We’re guessing you won’t find Ross Martin in the bars in Duluth, Minnesota, tonight. He’s far too serious of a racer for that, with a full weekend of racing ahead of him. But, if you do happen to see him out, go ahead and ask him to pick up your tab: He can afford it.
For the second consecutive years, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Polaris racer won the Amsoil Dominator showdown race in grand style, and with it he got an oversized $10,000 check presented to him on the podium at Spirit Mountain.
The Amsoil Dominator – a specialty race event that takes 16 top Pro Open racers and pairs them off in one-on-one bracket style races – kicks off a full weekend of racing for the top pros. The points racing starts on Saturday; tonight, it was all about chasing one big check.
After especially harried semi-finals, Martin faced off against Tucker Hibbert in the final and won with relative ease to claim the big check.
Winter showed up just 24 hours earlier. After rumors started floating around the snowmobile world about whether the race would be possible given a warmer-than-normal November, ISOC officials let the cat out of the bag on Tuesday: Yes, the host Spirit Mountain Ski Hill had in fact made enough snow for the races to go forward, albeit on a smaller than normal track. With the Dominator event schedule for just 2.5 laps per one-on-one showdown, the holeshot would be ultra-important, as each lap lasted about a minute.
Friday’s racing also featured three finals in some of the support classes. We’ll get to them, but let’s start with the big money.
The Dominator race was the brainchild of Amsoil officials. Headquartered in neighboring Superior, Wisconsin, Amsoil is the title sponsor of the year-long ISOC Amsoil Championship Series and chief sponsor on this race weekend – the Amsoil Duluth National. To spice it up, the company introduced the Dominator race last year to give the crowd a thrill and the top racers something big to chase on Friday night.
The field of 16 racers was determined by a combination of last year’s final points standings and some qualifying times. The racers were then set up bracket style in heads-up competitions. In each very quick race, the winner would move on while the loser was directed to his trailer.
Round one featured no major upsets. Defending ISOC points champion Tim Tremblay pulled away early in the first heat against Derek Ellis and won by a second and a half. Heat two featuring the matching Mystic Oil/Loctite-sponsored sleds of teammates Levi LaVallee and recent Polaris convert Kyle Pallin. Ever the showman, LaVallee did a heel-clicker halfway up the hill on the first lap, even though Pallin was still close, but LaVallee stayed out front to claim the heat victory.
The closest heat, for the first half-lap anyway, featured Pro sophomores Darrin Mees (Schuering Speed Sports Ski-Doo) and Cody Thomsen (factory Arctic Cat). Thomsen started with the preferred inside line as the two drag raced down the hill, but Mees undercut him going through the first turn and seemed to surprise Thomsen, who tipped over and fell far behind the eventual winner.
Tucker Hibbert made easy work of fellow Cat racer Logan Christian in heat four, while Ross Martin looked super-charged in his opening heat against Tucker’s cousin, Garth Kauffman, in heat five. Much-hyped first-year pro Kody Kamm ran the fastest laps of the first round as he dispatched Swede Emil Ohman in heat six. Two other Swedish racers also got eliminated in the next two heats, with Adam Renheim losing to Robbie Malinoski and Petter Narsa losing to Justin Broberg. Quickly, the field was paired to eight.
When the Pro open sled returned to the track, LaVallee officially announced that he should not be overlooked this season by defeating points champ Trembley in the first quarterfinal. Hibbert got the early lead and eliminated Mees in the second quarterfinal.
The much-anticipated third quarterfinal didn’t live up to its billing, as Martin got the early lead on Kamm and won relatively easily. Kamm was fast and loose behind Martin, driving a bit wild while he tried to quickly close the gap. Malinoski’s track hooked up on the starting line in the other quarterfinal while Broberg’s track spun and searched for traction. That led to an easy win for Malinoski’s black No. 4.
The Final Four
The two semifinals were, beyond a doubt, the best races of the night. There was contact between the racers in each. Who can blame them – with $10k on the line, you’ve got to be willing to push!
In the first semifinal, Hibbert nailed the holeshot and led the sprint toward turn 1 against LaVallee, but Levi was charging going up the hill. On the turnaround up top, both drivers went in too hard, and both tipped over and got off their sleds. Suddenly, the sport’s two most popular drivers were both scrambling to their feet, as each tried to refire their dead sleds. The sleds sparked up simultaneously, and it appeared that LaVallee had a perfect line to win the sprint to the waving while flag, but Hibbert quickly put on a block, pulling into that line and causing LaVallee to check up. That’s all the legendary Cat racer needed, as he held on during the last 1.5 laps.
The second semifinal was a rematch of last year’s Dominator final: Martin vs. Malinoski. The two came down the hill to the waving green flag side-by-side, but Malinoski had the preferred inside line going through the first turn. Martin braked early, undercut Malinoski at the exit of the turn and the two bumped, causing Malinoski’s left hand to come off of his handlebars. Looking more determined than even but now trailing, Malinoski charged up the hill like his hair was on fire, but he blew through the berm in the turn. Martin won easily.
The final was less eventful, but far more profitable for Martin. Hibbert lined up on the inside of Martin, but Martin railed round the outside berm in the first turn and captured a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. Less than a minute later, he was charging past the waving checkered flag and punching his fist in the air to celebrate his victory.
Amsoil officials presented Martin with a $10,000 check and the oddest-looking trophy in the sport – it was cobbled together from parts purchased in the swap meet at Haydays this past September.
“I’ve got the perfect spot for it – right next to the other one” from last year, and overjoyed Martin said on the podium.
Junior & Sport Finals
In Junior 14-15, Grant Glashagel of Ingleside, Illinois, was the class of the field. He was the No. 1 qualifier based on his heat race results, and then he launched off the line to a massive holeshot and never looked back. He quickly built a 4-plus second lead early and was working through lapped traffic within about three laps. He stormed away to the win on his Cat. Nick Lorenz of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was a solid second throughout on his Polaris, with Austin St. Cyr moving up through traffic to take third.
Some of those same racers returned in the very next race by bumping up to race the high school kids in the Junior 16-17 class, and St. Cyr (fourth) and Lorentz (fifth) fared quite well, but the podium was dominated by the “older” guys. Ian Buckman of Illinois was the No. 1 qualifier, and like Glashagel before him, he grabbed the holeshot and never looked back. If he had looked back, however, he would have seen that CSRA racer Blake Taylor of Ontario was usually within 5 to 10 sled lengths, but Taylor never really challenged for the lead. Ryan Trout claimed third.
Zak Mason of Gaylord, Michigan, held off Ontario’s Braydon Love to claim victory in Friday night’s Sport final. Love had an early lead but Mason passed him by committing to a triple-jump a couple of laps in and held the point for the rest of the race. Mason has to be considered one of the favorites to claim the Sport class championship this year after finishing third overall last year. He has switched from Ski-Doo to Polaris this year. Jesse James Bonaduce of New Jersey took third on his Ingles Performance Ski-Doo.
Racing continues throughout the weekend — keep checking back to snowgoer.com for more details.