It wasn’t like Tucker Hibbert told the field he could beat them with one hand tied behind his back. It just kind of turned out that way.
The snocross king who has dominated the sport and swept the Pro Open class at Duluth, Minnesota, last weekend actually finished second in a heat race Friday night at round three (the second weekend of racing) at Bessemer, Michigan.
The 29-year-old Cat racer still went into the Pro Open final as the No. 1 seed, but then he and young Polaris racer Kody Kamm each bumped their sleds forward right before the start of the race and were relegated to a second row starting position.
Maybe, just maybe, somebody else would have a shot?
Naw. It was all Hibbert again, as he charged all the way up to third in the first lap in the 15-sled final, then moved to the lead two laps later en route to another overpowering victory on an icy cold night in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
A long and especially tricky snocross course greeted the racers at the host Blackjack Resort ski hill, and the cold plus the heavy-hanging snowdust didn’t make anything easy. Hibbert’s margin of victory was “only” about 8 seconds this weekend – still dominant, but not as overwhelming as at Duluth.
Another round of finals will be held Saturday night in Bessemer – it can all be watched on the live webcast right here on snowgoer.com.
Meanwhile, a former top pro racer re-proved his skills by taking the Pro Am 30 Plus class, and a Pro Lite star put himself back on the top after a subpar performance last weekend.
Pro Open Is Hibbert’s Again
Yes, it’s true. In one race on Friday at Bessemer, Tucker Hibbert’s black Monster Energy No. 68 was not the first one to the waving checkered flag. Justin Broberg beat him in a heat race. But after winning his other heat race, and seeing no other driver go 1-1 in qualifying, Hibbert still was the top qualifier for the final.
The Pro Open final included 10 sleds that earned front row starting positions – five Arctic Cats (Hibbert, Dave Joanis, Cody Thomsen, Mike Bauer and Logan Christian) and five Polaris (Kody Kamm, Broberg, Ross Martin, Jake Scott and Levi LaVallee). The second row was supposed to feature the five sleds that made the final through the last-chance qualifier: The Polaris sleds driven by Kyle Pallin and Iain Hayden and the Ski-Doos of Robbie Malinoski, Tim Tremblay and Adam Renheim.
That was the plan, anyway. With the sleds lined up waiting for the starting light to flash green, however, Kody Kamm’s sled burped forward and broke the starting beam, and Hibbert appeared to react to Kamm and also jumped through the starting area while all other sleds stayed parked.
Kamm and Hibbert’s punishment? They had to move to the back row on a night with poor visibility, and on a track with loose snow on top of an icy base. Not good.
When the light did flash green, it was rookie Jake Scott out front first on his Team LaVallee/Mystic Oil Polaris, with Martin snapped at his snowflap on his Hentges Racing/Amsoil Polaris. Right behind them was a whole bunch of carnage, and two incredible drives through traffic as Hibbert in particular but also Kamm made an incredible charge through the pack of 15 sleds.
At the end of the first lap, it was Scott and then Martin, with Hibbert already in third, Thomsen fourth and Joanis fifth. The next five were Kamm, Bauer, Tremblay, Pallin and Christian.
Scott held the point for another lap, but then went wide in a turn and got into some soft snow, opening the door for Martin to charge by on the inside. However, while Martin was doing that, Hibbert moved even father inside, found some traction and went by both riders. Hibbert moved from third to first with less than 100 feet!
Soon, the track because a swirling tornado of snowdust. Hibbert put down strong laps, but seemed to be riding a bit more conservatively than normal due to the very limited sightlines. He still pulled away to a 4 second lead at half race, and an 8-second lead by the end. Once more, Hibbert proved his might.
Martin held on for second, but something happened to Scott in all of that snowdust – he pretty much disappeared. Kamm came through traffic to finish third, while Tremblay took fourth and Pallin claimed fifth. Bauer finished sixth, followed by Broberg, Renheim, Malinoski and Hayden. Thomsen, LaVallee, Joanis, Scott and Christian rounded out the field.
