Veteran racer Ross Martin is giving notice to the snocross racing world that those who planned to count him out may have been getting ahead of themselves, and not him.
As one of the oldest Pro Open competitors on the circuit, Martin’s slow start to the 2014-15 season may have caused some to think, “is he finally slowing down,” as some do late in their careers. Friday night, he resoundingly answered “NO!” by winning the Pro Open final on a cold night at the Pirtek Snocross National at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.
By doing so, he put himself back into the discussion when people talk about racers who could challenge snocross superstar Tucker Hibbert on any given weekend.
Hibbert, meanwhile, saw his quest for his 100th Pro division victory put on hold. After a mediocre start, Hibbert battled up to second place but came off his sled after getting into turn one too hot and out of control. He remounted, but finished off the top spot of the podium for the first time this year.
The Pro Open Final
The Arctic Cats of Hibbert and Logan Christian swept their way through the heat races and went into the final as the No. 1 and No. 2 qualifiers, respectively. They were followed in heat points by the Polaris sleds of Kody Kamm, and Kyle Pallin, then the Cat of David Joanis, then the Polaris of rookie Corin Todd and the Ski-Doo import John Stenberg. The veterans Ross Martin (eighth) and Tim Tremblay (10th) barely avoided a trip through the last chance qualifier.
Somewhat surprisingly, Hibbert chose an odd starting position — second from the outside — for the final, with only Stenberg on his right. Starting toward the outside can be risky, and one spot closer to the center leaves a racer in a position to potentially get pinched off when the field narrows for the first bend.
That’s exactly what happened when the starting light turned green for the 16-lap final. Hibbert got pinched and came down the front stretch in about seventh. Up front, meanwhile, Tremblay’s No. 11 Ski-Doo and Martin’s No. 837 Polaris were showing the way. Tremblay charged past the finish line on the first half-lap with the lead, but then Martin caught huge air and tripled into turn one.
The battle between those two racers was very intense and entertaining for the first few laps. In one corner, Martin would charge under Tremblay to grab the top spot, but then in the next Tremblay would undercut Martin and take the lead back. Soon Kamm got by Kyle Pallin and was snapping at the snowflaps of Martin and Tremblay as the top three ran close together.
Martin moved past Tremblay to start lap four, and then Kamm locked onto Tremblay’s tail. While the two of them battles, Martin started to open a small gap at the front, and Hibbert moved in right behind Kamm looking for a route to the front.
They ran that way for about two more laps, then Hibbert cut past Kamm and immediately started pressuring Tremblay. It didn’t take Hibbert long to get that spot. Martin had a four-second lead, but history has proven that’s not much when Hibbert is on his game, and Hibbert had clear track ahead of him.
On lap 8, Hibbert cut .3 of a second off of Martin’s lead — a nice snip, but the race was now moving past the halfway point; he’d need more. Perhaps feeling the pressure, Hibbert went for a triple and got into turn 1 of the next lap too deep and too hot, bailed off his sled and his No. 68 Cat ironically plowed right through a tall banner of Ram Trucks — one of Hibbert’s primary sponsors. While Hibbert chased his sled on foot, five drivers passed him for position, and Martin moved away into the distance.
Martin would never be seriously challenged up front. His laps weren’t always silky smooth on the rough track, but they were fast and efficient. He stormed away to the victory.
Behind him, Kamm tried to battle his way back up to Tremblay, but the strong Quebec driver held on to claim second, with Wisconsite Kamm third and Hibbert working his way all the way back up to fourth ahead of Christian, Pallin and Jake Scott.
After the race, Martin looked elated. He was congratulated by Tremblay in a corner — the two had traded paint early in the race, but all appeared to be forgiven as Tremblay stopped his sled near Martin, patted him on the back several times, followed by a thumb’s up sign and a high five.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Martin said during an interview of the P.A. system after the race. He said he started to regain his confidence by finishing second at the race near Fargo, North Dakota in mid-December, then got some quality testing and riding time with his team during the holiday break. It obviously paid off for the Polaris driver from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sponsors include Axalta, Jack Links, Amsoil, Rock Star Energy and Klim.
Tremblay was concise in the post-race interview, saying he had “a pretty good race” early but then lost the lead to Martin, “and he was just faster than me tonight.”
“I got a decent jump on the start, but me and Kyle [Pallin] ran into each other and I had to let off,” Kamm explained post-race. He said he came out of the first turn in about fifth and battled back up to Tremblay and Martin, “but then they got away from me.”
