watkinson on lap five. Meanwhile, Johnstad moved 2.8 seconds ahead as the sleds crossed the halfway point in the race. Carlson, meanwhile, started working his way through traffic.
At the white flag, it was Johnstad with a 3.5-second gap over Watkinson, who was 2.1 seconds ahead of Todd. Then came Mason, Taillefer, Carlson, John Stenberg, Chase Rosemeyer and Krause. They almost stayed in that order on the final lap, but Todd’s Leighton Motorsports Polaris would stall on the last lap, and that would open the podium door to his teammate Mason.
“I can’t explain how good I’m feeling right now,” said Johnstad, who is recovering from a broken collarbone. “I didn’t even think we were going to race this weekend until yesterday after practice. My mother was worried sick but it worked out pretty good.”
Behind the Judnick Motorsport Polaris of Johnstad were a couple of guys with career finishes in this Pro feeder class.
Racing out of Ontario, Corey Watkinson earned a very solid second on his Arctic Cat, and his first podium, while Michigander Mason acknowledged his teammate’s problems while not hiding his joy for his own finish.
“It’s a bummer what happened to Corin, but it happens I guess, and I’m excited,” said Mason, a multi-time winner in the Sport class last year. “It’s my first podium in Pro Lite as a rookie.”
HERE’S THE ISOC PRESS RELEASE:
SHAKOPEE, Minn. (Jan. 5, 2014) – In the most thrilling premier Pro Open class main event of the year thus far on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram tour, Tucker Hibbert (Monster Energy/Arctic Cat/Ram) battled longtime rival Ross Martin (DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris) to take the come-from-behind win at Canterbury Race Park, sweeping the Traxxas Pro Open, presented by Jimmy John’s weekend of racing with a double 1st/1st place effort.
And in Pro Lite class racing it was James Johnstad (DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris), pulling the holeshot and leading the support class race from green to checkers.
With a clean Stud Boy Holeshot and open track ahead of him, Martin took charge of the weekend’s final race early, only to bounce off Hibbert in a turn – which allowed Kody Kamm (Hentges Racing/Monster Energy/Polaris) to take the early lead. Martin and Hibbert quickly regrouped and rallied their sleds only moments after the incident and Martin took off after Kamm, passing him back on lap two.
With Hibbert three seconds back of Kamm and Martin, Martin took off on a wide open track and put up a half second on Hibbert during lap four (41.334 to 41.887). The three would separate themselves from the rest of the pack in a furious chase for the lead position, with Hibbert catching and passing the sophomore Pro Open class racer Kamm on lap six in a gnarly section dubbed the “Gravity Cavity.”
At the halfway point of the 14-lap contest Hibbert would cut a half second out of Martin’s lead with a risky triple/double jump move down the back stretch (a move that no other racer could manage to pull cleanly during the main event). Through the eighth lap Martin’s lead was 2.46 seconds over Hibbert. And by lap nine, when the two started to run into lapped traffic, Martin’s lead fell to 1.3 seconds.
On lap ten, using his triple/double jump to set up Martin, Hibbert caught his rival on the exit corner from the straight and passed Martin in the Gravity Cavity. Within moments Martin would be down two seconds to the all-time winningest pro snocross racer – a gap he’d never be able to recover.
With Martin solidly in 2nd place and Kamm equally strong in 3rd, Johan Lidman (Ski-Doo/NSK/Stud Boy) – who made the podium on Friday at Canterbury – was running in 4th with
Logan Christian (Arctic Cat/Stud Boy/Speedwerx) in 5th. Christian would falter on the final lap, allowing former Pro Open champ Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sport/Ski-Doo) to take 5th.
Canterbury Saturday Pro Open results
1 Tucker Hibbert Monster Energy/Arctic Cat 68 Arctic Cat Pelican Rapids, MN
2 Ross Martin Judnick Motorsports 837 Polaris Burlington, WI
3 Kody Kamm Hentges Racing 53 Polaris Kenosha, WI
4 Johan Lidman Warnert Racing 52 Ski-Doo Pitea, Sweden
5 Tim Tremblay Amsoil/Air Force/Rockstar 11 Ski-Doo Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec
6 Justin Broberg Hentges Racing 168 Polaris Mukwonago, WI
7 Jake Scott Team LaVallee 42 Polaris Port Jefferson Station, NY
8 Darrin Mees BossRacing 9 Ski-Doo stanchfield, MN
9 Petter Narsa Team Jimmy John’s/Ski-doo/BossRacing 271 Ski-Doo Moskosel,
10 Levi LaVallee Team LaVallee 108 Polaris Longville, MN
11 Cody Thomsen Arctic Cat 62 Arctic Cat Nisswa, MN
12 Bobby LePage Cottew Motorsports 244 Polaris Duluth, MN
13 Zach Pattyn Stud Boy Racing 99 Ski-Doo Ravenna, MI
14 Logan Christian Christian Brothers Racing / Drift 43 Arctic Cat Fertile, MN
DNS Kyle Pallin Team LaVallee 324 Polaris Ironwood, MI
Overall Pro Open Points
1 Tucker Hibbert 4 268 268 Monster Energy/Arctic Cat 68 Arctic Cat Pelican Rapids, MN
2 Kody Kamm 4 215 215 Hentges Racing 53 Polaris Kenosha, WI
3 Ross Martin 4 205 205 Judnick Motorsports 837 Polaris Burlington, WI
4 Kyle Pallin 4 197 197 Team LaVallee 324 Polaris Ironwood, MI
5 Cody Thomsen 4 183 183 Arctic Cat 62 Arctic Cat Nisswa, MN
6 Justin Broberg 4 170 170 Hentges Racing 168 Polaris Mukwonago, WI
7 Tim Tremblay 4 164 164 AMSOIL/Air Force/Rockstar 11 Ski-Doo Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec
8 Logan Christian 4 163 163 Christian Brothers Racing / Drift 43 Arctic Cat Fertile, MN
9 David Joanis 4 143 143 Royal Distributing/Christian Brothers Racing 115 Arctic Cat Cochrane
10 Darrin Mees 4 139 139 Boss Racing 9 Ski-Doo Stanchfield, MN
Saturday AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Lite winner, Minnesota’s James Johnstad, was kind of on the fence this weekend as to if he was going to even race or not. Back at the season opener in Duluth and after winning on Saturday, Johnstad proceeded to break his collarbone in Sunday’s race. Missing the Bessemer, Mich. round (Johnstad made two painful starts, just to secure points, but didn’t race), Johnstad decided to give ‘er a run this weekend at Canterbury.