Quick, do the math: Thanks to the jump by Hibbert and Kamm, and the subpar heat performances by Tremblay and Pallin that put them in the LCQ, four of the top five finishers in the Pro Open final started in the back row. Talk about the cream riding to the top.
Despite the end results, Hibbert said that back row starting position was certainly not an advantage.
“Starting in the back row, both me and Kody, it’s not where you want to be,” Hibbert said. At some tracks, he said, it can almost be an advantage because the second row drivers can see things develop in front of them, “but definitely not here,” he said.
That said, the way Hibbert and Kamm described it, it was almost like the seas parted in front of them, as front row drivers traded paint and those two moved into the top five on the first lap, without “getting too gnarly,” in Hibbert’s words.
Once in that top three, Hibbert said he worked some lines he spotted on the parade lap and tried to stay patient, then moved to the lead.
That move into the lead seemed to surprise a smiling Martin after the race.
“I thought I was going for the lead and I got snuck under,” Martin said, referring to his pass on Scott that coincided with Hibbert’s move past both drivers. “He caught me by surprise.”
After the race, Kamm called the track “awesome” yet tricky. “The cold weather makes it really soft out there, but there are some ice edges underneath that you have to watch out for.”
New Old Winner In Pro-Lite
Three races into the new season, there have now been three different winners in Pro Lite class, though the guy on the top step of the podium Friday night was hardly a surprise.
Andrew Lieders finished second in Pro Lite points last season and, with the first and third place drivers in the class moving up to the Pro Open class this year, he went into this season as the pre-season favorite in the second-tier class.
Racing for a new team this year – Team LaVallee – he didn’t live up to that billing last weekend at Duluth, however. He finished 10th on Saturday and fourth on Sunday and left disappointed in himself.
He rectified that on Friday in Bessemer.
Andrew Carlson – the winner Sunday in Duluth – got the holeshot on his No. 151 Polaris and led for the first couple of laps, but Lieders soon found smoother lines and charged toward the lead. The pass was set up on the big, bumpy downhill, where Carlson took a central line and had the rear of his sled swapping while Lieders took a wide but smoother line and pulled beside Carlson, then squared up the turn and won the sprint toward the flag stand.
After that, it was all Lieders up front. He won by a wide margin, with John Stenberg passing Carlson with two laps left to take second on his Ski-Doo, with Carlson hanging on for third, followed by his Carlson Motorsports teammate, Marcus Johannson.
“We struggled in Duluth, I’ll admit it, a lot of it was me,” said Lieders, of Colby, Wisconsin. “This feels great.”
Stenberg was a solid second on his Team Bauerly Racing Ski-Doo. Despite fading from first to third, Carlson was far from disappointed.
“It feels so great,” he said when asked how it felt to be on the podium box for the third time in three finals this season. “I’m glad that I got the chance to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke in Duluth and I’m here to stay. I like it up here.”
Tate In Pro Am 30 Plus
Call him Bustin’ Justin. Call him Tater. Call him whatever you want, just make sure to call him when it’s race weekend.
Justin Tate of Scandia, Minnesota, has been doing this for a long time. He made it all the way to the top level, winning several Pro class races and competing on top teams. He stopped racing for a couple of years, but came back and now is a multi-faceted racer – competing in everything from snocross to cross-country to 500-mile enduros.
Friday in Bessemer, Tate reminded everybody how comfortable he still is on a bumpy course. After winning his heat race in the Pro Am 30-Plus class, Tate saw Michigan-based brothers Joshua and Jon Zelinski’s Arctic Cats get the holeshot. But while those two drivers made it to the first turn first, both Zelinski brothers took a wide line on the uphill while the veteran Tate took a tight line through turn one and then cut a diagonal path toward the second turn and beat both of them there, pinching in right in front of Joshua’s skis.
After establishing the lead, Tate appeared headed to an easy victory, but an especially vicious landing at one point appeared to shake the Polaris rider. Like a good fighter taking a hard punch, Tate rallied and regained his stretch.