Being off the podium, Hibbert wasn’t around for a post-race interview. But he posted this one social media:
“I gave it my all. I was seventh off the start and charged hard to get into second. I was closing no. 837’s four-second gap then got ejected off my sled on the landing of a jump. By the time I got going again, I was way back but kept charging to finish fourth. Tonight wasn’t my night and that’s okay. I’m healthy and ready to go for #WONhundred tomorrow!”
Remember to enter your team now for the Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game sponsored by Amsoil and Snow Goer. Even if you’re not a “regular” in the game, the winner based on Saturday’s singular results will win a prize package. Click here to enter your team. It’s easy, free and fun, but all entries are due by 3 p.m. eastern/2 central/1 pacific Saturday afternoon.
We’ll add the ISOC official press release and photos to this post as soon as we get it, and it will include details on the Pro-Lite victory scored by Arctic Cat racer Corey Watkinson.
UPDATE: Here’s the ISOC story.
MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 9, 2015) – The extreme cold temps did nothing to freeze the confidence of Ross Martin (Judnick/DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris), who took charge of Friday’s AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram PIRTEK Snocross National, presented by Jimmy John’s, in the early laps and ran ‘er through strong at checkers for the win.
And capturing 1st place in the Pro Lite main event at Canterbury was Canadian Corey Watkinson (RJ Motorsports/Arctic Cat), scoring his first-ever professional class victory on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross tour.
All eyes were on Monster Energy/Arctic Cat/Ram’s Tucker Hibbert at the start of the Pro Open main. The No. 1 qualifier was undefeated this season and sitting on 99 career wins. But Hibbert would get pinched at the start, forced to the outside (8th place off the line), while former Pro Open champ Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Scheuring/Ski-Doo) pulled the Stud Boy Holeshot, followed closely by Martin.
Tremblay and Martin would briefly swap the lead a couple times in the first few corners before Martin set Tremblay up by tripling out of the finish line jump and railing to the lead around the first turn. From there Martin was absolutely masterful, with famed AMSOIL Championship Snocross announcer Mike Schroeder calling out “The Boss is back!” to the Canterbury faithful that braved the cold temps to watch what amounted to the best main event of the year thus far.
“Unbelievable,” said Martin atop the podium. “This is where I belong. My confidence is back and I’m going for it … so look out!”
With Martin up front attention turned to the battle for 2nd and 3rd between Tremblay and Kody Kamm (Hentges Racing/Polaris). Tremblay would ride a wide sled and hold off Kamm, the two bumping but keeping the momentum going. This would allow Martin to extend his lead, while Hibbert was charging up through the pack.
Great racing continued through the mid-race laps as Hibbert moved past Kamm and into 3rd, then got past Tremblay on lap seven – setting his site on frontrunner Martin, who had a five-second lead. With six laps to go Hibbert cut Martin’s lead to four seconds, but came down awkward off the triple behind the finish line (where he previously passed Tremblay) and had to throw it away so he wouldn’t overshoot the first corner. Hibbert was able to remount, but by then Martin, Tremblay and Kamm were gone – as was the hopes for his 100th win tonight.
As Martin continued to rail up front, his lead grew to 7.5 seconds over Tremblay. Riding consistently and hitting all his marks, Martin scored his first win of the year, upsetting both Hibbert’s four-race undefeated streak and his quest for 100 wins.
“Canterbury’s always been good to me,” added Martin. “The team worked so hard over the break getting my sled set up to where I want it and it all came together tonight. We just had to get this done.”
Tremblay would run pretty much uncontested into 2nd place, with Kamm following in 3rd.
Said Tremblay: “I had a pretty good race. Had the lead, but Ross got around me. He was faster tonight, but I’m happy with 2nd place.”
Rounding out the top five were Logan Christian (Christian Brothers Racing/Arctic Cat) in 4th and Hibbert in 5th.
