A year ago, with no snocross racing at the Winter X Games, Tucker Hibbert was in the middle of a subpar season by his standards. The longtime dominator of snocross racing was struggling on a new race chassis and won only a small handful of races on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series. He then finished the season with a crash at the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, finale that landed him in the hospital with internal injuries.
The questions were whispered: Had Tucker come back to the field? Or had the field caught up with Tucker? Either way, his normal domination wasn’t on display last season.
More questions were raised at this season’s opener in November at Duluth, Minnesota, where Hibbert took two fifths behind Robbie Malinoski’s sweep. Tucker was still obviously very good, but dominant or great? Well, some people were wondering.
Since then, all he has done is win – all four ISOC finals, and even every heat race he has entered except for one (in which he crashed while leading). He came into the X Games Aspen as the favorite to win Gold in snocross, and he didn’t disappoint, dominating again in heats and the final en route to a piece of history.
The history? He became the first winter athlete to win sixth straight gold medals in one competition. It was also his seventh gold overall in X Games snocross. Yeah, the second-generation Arctic Cat racer from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota is really that good.
Qualifying For The Final
The X Games Snocross course was long and wide, with plenty of places to pass. After being booted from the X Games a year ago, the snocross racers were very happy to be back in Aspen, and very excited to settle things on the track in a 16-lap final.
First, however, the field of 24 was narrowed to 10 front row starters in a pair of heat races, where the top five would go directly to the final while the others in each heat would get another chance at getting in through a last chance qualifier. Levi LaVallee (back injury) and Zach Pattyn (illness) pulled out before the heats. Each heat went against conventional wisdom, in that the front apparently wasn’t the best place to be.
In the first 8-lap heat, Willie Elam was the surprising early leader after presumptive favorite Tucker Hibbert got a poor start. It took Hibbert a couple of laps, but soon he moved to the front and pulled far away. Elam next succumbed to pressure from Petter Narsa and fell to third. Then Elam got crossed up going toward the big gap jump and pulled off the course. He wouldn’t advance. Instead, Hibbert (Arctic Cat) won by a huge gap, with Narsa (Ski-Doo) second, Ross Martin (Polaris) third, Justin Broberg (Polaris) fourth and Iain Hayden (Polaris) fifth.
Derek Ellis was the surprise early leader in heat 2, with the black Amsoil Scheuring Speed Sports teammates Tim Tremblay, Darrin Mees and Robbie Malinoski directly behind him in the early going. Only one of those four sleds would advance out of this heat, however. Tremblay moved to the point and won. Ellis faded slightly, and then got tangled up with Malinoski in the air, sending both drivers and sleds tumbling. Then Mees’ sled broke with a lap to go. Moving up and advancing behind Tremblay (Ski-Doo) was a hard-charging Emil Ohman (Ski-Doo), followed by Jake Scott (Polaris), Johan Lidman (Polaris) and a fortunate Colby Crapo (Polaris), who was far back but the other carnage brought him all the way up to the fifth transfer spot.
Pro Rookie Kody Kamm (Polaris) got tangled up in a first-lap, first-corner crash in his heat, but he made up for it in the LCQ, running away to an easy looking victory. A full 11 seconds behind him was Derek Ellis (Arctic Cat), with Paul Bauerly (Ski-Doo), Logan Christian (Arctic Cat) and Bobby LePage (Polaris) also advancing while big name drivers Malinoski and Mees both had problems and would watch the final along with the rest of us.
All Hibbert In The Final
The final was anticlimactic. Ross Martin got the holeshot and led for the first half-lap, but then Hibbert undercut him in a wide turn and won a sprint to the next corner. It was never close again. Lap after perfect lap, Hibbert continued to pull away from a game Ross Martin. Tremblay slotted into third in the early going, followed by Kamm, then Narsa, Ohman, Ellis, Crapo and Broberg.
Hibbert’s lead up front went from 2.5 seconds on lap three to 4.9 seconds on lap four to 6.5 seconds on lap 6. Tremblay stayed relatively close to Martin for awhile, but then a big gap opened there as well. Second-row starter Kamm fell back a couple of spots, but otherwise, the sleds pretty much ran in that order for the rest of the event.
The ESPN announcers spent the next 15 minutes gushing about Hibbert, and the cameras wouldn’t leave him. That made the rest of the race a bit of a mystery, but Hibbert has certainly earned this and many other moments in the spotlight.
As the sleds came toward the white flag, the order was Hibbert 13 seconds ahead of Martin, 27 seconds ahead of Tremblay and 36 seconds ahead of fourth-place Ohman. They were followed by Narsa, Kamm, Scott, Ellis, Broberg, Liedman, Crapo, LePage and Bauerly, with Christian and Hayden both out after crashes.
Hibbert took one last triumphant, easy lap, then let out a simple fist pump with his left hand as he passed the waving checkered flag. The king of snocross was back on his thrown with X Games gold. Martin earned Silver, Tremblay got Bronze. The full finishing order is below.
1. Tucker Hibbert (Arctic Cat); 2. Ross Martin (Polaris); 3. Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo); 4. Emil Ohman (Ski-Doo); 5. Petter Narsa (Ski-Doo); 6. Kody Kamm (Polaris); 7. Jake Scott (Polaris); 8. Derek Ellis (Arctic Cat); 9. Justin Broberg (Polaris); 10. Johan Lidman (Polaris); 11. Colby Crapo (Polaris); 12. Bobby LePage (Polaris); 13. Paul Bauerly (Ski-Doo); 14. Logan Christian (Arctic Cat); 15. Iain Hayden (Polaris).