Three rounds into the 2015-16 Amsoil Championship Snocross season, there have been three different winners on three different brands. Friday night at the Buffalo River Race Park in far western Minnesota near Fargo, North Dakota, Tim Tremblay showed the way in the Makina National, powering past early leader Ryan Springer and taking the win on a messy, slushy track.
The track was depressing and incredible at the same time. Depressing because, despite incredible efforts by ISOC officials and local organizers, the track was small and had few big air features, as warm and rainy weather in the Upper Midwest made it next to impossible to build a race course. And that’s what also made it incredible – just the fact that a race was held at all was highly impressive, with temperatures in the 40s all week and the nearest natural snow in about 800 miles away in Colorado. Good work, track team!
The race night had several other feel good stories as well. A local boy won in Pro Lite, racers fighting notable injuries ended up on the podium and the Renheim family from Sweden a victory and a second-place finish.
Racing continues Saturday at Buffalo River Raceway. Picks for the free fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game are due by mid afternoon, and all the action can be watched live on snowgosite.wpengine.com by clicking on the Live Racing tab in the top navigation bar.
Pro Open To Tremblay
As might be expected, the winners at the Duluth, Minnesota, season opener came into the final as the No. 1 and 2 qualifiers – Tucker Hibbert on the No. 68 Polaris and Kody Kamm on the No. 53 Polaris each won one of their two heat races in earlier action Friday.
In order of how they qualified, the rest of the front row were Lincoln Lemieux (Ski-Doo), Justin Broberg (Arctic Cat), Petter Narsa (Polaris), Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), Logan Christian (Arctic Cat), Adam Renheim (Ski-Doo), Andrew Carlson (Polaris) and Ryan Springer (Polaris). Coming through the last chance qualifier to start in the second row were Trevor Leighton (Polaris), Kyle Pallin (Polaris), David Joanis (Arctic Cat), Corin Todd (Polaris) and John Stenberg (Ski-Doo). Missing was usual podium racer Ross Martin, who is out with a broken ankle.
A new rule on the national ISOC circuit this year had a major impact on the start, however. In an effort to make racing more competitive, the front row starting positions are determined in inverse order of how the racers finished in qualifying, and that put Hibbert and Kamm on the far outside.
On green, the racer on the far inside – 10th qualifier Springer – launched into the lead while many of the top qualifiers got pinched off and squeezed out on the outside of the track. That included Hibbert, who essentially came to a complete stop when sleds tangled in front of him and blocked his path. Christian, Lemieux and Broberg were among the racers who crashed.
Up front, Springer opened a gap on his Carlson Motorsports Polaris. Racing in only his third race event in the top Pro Open class, and only a year after racing his first national season in Pro Lite, Springer showed the way for several laps with Renheim about a second back, followed by Tremblay. Kamm quickly cleared early traffic to move up to fourth, followed by Pallin, Carlson, Narsa, Leighton, Joanis and then Hibbert in 10th.
About four laps in, Renheim got crossed-up coming off of one jump and landed virtually perpendicular to his intended direction of travel. Somehow he saved it, but the major bobble allowed Tremblay to catch and eventually grab second and take off after Springer.
Tremblay got close and appeared to have a line on Springer entering a corner on lap 9, but he didn’t force his way through and appeared to cut Springer a break. A couple of laps later, though, Tremblay was able to make a clean pass and immediately started working up a big lead on the whole pack.
Meanwhile, Kamm moved past Renheim, and Pallin was pressuring them both when Pallin dumped his sled to avoid ramming one of his competitors from behind. Springer, meanwhile, disappeared from the action – his first run for a podium will have to wait for another race.
With a couple of laps left, Renheim bombed beneath Kamm to take second, but then he went wide in the next turn and Kamm had a line to take the second spot back. Unfazed, Renheim got back on the gas and held second to the finish.
In the end, it was Tremblay with a huge 8.7 second margin of victory, followed by Renheim, who had 1.5 seconds on Kamm, with Hibbert another 3.5 seconds behind him after valiantly battling through traffic. Lemieux gamely came back from his first-lap crash and claimed fifth ahead of Narsa, Stenberg, Leighton, Carlson and Pallin. The bottom five were Broberg, Springer, Christian, Todd and Joanis.
Immediately after the race when interviewed by ISOC’s Carly Aplin, Tremblay said the wet, sloppy conditions made it difficult to see and stay on track.
“It was pretty rough. They didn’t fix the whoop section, so it was really gnarly out there,” said Tremblay, the Quebec veteran who races for the Scheuring Speed Sports team. “The snow is really wet so it’s really slippery. When you try to go to fast sometimes you end up going sideways. So, I tried to stay safe out there and I had a really good race out there.”
