ELK RIVER, Minn. — With some 3.5 million gallons of water pumped through multiple ski area-style snow-making machines, Elk River’s (Minn.) Extreme Motorpark (ERX) delivered — despite the spring conditions in Minnesota — the season’s biggest track to date to test the world’s top professional snocross racers at round 13 of the 2011-12 Amsoil Championship Snocross Series (ACSS) — the ERX National, presented by Heinen Motorsports. And walking away with top honors in the premier Pro Open class was Ski-Doo racer Robbie Malinoski, while Travis Muller (Ski-Doo) took the support Pro Lite main event.
As 50-second laps and numerous rhythm sections put the racers in the air more than they were on the snow, the ERX course was likely the most grueling test in terms of overall conditioning that the ACSS athletes have seen all year. A sizable crowd packed into ERX grandstands and lined the fences on Friday night.
Amsoil ERX National Pro Open Friday Final
While Minnesota homeboy Malinoski was light years faster than anyone at ERX on Friday, taking the checkers by a mile, the big news was the mechanical breakdown of Polaris’ Ross Martin — who was running a close second in the overall points to Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo) heading into Friday night’s race. The DNF, coupled with Tremblay’s solid runner-up finish to Malinoski, puts Tremblay up by 29 points over Malinoski (467-438), who leapfrogged Martin (435 points) into second place overall with three races/two rounds remaining on the 2011-12 ACSS tour.
Pulling the massive 100-plus yard long holeshot was Malinoski. In tight on Malinoski early was Martin, and racing well all weekend, Polaris’ Brett Bender, was close in third place. Several turns into the opening lap defending ACSS Pro Open champion Tucker Hibbert (Arctic Cat) managed to jar his safety tether loose, the third-straight week that’s happened to the champion. So having gone from seventh place to fourth place in a quarter lap, Hibbert was relegated to the back of the Pro Open field on the very first lap.
Moments after Hibbert’s problem an even bigger issue took place in terms of the overall Pro Open title chase. Martin slowed to a halt on the side of the track, got off his sled, ripped his goggles off and chucked them in disgust. A huge, though not fatal, blow dealt to Martin’s title hopes.
With six laps to go in the 14-lap main event Malinoski continued to put time on the field. Tremblay would get past Bender and Martin (by default) and moved into second place, though Malinoski would continue to put time on the current Pro Open points leader though the checkers (8.8 seconds by race’s end). Bender would score his first podium of the year with a great day of racing and Hibbert would crash trying to catch up and ended up outside the top five.
Said Malinoski: “I live about 40 miles from here and consider ERX to be my home track. [I] came out swinging in the final and my Ski-Doo was just a rocket ship off the starting line. The team really had an awesome setup tonight.”
Added Bender: “I’m so excited … it’s been a long time coming this year. [I] dislocated my shoulder and all the other nonsense … feels so good to get up here.”
Sledhead 24/7 Pro Lite Friday Final
Kody Kamm’s multi-race Pro Light winning streak came to a halt at ERX on Friday, though the Polaris racer still enjoys a sizable lead over Derek Ellis (Ski-Doo) in the overall points chase. Winning on Friday was Minnesota’s own Travis Muller (Ski-Doo), recording his first win of the season in a thrilling come-from-behind race in which he beat Polaris’ Jake Scott to the finish line by 3/10ths of a second.
Kamm railed out to the early lead and, much like he has the past three races, looked to be in line to check out. But a mistake on the back rhythm section would send Kamm off the track — and glancing off a telephone pole. Fortunately the points leader was uninjured and his sled was still running so he was able to rejoin the race outside the top five.
Bombing through traffic toward the front, right around the time Kamm exited the track, was Muller — who took the lead from Kamm and was never challenged through the checkers. Scott and Ellis would battle hard during the mid laps of the nine-lap contest before passing Ellis and making it stick.
Said Muller: “That was the best race I’ve had all year. I’ve been waiting a long time for that and had a lot of hard work finally pay off.”
Added Scott: “That was probably the best race of my life. I got a good holeshot and held on for second. Thanks a lot to my trainer Nick for helping me get in shape. Man that was fun!”