A familiar cast of Ski-Doos once again dominated Round Four of the Amsoil Championship Snocross series in Jackson, Wyoming, with Norwegian riding star Elias Ishoel collecting his second victory of the new season ahead of the same two racers who finished second and third one night earlier.
Ishoel got the jump on the pack but had to hold off an early-race charge by Lincoln Lemieux, the winner of Friday’s race at the same location. But while Ishoel sped away up front, Lemieux found trouble and came off of his ride, allowing Ishoel to go unchallenged for the rest of the 18-lap final.
There were other great story lines as well on a Saturday night in a western ski town, as Travis Wittwer won his first Pro Lite final of his career and local girl Taven Woodie won an emotional victory in Pro Am Women. The host ISOC race circuit now takes a month off over the holidays before starting hot and heavy again in January.
An energized crowd was on hand for the big national snocross races in Jackson on Saturday, and the folks that came had plenty to see.
In the top-level Pro class, the heat races were a mixed bag for everybody except one guy: Elias Ishoel. He swept to victory in his two heats while pretty much every other racer had one strong heat and one just so-so-at-best heat.
The front-row qualifiers for the 18-lap final, listed in the order of points gained in their heat races, were Ishoel (Ski-Doo), Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo), Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), Johan Lidman (Arctic Cat), Petter Narsa (Polaris), Kyle Pallin (Polaris), Nick Pattyn (Arctic Cat), Aki Pihlaja (Ski-Doo) and Kody Kamm (Polaris). Those who came through the last-chance qualifier, in the order in which they finished in that race, were Friday night winner Lincoln Lemieux (Ski-Doo), Corin Todd (Polaris), Montana Jess (Arctic Cat), Logan Christian (Arctic Cat) Daniel Benham (Arctic Cat) and Bret Nastala.
On green, it was the two matching black-and-red Ski-Doos of Boss Racing that launched to the front, with Ishoel grabbing the lead but teammate Pihlaja having to immediately deal with a lot of direct competition to hold onto second. Most notable pressure was the Arctic Cat of Lidman.
Like he did the night before Lemieux had trouble in his heat races and had to come through the last-chance race, but again on Saturday he got a great start and was among the sleds at the very front. After much slicing and dicing the first couple of chaotic laps, Lemieux worked past Pihlaja and then Lidman to move into second on lap three, with Lidman third. The next lap Kamm moved around Pihlaja into fourth, with Renheim behind him. Then came Narsa, Tremblay, Benham, Pallin, Jess, Pattyn, Nastala, Christian and Todd.
By lap six, Ishoel’s lead was 2.9 seconds on Lemieux, with a 4.5 second gap to Lidman in third and 5.4 seconds to Kamm in fourth, with Pihlaja 7.2 seconds back in fifth. Kamm was really starting to pester Lidman, though, trying different lines thoughout the track, showing up on the outside of one turn and then on the inside in the next straightaway.
Lidman also started to narrow Ishoel’s lead – official scoring showed him cutting a half-second off the lead on lap 8, but visually he appeared to be getting even closer than that for a moment, until he crashed off of his sled and moved to the back of the pack. At about the time that happened, Kamm moved past Lidman to now claim and the matching teal sleds of Warnert Racing teamamtes Renheim and Tremblay – who had moved around Pihlaja, who also later had other problems – were all over Lidman’s snowflap. They both moved around Lidman within a lap, and then set their sights on Kamm.
Renheim moved to second on about lap 12, with Kamm continuing to try different lines as he fought back for the position, but that opened the door to Tremblay. Those two traded a little paint but ultimately Tremblay was stronger.
There were several crashes of sleds running deep in the pack on the last couple of laps, creating a bit of chaos and also tightening the field a bit. Ishoel’s margin had ballooned over 7 seconds but it slid all the way back to 3 seconds at the end, but he was never seriously challenged and won his second final of the year, with Renheim second and Tremblay third for another Ski-Doo podium sweep.
Kamm came home in fourth, 6.4 seconds behind the winner, with Lidman 11 seconds back in fifth. The next five were Benham, Christian, Lemieux (who had to charge hard through the pack after his dismount to make it that far), Pattyn and Jess. The remaining five included some of the late crashers, with Todd in 11th, then Nastala, Narsa, Pallin and Pihlaja.