Deep in the pack, meanwhile, Ontario Ski-Doo racer Lee Butler was working his way through traffic. With a couple of laps left, he moved past Joshua Zelinski into second, and then got within a couple of sledlengths of the leader on the final lap, but Tate held on for the victory. Butler was second, Joshua Zelinski held on for third, with Kurt Bauerly fourth.
Fantasy Snocross Racers: Make Your Picks
The next round of the Snow Goer Snowmobile Racing Challenge game is based on tomorrow’s Pro Open final, and the deadline for picks it tomorrow morning. Make your picks now so you don’t forget. Click here to go to the snocross page. If you also feel like playing the Ovals round of the Racing Challenge, click here.
Below is the official press release from the ISOC race circuit
Tucker Hibbert makes it three-in-a-row with a Pro Open win on the opening night of the Northern Clearing Snocross
Round three of AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, at Michigan’s Blackjack Ski Resort goes to Hibbert despite being relegated to a back row start
BESSEMER, Mich. (Dec. 6, 2013) – With a big chill blanketing the Upper Peninsula’s famous Big Snow Country, Monster Energy/Arctic Cat/Ram’s Tucker Hibbert remained undefeated on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, tour – overcoming a back row start (due to a false start penalty) to win the series’ third round – the Northern Clearing Snocross – in convincing fashion over 2nd place Ross Martin (DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris) and Kody Kamm (Monster Energy/Hentges Racing/Polaris) in 3rd.
Friday’s support Pro Lite class at Blackjack would go to Andrew Lieders (Mystic/Polaris/Team LaVallee).
Friday Pro Open
Qualifying in the No. 1 position on Friday, Hibbert cruised to two heat race wins and, by virtue of his 1st/1st effort, selected the outside gate pick. But that’d all be for not as Hibbert would false start (prompted by Kamm, the No. 2 qualifier) and ISOC officials sent both to the back row for the start of the night’s final race. Said Kamm one the podium (when questioned of the incident at the start): “Me and Tucker jumped at the same time.”
Pulling the Stud Boy Holeshot in the main would be Red Bull/Mystic/Polaris/Team LaVallee Pro Open class racer Jake Scott. Last year’s overall AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Lite champ, Scott led the race through the first couple laps before making a mistake on a tricky uphill section turn and running his Polaris out wide into the fresh deep snow on Blackjack’s front ski run. Martin, who was on Scott’s tail heading into the turn, would appear to have the hand in taking over the lead – but Hibbert darted seemingly from out of nowhere (passing seven sleds in the first lap) on the inside and led Martin up the hill. It would be a lead Hibbert would never relinquish.
“I thought I was going for the lead and got snuck under,” said Martin kind of half laughing on the podium. “He (Hibbert) just took me by surprise!”
Battling frigid (2-degrees Fahrenheit at race time) temperatures and chocking snow dust that settled above the track for the entire race, Hibbert put his head down and rode his typical consistent, fast and, most importantly, mistake-free ten laps. And when he and Martin got past Scott, Kamm did as well and the three would separate from the rest of the pack.
“It was a gnarly race,” said Hibbert, who is now one race away from tying Blair Morgan’s all-time professional snocross premier class win record of 84 victories. “I was able to make up a bunch of places in the first couple of turns, but man – that was tough race. The conditions were brutal and I was just glad when it was over.”
With tons of fresh soft snow covering a layer of boilerplate manmade snow, Hibbert said that the chance of catching an edge in an ice rut was high. Out front Hibbert would ride with caution, not putting a much of a lead on the rest of the pack as he did in Duluth the previous weekend. Hibbert took the checkers ahead of Martin, who was 4.5 seconds in front of Kamm.
AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sports/Ski-Doo’s Tim Tremblay, the 2012 ACS Pro Open overall champion, would make some amends for having to qualify for the main through the LCQ at Blackjack by placing a hard-earned 4th. Rounding out the top five would be homeboy Kyle Pallin (Mystic/Polaris/Team LaVallee).
