Tucker Hibbert continued his undefeated early season on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series Friday night in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but it wasn’t easy.
The most decorated racer in the history of modern snocross racing swept his heats and went into the final as the No. 1 qualifier. But a poor start on the starting line had Hibbert buried deep in traffic and he almost became an afterthought. But in the last two laps, he made a heroic charge, and then on the last lap made a dramatic pass over longtime friend and training partner Logan Christian to claim his third victory.
With the win, Hibbert is three-for-three this year in Pro class finals, and he’s also won five of the six heat races in which he’s qualified.
A Different Path To Greatness
Both Cat-mounted Tucker Hibbert and his new primarily rival – Polaris racer Kody Kamm – swept their two qualifying heats, making them the top two racers to watch once again in the final. The final was actually run earlier than normal – 6:05 p.m. local (mountain) time due to a compromise with city officials this fall that allowed the locally controversial event to be held in this high-end, typically skiing-focused mountain town.
Due to the inverted starting rules initiated starting last year, Hibbert’s and Kamm’s hard work in the heats would garner them the 8th and 9th picks for starting positions in the final, so they ended up side-by-side on the starting line toward the far-inside, with only last-chance qualifier winner Corin Todd lined up further inside on the 10-wide row.
On green, though, it was the middle of the starting lineup that got the dramatic jump, and the No. 52 Arctic Cat of Johan Lidman in particular. Lidman was followed by Kristoffer Holm on his multi-colored Polaris. Neither one of the two Scandinavian racers – Lidman from Sweden and Holm from Norway – raced on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series last season. Lidman, though, had raced here before; Holm is a complete newcomer. A third Scandinavian – Polaris racer Petter Narsa from Sweden, grabbed third place.
Meanwhile, Hibbert finished the first lap in twelth and Kamm in eighth – both were stuck deep in traffic.
The first North American racer to make a forward move was Cat’s Logan Christian. The Fertile, Minnesota, native started in fourth and moved quickly to third with a pass on Narsa and then took off after Holm while Lidman opened a nice lead up front. Kamm, meanwhile, was dicing through traffic as well.
By lap 4 of the 22-lap final, it was Lidman by 2.99 seconds over Holm, then Christian, Kamm, and Narsa in the top five. They were followed by Lincoln Lemieux (Ski-Doo), Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), Kyle Pallin (Polaris) and Hibbert, with Jake Angove (Polaris) rounding out the top 10. Next game Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo), Ryan Springer (Ski-Doo), Brett Nastala (Arctic Cat), Nick Pattyn (Arctic Cat)and Corin Todd (Polaris).
Christian’s Cat was particularly strong on the big uphill, and he used that to gain second position from Holm on lap 7. Later on the same lap, Kamm used the place where he was strongest – the big downhill – to get by Holm and into third place.
At the halfway point, it was Lidman with a still-comfortable three-second gap to Christian, then Kamm. Tremblay moved up to fourth, then came Narsa, Pallin and Lemieux, with Hibbert still way back in eighth. Angove, Renheim, Holm, Springer, Nastala, Pattyn and Todd rounded out the field.
Soon Kamm and Christian started a very interesting battle for second. Kamm proved more gutsy on the downhill, bombing it with confidence and catching Christian by the bottom virtually every lap, but then Christian had superior lines and superior power on the uphill and would open a substantial gap.
Sometimes, battles for position like this seem to hold any two racers back, but these two guys were putting in excellent laps and getting the best of each other, and soon they caught up with Lidman – by about lap 15 you could throw a blanket over the top three on the downhill!
The three-way battle didn’t last long, though, as Christian began showing new confidence on the downhill and blasted past Lidman, and Kamm immediately followed through to grab second with Lidman third.
On about lap 18, though, there was a brief moment of chaos. About two-thirds of the way up the hill, a racer from deep in the pack crashed and course workers were waving yellow flags – signifying a no-jumping/no-passing zone on the track. Logan’s seemed to catch the signal late – he caught some air, reacted, slammed on the brakes and almost went over the handlebars. Kamm went by the leader on the outside but then he slammed on the brakes, seemingly knowing that a pass under the yellow could result in his own disqualification and giving the lead back to Christian.
They seemed to straighten it ou, themselves and the race continued, but Kamm later did a stop-and-go for race officials for his yellow pass.
Christian appeared to be rolling toward an historic victory – other than having trouble getting past the lapped sled of Pallin – but suddenly Hibbert was up to fourth and charging hard. A short blink later, and he was in second at the top of the hill, but seemed to choose a bad line on the downhill, which allowed Christian to get to the white flag with a bit of a gap again.
Back up the hill they went for the last time, and Christian looked somewhat secure in his lead, but when Christian let up on the gas for the elbow turn at the hilltop, Hibbert was fully committed – he squaring up and diving his No. 68 Arctic Cat under the matching Cat of his racing friend, grabbing the lead and then winning the sprint down the hill to take a dynamic victory.
Christian finished 1.7 seconds back in second, followed by Kamm, Lidman and Tremblay. The next five in order were Lemieux, Renheim, Narsa and Pallin, with Holm rounding out the top ten. Springer, Todd, Nastala, Angove and Pattyn rounded out the final.
The Night Crew, One-And-Two
Arctic Cat racers Tucker Hibbert and Logan Christian have become fast friends and training buddies, referring to themselves as “The Night Crew” when riding together at the Christian Bros. test track in Fertile, Minnesota.
After the race when interviewed over the P.A. by ISOC’s Kate Osborne, Hibbert recapped the race.
“This race was completely different than the two races at Duluth, where I was out front pretty much the entire race,” Hibbert said. “I had to work for this one, I only led like a quarter of a lap of the race, but it was the one that counted I guess.
“It was just a terrible start – I was getting great starts in my qualifiers but was asleep at the line that time, I don’t know what the deal was, but I checked up and came out OK but [then] had a terrible first lap down the hill and got shuffled all the way to the back pretty much. It was a gnarly race – it was not pretty or smooth or a lot of fun for me (laughs), but we got the job done,” Hibbert said.
He was also excited for – and maybe just a tiny bit guilty feeling about – the man who was standing next to him on the podium, Logan Christian.
“Congratulations to my buddy Logan – I feel a little bit bad that I had to steal a win from him but am super pumped for him to be up here on the podium with me and celebrate ‘the night crew’ together,” Hibbert said.
For Christian – a popular racer who has had occasional podiums over the years but who has also had to deal with some injuries – it wasn’t a victory, but it was still justification for his hard work and dedication.
“I’ve always got in my head that I’m with these top three guys, you know, I want to be up here, this is what I work hard for and what I’m training all summer to do, to be up here” on the post-race podium box, Christian said. “It feels good to finally get this first podium [of the year] out of the way.
“I got a little tight right away being in third and wanted to catch those first two guys pretty quick, but it was a really fun race. Tucker had a good pass on me up top, just like at the practice track.”
In a rare show of frustration over the p.a. system, Kamm was a bit bitter after the race.
“I got called for jumping under yellow but it was kind of stupid, I did everything I had to do to make them not completely black flag me, but I’m obviously not real happy to be here in third place when I was up front the whole race,” Kamm said.
Racing continues Saturday in Jackson Hole with the fourth round of ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross racing. Make sure to get your selections made for the Snow Goer Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game – it’s easy to play, free and fun.