“I can’t explain how good I feel,” said an elated Johnstad from atop the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Lite podium. “I didn’t even know if I was going to even race at Canterbury. But we did and it paid off.”
Johnstad parlayed a clean holeshot on his Polaris sled into an early race lead ahead of Jordan Kraus (Relentless Racing/Polaris) and Corey Watkinson (Watkinson Motorsports/Arctic Cat). The three held position through three laps before Watkinson got past Kraus and into 2nd place. On lap four of the nine-lap contest Corin Todd (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) would move past Kraus and into 3rd, while Friday Canterbury Pro Lite winner Andrew Carlson (Polaris Racing/Sportech/PMC), who started on the back row, was moving up into the top five.
As Johnstad opened up a 2.6 second lead on Watkinson, Michigan’s Zak Mason (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) was up onto Todd and eventually into 3rd place on lap seven.
Consistency and speed would allow Johnstad to easily win the contest, with Watkinson and Mason finishing in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. The 2nd place for Watkinson would be his first career Pro Lite podium and Mason’s 3rd place would be his first career double podium weekend (2nd on Friday). Ski-Doo racer Maxime Taillefer would place 4th with Carlson rounding out the top five.
Canterbury Saturday Pro Lite results
1 James Johnstad Judnick Motorsports 154 Polaris Beltrami, MN
2 Corey Watkinson Watkinson Motorsports, Arctic Cat 173 Arctic Cat Port Carling, Ontario
3 Zak Mason LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 863 Polaris Gaylord, MI
4 Maxime Taillefer Taillefer Motorsports 144 Ski-Doo Laval West,
5 Andrew Carlson CARLSON MOTORSPORTS 151 Polaris Big Lake, MN
6 John Stenberg Team Bauerly Racing 259 Ski-Doo Lofsdalen,
7 Chase Rosemeyer Team Bauerly Racing 675 Ski-Doo Chippewa Falls, WI
8 Jordan Kraus Relentless Racing 105 Polaris Osage, MN
9 Nick Pattyn Stud Boy Racing 198 Ski-Doo Ravenna, MI
10 Corin Todd Leighton Motorsports 136 Polaris Otego, NY
11 Travis Muller Warnert Racing 436 Ski-Doo Windom, MN
12 Andrew Lieders Team LaVallee 857 Polaris Colby, WI
13 Dylan Hall Royal / Hall Racing 421 Ski-Doo Ayr, Ontario
14 Trevor Leighton Leighton Motorsports 931 Polaris Eagle, ID
15 Riley McClelland McClelland Racing 310 Arctic Cat Red Wing, MN
Overall Pro Lite Points
1 Andrew Carlson 4 233 233 CARLSON MOTORSPORTS 151 Polaris Big Lake, MN
2 Corin Todd 4 202 202 Leighton Motorsports 136 Polaris Otego, NY
3 Andrew Lieders 4 196 196 Team LaVallee 857 Polaris Colby, WI
4 Zak Mason 4 191 191 LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 863 Polaris Gaylord, MI
5 Corey Watkinson 4 188 188 Watkinson Motorsports, Arctic Cat 173 Arctic Cat Port Carling, Ontario
6 Trevor Leighton 4 154 154 Leighton Motorsports 931 Polaris Eagle, ID
7 John Stenberg 4 149 149 Team Bauerly Racing 259 Ski-Doo Lofsdalen,
8 Kevin Wallenstein 4 142 142 Ingles Performance 122 Ski-Doo Cadillac, MI
9 Marcus Johansson 4 139 139 Carlson Motorsports 227 Polaris Ostersund,
10 James Johnstad 4 139 139 Judnick Motorsports 154 Polaris Beltrami, MN
Next up on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, tour is the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 stop at Deadwood, S. D.’s Days of ’76 Rodeo Grounds.
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.
Photos courtesy of Lissa Marsolek/ISOC