Will Tucker Hibbert continue his unbeaten string?
Will defending points champions TJ Gulla (Pro Open) and Levi Lavallee (Pro Stock) show some early season muscle? Maybe Brett Bender’s start will continue to rise, or Garth Kaufman will fight his way to the front.
And what about Robbie Malinoski, running his first race on the black Amsoil sleds in front of the Amsoil brass at the Amsoil Duluth National on the Amsoil Championship Snocross Circuit? You want to talk about pressure!
The track is built, the pits are filling and the racing is about to begin on the national snocross scene. It’s time to line up the sleds and separate the tough talk from the BS. Let’s take a look at the leading competitors, then go to our Message Boards to make your predictions:
No. 68 – Tucker Hibbert: The sport’s most talented driver competed in four race weekends last year and won all eight finals. He then claimed X Games gold on his Arctic Cat before leaving the sport for motocross.
No. 44 – TJ Gulla: Claimed his third class championship last year, though he won only two races on his Polaris. Strong, consistent veteran driver from Vermont.
No. 108 – Levi Lavallee Accomplished and personable snocross and freestyle star who earned the Pro Stock points title last year and finished third in Pro Open. Minnesota driver has a new Polaris team this year.
No. 48 – Garth Kaufman Had 11 top 5 finishes last year en route to second in points in Pro Stock and fourth in Pro Open on his Arctic Cats. This former acclaimed freestyle video star has proved tough to beat on the track as well.
No. 19 – Brett Bender Second-generation racer finished second in Pro Open points last year and is considered a rising star for Polaris. The Boston, New York, native won three Pro finals last year en route to the ISOC Rookie Of The Year award.
No. 57 – Ryan Simons Alberta native qualified for every Pro final last year and had two podiums at this Duluth track last year. Finished fifth in Pro Open points and fourth in Pro Stock on his Cats.
No. 2 – Steve Taylor Veteran racer returns to Ski-Doo this year after competing the past two years on Yamahas. Strong showing at last year’s X Games shows this BC native still has a ton of talent.
No. 4 – Robbie Malinoski Former two-time Pro points champion switches to the Schuering Speed Sports team this year, and most expect this Saskatchewan racer to do very well on the black sleds.
No. 837 – Ross Martin
Don’t forget about this Polaris racer – he’s a two-time Pro Open points champion who is coming off an injury. Wisconsin racer is hungry to get back in the action.
No. 93 – Iain Hayden Talented Canadian is flying the Yamaha flag again this year, meaning he’ll only be in the Pro Open class. Definitely worth watching. Update Hayden will not be at Duluth this weekend — he’ll be attending a CSRA race instead.
Other Notables: Hometown boy Bobby LePage (No. 244 Pol) moves up to a full-time pro this year, as does Paul Bauerly (No. 24 Cat), Cory Davis (No. 160 Cat), Christian Salemark (No. 8 Doo), Dan Ebert (No. 60 Cat), Wes Selby (No. 15 Cat) and Tim Tremblay (No. 11 Doo). European champ Emil Ohman (No. 27 Doo) makes his North American debut at Duluth, while speedy up-and-comers Zach Pattyn (No. 99 Cat) and Andrew Johnstad (No. 255 Pol) shouldn’t be overlooked, not should Matt Piche (No. 51), who moves from Cat to Polaris this year. Parker Brown (No. 119 Pol) is aiming to be the next big thing from the mountain west, while Matt Judnick (No. 58 Pol) looks for more consistent finishes.
Ready to make your picks? We’ll have a little selection pool on our Trash Talkers Message Board for Sunday’s Pro Open final. Make your picks by late Saturday to enter — you could win a prize but, more importantly, bragging rights.