STOP THE PRESSES: Tucker Hibbert did NOT win at Deadwood on Friday night. Instead, it was the rising star Kody Kamm who took a dramatic victory on his Hentges Racing Polaris and, in the process, stopped Hibbert’s unbeaten string this year in a highly entertaining and rugged race in front of a sizable crowd.
It was the fourth weekend, and round 7, of the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series, and Hibbert had dominated at every event. But the stop in South Dakota seemed different from the start. On a small and rough track, some of the biggest names in the sport had trouble while some of the youngest riders found success.
In fact, the oldest driver on the podium was 11 short of his 22 birthday. For one night, youth was served.
Pro Open Battle
With some drivers now focusing on other circuits and a few key injuries to some superstars, most notably Robbie Malinoski (knee) and Ross Martin (shoulder), out with injuries, just 15 drivers signed up for the Pro Open class. In other words, all of them would make the final, meaning heat races would be about collecting points and gaining a good starting spot.
As per usual, Tucker Hibbert went in as the No. 1 qualifier on his Cat, but the No. 2 qualifier was Kody Kamm, and he was running just as fast of lap times as Hibbert in their separate heat races.
On green in the final, Kamm and Kyle Pallin grabbed the early edge on their Polaris sleds, but Hibbert looked like a man with a plan. As the pack of sleds approached the second turn, Hibbert carried in a lot of momentum and swung out wide. The problem was that Kamm was headed toward the same spot at a different angle. The two touched, and Hibbert ended up off the track – he would rejoin after the finish line in 10th spot in the 15-sled final.
Up front, Kamm started to open up a lead as behind him sleds were going three wide down the backstretch. Ski-Doo veteran Tim Tremblay quickly moved past Pallin into second, Pallin hung onto third, then there was a slight gap back to Johan Lidman in fourth and David Joanis in fifth. As could be expected, Hibbert started battling through traffic, and five laps in he had already moved up to sixth place, 8 seconds behind Kamm.
The problem for those looking for an upset was that Hibbert was coming on strong, and there were 17 laps left in the race. But Hibbert’s roll toward the front soon stalled out. He made his way past Joanis and then Lidman, but chasing down third-place Pallin took a lot of work. Hibbert would get close one lap if Pallin would bobble, but then Pallin would take back a little bit the next lap if he ran it well. Plus, there was a lot of lapped traffic and some yellow-flag areas that restricted jumping and passing.
It was the same up front: Every couple of laps, Tremblay would close on Kamm and get within a couple of sled lengths going into a corner, but then Kamm would accelerate harder out of the corner and re-open his lead.
Each of those battle tightened up severely in the last couple of laps, and they led to a surprising finish. Tremblay made a dramatic charge on a tiring Kamm down the front stretch, pulling nearly even over the tabletop finish line and then winning the drag race into the first turn to take the lead. Kamm fought back immediately, squaring up the corner and cutting back beneath Tremblay as they came upon a lapped sled on the corner’s exit.
Kamm took the lead back while, at the same time, not leaving Tremblay any reasonable line to get past the lapped sled. Tremblay slammed into that sled and ejected, throwing away a podium finish in the process.
At nearly the same time, Hibbert had an extremely rare single-sled accident of his own – coming off a jump crosswise and then coming off the right side of his sled on the landing. He scrambled to his feet and began chasing down his sled, but his run at the podium was also over.
Kamm was all alone at the front, and he complete the race in style, taking the checkered flag high over the finish line, while flames shot out of the finish line decorative feature that ISOC uses. Overjoyed, the 19-year-old Pro class sophomore from Kenosha, Wisconsin, thrust his arms in the air.
“Oh man, I definitely had an awesome start, then in the first turn I bumped with Tucker a little bit,” Kamm told trackside announcer Carly Aplin immediately after the race. “Then, on the white flag lap, Tremblay passed me but I was able to square up the turn and took it back… I feel awesome right now!”
Through all the carnage, Pallin hung tough and brought his Mystic Oils/Loctite Polaris home in second. And his smile seemed even broader than Kamm’s on the podium.
“I was having a terrible day, I had terrible holeshots in my [heat race] rounds, barely got [onto the front row] in the final,” said Pallin, 21, of Ironwood, Michigan. “But then I thought, I’m going to get the holeshot all the way from the outside. I got a great jump and came out side-by-side with Kody.”
Pro rookie David Joanis, 21, of Ontario, was similarly beaming after his first Pro Open podium finish on his Christian Brother Arctic Cat.
“The last few laps were just unreal, there were people going down and I didn’t know what place I was in in the first place,” Joanis said. “I can definitely say I was pushing as hard as I could right until the last lap, right until the checkered flag.”
Justin Broberg moved up to fourth on his Polaris, followed by Lidman on a Ski-Doo, then a recovering Hibbert in sixth.
UPDATE: After the race, Hibbert was disqualified for jumping his sled in a yellow flag area. The incident occurred when Hibbert was trying to get past Pallin with 3-4 laps left.
Pro-Lite Final Even More Dramatic
In perhaps the roughest race we’ve seen in years, the Pro Lite final Friday night provided a ton of entertainment and seemingly endless footage for the guys that like to make the smash and crash videos.
Right off the start, there were sleds literally everywhere on the tight track at Deadwood. Right off the start, there were two incidents that seemed like they would doom two of the class’s top performers. Travis Muller was in a three-sled pileup that ended up with him underneath his sled, while at nearly the same time class points leader Andrew Carlson was forced off the outside of the course and had to rejoin the race from the very back – except not behind Muller, Andy Lieders and the other sled that was in that mess.
Up front, James Johnstad got a good start and grabbed a lead, but behind him there was dramatic crash after dramatic crash throughout the first two-thirds of the race. On the front stretch, on the back stretch, single-sled offs and multi-sled tie-ups, drivers who were at the back and guys that were running for podium positions were all involved in crazy accidents on the short and gnarly/sugary track. Then, even the leader went down, as Johnstad came off his Polaris on the front stretch and then got tangled up with it – a crash that left his virtually crawling toward the infield.
Coming through this amazing minefield was New York native Corin Todd on his Leighton Racing Polaris. He would end up winning by 13 seconds. The rest of the podium? That was the real story. Carlson worked his way through the rest of the field and finished second in an amazing run that was only topped by Muller’s incredible charge. From underneath his sled and tied up with two other machines all the way to a podium position? We don’t know if we’ve seen that in a modern snocross race that has a full field.
“It was a long race, I just had to pick lines pretty carefully and keep my head about me,” Todd said afterwards.
Carlson admitted to be “a little upset” when he got off the track on that first lap but said he could tell he was moving up pretty far by watching his crew members’ signals from the infield.