Blackjack Friday 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 Tim Tremblay Amsoil/Air Force/Rockstar 11 Ski-Doo Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec
5 Kyle Pallin Team LaVallee 324 Polaris Ironwood, MI
6 Mike Bauer Jess Racing 717 Arctic Cat Westminster, MA
7 Justin Broberg Hentges Racing 168 Polaris Mukwonago, WI
8 Adam Renheim Boss Racing 311 Ski-Doo Lima,
9 Robbie Malinoski Amsoil/Air Force/Makita 4 Ski-Doo Stacy, MN
10 Iain Hayden Rockstar Energy Polaris 93 Polaris Chatsworth, Ontario
11 Cody Thomsen Arctic Cat 62 Arctic Cat Nisswa, MN
12 Levi LaVallee Team LaVallee 108 Polaris Longville, MN
13 David Joanis Royal Distributing/Christian Brothers Racing 115 Arctic Cat Cochrane (Kok rane),
14 Jake Scott Team LaVallee 42 Polaris Port Jefferson Station, NY
15 Logan Christian Christian Brothers Racing / Drift 43 Arctic Cat Fertile, MN
Friday Pro Lite
Pulling the holeshot and leading the Pro Lite field on Friday night to the top of Blackjack’s centerpiece ski run, Lieders, the No. 3 qualifier, was on a mission to make up for what he felt was a rather poor showing at Duluth.
“I can’t thank Levi (LaValle) and his crew enough for bringing me on board this year. We struggled in Duluth and I’ll admit it a lot of it was me,” said Lieders. “But I’m glad we could get up here tonight and I hope we can carry this momentum.”
Right there with Lieders early – and possibly in front of him at times (although it was difficult to tell due to the massive snow cloud) – were Andrew Carlson (Sportech/Polaris) and John Stenberg (AMSOIL/Ski-Doo). But Lieders would soon separate from the two aforementioned riders and began to work on a three-second gap that he’d carry through the checkers.
Stenberg would put a bit of distance between himself and Carlson for 2nd, while Carlson had to fight off a hard-charging Corin Todd (Polaris) late in the race. Carlson would end up 3rd, saying: “I’m glad I could prove Duluth wasn’t a fluke. I like it up here (podium) and I’m here to stay.”
Todd, who was on the podium in Duluth, would falter and dropped out of the top five (6th) with Marcus Johansson (Carlson Motorsports/Polaris), another Duluth podium finisher, taking 4th and Corey Watkinson (Arctic Cat) placing 5th.
Blackjack Friday Pro Lite results
1 Andrew Lieders Team LaVallee/Lieders Racing 857 Polaris Colby, WI
2 John Stenberg Team Bauerly Racing 259 Ski-Doo Lofsdalen,
3 Andrew Carlson CARLSON MOTORSPORTS 151 Polaris Big Lake, MN
4 Marcus Johansson Carlson Motorsports 227 Polaris Ostersund,
5 Corey Watkinson Watkinson Motorsports, Arctic Cat 173 Arctic Cat Port Carling, Ontario
6 Corin Todd Leighton Motorsports 136 Polaris Otego, NY
7 Filip Eriksson Team Yngvesson 423 Arctic Cat lycksele, Lycksele
8 Kevin Wallenstein Ingles Performance 122 Ski-Doo Cadillac, MI
9 Zak Mason LEIGHTON MOTORSPORTS 863 Polaris Gaylord, MI
10 Travis Muller Warnert Racing 436 Ski-Doo Windom, MN
11 Trevor Leighton Leighton Motorsports 931 Polaris Eagle, ID
12 Korbyn Anderson Team Anderson Racing 179 Ski-Doo Allenton, MI
13 Jordan Kraus Relentless Racing 105 Polaris Osage, MN
14 Chase Rosemeyer Team Bauerly Racing 675 Ski-Doo Chippewa Falls, WI
15 Dylan Hall Royal / Hall Racing 421 Ski-Doo Ayr, Ontario
AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, continues tomorrow (Dec. 7th) at Bessemer, Michigan’s Blackjack Ski Resort for the Northern Clearing Snocross – round four of AMSOIL Championship Snocross.