Renheim, the Swedish racer on the Boss Racing Ski-Doo, was asked if he liked racing on sloppy tracks like the one that hosted the event on Friday.
“It looks like that,” Renheim said with a laugh. “It’s a mess and it’s bumpy and there’s not so much rhythm but it seems to work to just fight through it.”
Kamm, meanwhile, was pretty happy to be up on the box in third place after dealing with a broken sled throughout much of the final.
“I don’t know exactly when out there, but something in my rear suspension broke, and it just seemed like the sled was bottomed-out the whole race,” Kamm said. “I struggled trying to hold onto that thing and I got some arm pump – I’m just glad I’m up here on the podium still.”
Coming out of Friday’s racing, the unofficial Pro Open point standings feature Kamm and Hibbert deadlocked at the top, each with 131 points. Tremblay is locked in third with 116 points, followed by Renheim (112) and Pallin (108).
Local Victor in Pro Lite
Pro Lite is promising to be highly competitive all year, and that was witnessed by the people who didn’t make it into the front row of the final. Guys that were so strong at the season-opener in Duluth, Minnesota two weeks earlier – like points leader Zak Mason plus Maxime Teillefer, Montana Jess and Cole Cottew – had to make it into the final in a last-chance qualifier. Meanwhile, Elais Ishoel was out nursing an injury.
The No. 1 qualifier after two rounds of heat races Friday night was on the No. 14 Polaris – local boy James Johnstad. Racing for the Polaris-based Cottew Racing for the 2015-16 season, Johnstad launched hard in the final and immediately opened a lead while the 14 other sleds in the final traded point and clacked skis behind him.
On the first lap, Johnstad opened a rather big lead but already on the second lap motocross-crossover racer from the snocross hotbed that is Indiana was closing the gap on the No. 219 Bauerly Racing Ski-Doo. Sewell came into the weekend with an injured knee but that didn’t appear to be slowing him down, as he tracked Johnstad lap-after-lap in the 14 lap final.
Sewell never got close enough to show Johnstad a ski, but he was always in his shadow and they raced that way to the end, with Johnstad pumping his left fist in the air as he took the checkered flag, with Sewel 2.5 seconds back and then another 8-second gap to Jake Angove, who took over third after longtime third-place racer Travis Kern had troubles late in the race. Dan Benham finished fourth, with Taillefer fifth. Then came Brett Nastala, Dex Savage, Mason, Jess and Kern.
For Johnstad, the victory couldn’t have come in a better spot, considering he grew up and lives 50 miles straight north in Beltrami, Minnesota.
“You can’t beat that feeling, I’m just pumped I can do it in front of my hometown crowd, my friends, my family, my buddies who all made it out,” Johnstad said immediately after the race.
Second place Sewell was particularly overcome on the podium
“I can’t even put it into words, it’s very emoitional right now,” Sewell said. “I couldn’t do it without the people behind me – Team Bauerly Racing, they’ve been great.”
Angove was similarly pleased with third on his No. 177 Judnick Racing Polaris. He’s from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
“I’m new to Judnick, it’s unreal,” Angove said. “I didn’t expect to be on a premier team like this, but they gave me an opportunity.”
Pro Am Women’s Final
Banged up heading into the weekend, Marica Renheim picked up where she left off last season, though it wasn’t easy. The racer from Sweden went into the final as the No. 1 qualifer and got the holeshot ahead of Duluth winner Megan Brodeur on the Andersen Racing Ski-Doo. But then, the second Swedish racer in the event – Elina Ohman on the Team Southside Polaris – squeezed out Brodeur and took off after Renheim.
Lap after lap, Renheim fought through a dinger up shoulder and hip to stay in the lead while Ohman applied the heat in the eight-lap final. At about the midway point, Ohman really started to apply the heat but then Renheim lost her in lapped traffic. Clear of the traffic, Ohman charged again but then tangled with a lapped sled and came off of her Polaris entering turn one on lap 7. That officially let Renheim pull away and she won by a wide margin, with Brodeur coming home second and Oman coming back and finishing third – despite coming off her sled and then having to chase it down and refire the engine.
After the race, Renheim said finishing up front “was way more than I was expecting. I haven’t been riding in two weeks since I’ve been injured.” She runs the No. 311 Ski-Doo for Boss Racing. Her victory came about 45 minutes before her brother went out and claimed second in Pro Open – not a bad weekend for the Renheims, or Boss Racing, for sure!