Words From The Podium
The podium interviews conducted by Josie Christian on the ISOC webcast were thick with accents, as there wasn’t a native English speaker in the crowd. Each racer, though, did a good job of answering questions.
“I just tried to go out there and have fun and then do my best,” Ishoel said. “That worked good, and the team works hard and they make it good for me. It feels so good.”
Later, Ishoel also shared details on a special motivating factor for him.
“My mom had a birthday today so I said I was going to race for her – I did the job there, so happy birthday to my mom!” Ishoel said.
Renheim looked strong throughout the final, but after the race he shared the fact that he was dealing with a little extra challenge because part of his fun-flipper broke during the race.
“It was a decent start and the riding was really, really good today, but midway [through the final] I broke off my throttle, so that didn’t help, I can assure you of that,” Renheim said through a laugh. “But I am so happy with the sled and the riding. Soon we were get up there [for a victory], but I’m really happy with a second-place today.”
Tremblay had to make a crazy cruise through traffic again, though this time he took part of the blame.
“I kind of jumped the start just a little bit so I had to let off [the throttle] and let everybody go” to avoid a penalty from race officials, Tremblay said, “but I worked hard and I never gave up and I was able to go back up to third place…It’s been a good season so far but I want more for sure.”
Racing his first year in the Pro-Lite class, Trent Wittwer got the holeshot in Saturday’s Pro-Lite final and held the lead for a couple of laps but then got out-duked by fellow Cat rider Nisse Kjellstrom on about lap three and fell to second. It seems in high-energy sports like snocross, rarely does a rider get passed for the lead and then come back later to take the spot back, but that’s just what Wittwer did.
The young racer from Bemidji, Minnesota, chased the Swede Kjellstrom for the next five laps and tried some different lines, then worked his way back into the lead on about lap eight of the 14-lap final. Kjellstrom stayed relatively close but had to fight off a hard-charging Francis Pelletier to hold onto second.
In the end, it was Wittwer with his first Pro-Lite victory, followed by Kjellstrom, Pelletier, Friday night’s winner Leo Patenaude and Evan Daudt, with Travis Kern sixth ahead of Max Taillefer.
After the race, Wittwer credited his training, saying he “busts my butt” year-round to stay in shape for snocross.
“The first two weeks we’ve been fighting to get a good start so when I [got passed] I was kind of disappointed, but I just stayed calm and rode my race,” Wittwer said. “I was just waiting for him to get tired to make a move, and we did that so it worked out great.”
- Matt Pichner effectively ruined the return to snocross of former Pro rider Steve Martin, but there didn’t seem to be any hard feelings in the end! Martin – racing not too far from his hometown of Evanston, Wyoming – led for most of the Pro Am Plus 30 final but Pichner was champing at his snowflap and took advantage when Martin got deep into a snowbank in a corner. Pichner came out with the top stop on his Cat and walked away to the victory, with Martin on a Ski-Doo barely holding off a hard-charging Zach Pattyn by a ski length to take second.
- Colton Davis barely held off Harris Heizenga in a rough-and-tumble Snow Bikes final. Huizenga got very close on the white flag lap but Davis got through the last couple of turns clean and won by 1.467 seconds.
- Taven Woodie of the Woodie Racing Team that sponsored the event at Jackson battled with Malene Anderson early in the Pro Am Women’s final, then had to hold off a very late charge from class dominator Megan Brodeur – who got tangled up with a couple of other riders right after the start and had to come through the entire pack. It was an exciting and popular victory for Taven of nearby Alpine, Wyoming, who jacked pumped her fist when she crossed the finish line in the air on her Cat, barely a sled-length ahead of Brodeur. “Megan kind of surprised me at the end – I thought Malene was right behind me the whole time – but I pushed my way through and I’m happy to win the hometown race,” Woodie said.
- Baily Frost of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, won one for his hometown brand by leading throughout most of the Sport class final on Saturday. Second-generation Cat racer Anson Scheele – son for former superstar Aaron Scheele – chased throughout and claimed second with Ski-Doo rider Samuel Blouin moving up to third.
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