Canterbury Friday Pro Open Results
1 – Ross Martin, Burlington, WI, Polaris
2 – Tim Tremblay, Ste Jeanne D’Arc, Quebec, Ski-Doo
3 – Kody Kamm, Kenosha, WI, Polaris
4 – Tucker Hibbert, Pelican Rapids, MN, Arctic Cat
5 – Logan Christian, Fertile, MN, Arctic Cat
6 – Kyle Pallin, Ironwood, MI, Polaris
7 – Jake Scott, Port Jefferson Station, NJ, Polaris
8 – David Joanis, Cochrane, Ontario, Arctic Cat
9 – Corin Todd, Otego, NY, Polaris
10 – Cody Thomsen, Nisswa, MN, Arctic Cat
Overall Pro Open Points (5 of 16 rounds)
1 – Tucker Hibbert, 211
2 – Tim Tremblay, 173
3 – Kyle Pallin, 169
4 – Logan Christian, 156
5 – Kody Kamm, 152
A big pile up on the first turn in Friday’s Pro Lite final at Canterbury’s PIRTEK National saw 2nd place overall Zak Mason (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) pull the Stud Boy Holeshot – then crash and collect teammate Trevor Leighton (3rd overall in points). The accident rendered both the No. 1 (Leighton) and No. 2 (Mason) qualifying sleds out of the running for tonight’s Pro Lite podium.
Benefitting from the carnage (which Mason and Leighton were both able to get up from and keep racing) was RJ Motorsports/Arctic Cat’s Corey Watkinson. Watkinson inherited the lead and rode a clean 11-lap Pro Lite main – uncontested – through to the checkers.
“The big key was getting that start. I was lucky enough to get away from the carnage there in corner two. Just rode consistent and in control and got the win,” said Watkinson. “The guys got the sled working awesome, ran smooth and rode it the way I wanted.
“Finally got my first win in Pro Lites. Got the monkey off my back and hope to keep it going.”
Pursuing Watkinson, but never getting closer than 11 seconds back, were James Johnstad (Judnick Motorsports/Polaris) and Ryan Springer (Carlson Motorsports/Polaris). Springer actually had 2nd place up through the last lap before being caught and passed by Johnstad on the final straight away before the checkers.
“I knew coming out of the LCQ it wasn’t going to be easy. Just ran it to the outside there and was able to make it up to the podium,” said Johnstad, who was the only top five overall points racer coming into Canterbury to make the podium.
As it would be both Johnstad and Springer had to come through the LCQ to make tonight’s Pro Lite main, both starting from the back row and working though the field to make the podium.
Rounding out the top five in Friday’s PIRTEK Snocross National Pro Lite class at Canterbury were Cottew Motorsports/Polaris’ Travis Muller in 4th and Carlson Motorsports/Polaris’ Andrew Carlson in 5th.
Canterbury Friday Pro Lite Results
1 – Corey Watkinson, Port Carling, ONT, Arctic Cat
2 – Ryan Springer, St. Francis, MN, Polaris
3 – James Johnstad, Beltrami, MN, Polaris
4 – Travis Muller, Windom, MN, Polaris
5 – Andre Carlson, Big Lake, MN, Polaris
6 – Kevin Wallenstein, Cadillac, MI, Ski-Doo
7 – Elias Ishoel, Norway, Ski-Doo
8 – Michael George, Pine Plains, NY, Arctic Cat
9 – Trevor Leighton, Eagle, ID, Polaris
10 – Marcus Johansson, Norway, Ski-Doo
Overall Pro Lite Points (5 of 16 rounds)
1 – Elias Ishoel, 172
2 – Trevor Leighton, 171
3 – Zak Mason, 161
4 – James Johnstad, 158
5 – Andrew Carlson, 151
AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, continues on Saturday night at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., Jan. 10, for the Pirtek Snocross National, presented by Jimmy John’s.
Beginning with AMSOIL Championship Snocross’ season-opening round in Duluth, Minn. and running through the season finale in Lake Geneva, Wis., CBS Sports Network will air 17 one-hour programs of the ACS races.
2014-15 AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, season schedule:
Duluth, Minn.: Nov. 28-30
Fargo, N.D.: Dec. 12-13
Shakopee, Minn.: Jan. 9-10
Deadwood, S.D.: Jan. 30-31
Salamanca, N.Y.: Feb. 6-7
Chicago, Ill.: Feb. 20-21
Mount Pleasant, Mich.: Feb. 27-28
Lake Geneva, Wis.: March 13-15
Photos courtesy of Lissa Marsolek/ISOC
About ISOC Racing
The International Series of Champions (ISOC) is the premier snowmobile race sanctioning organization in North America and sanctions national AMSOIL Championship Snocross, in addition to affiliating with nine regional circuits. Visit www.isocracing.com for more information, fan and racer memberships, schedule details and more.