A 19-year-old snowmobile racing star announced at the year-ending race banquet on March 16, 2003, that he was leaving snocross racing to pursue his motocross racing dreams.
We wonder what ever became of that kid?
Insiders of course know that Tucker Hibbert would return to the sport and become the most successful snocross racer in history before retiring for real in 2018. But on this day, 20 years ago, there was a collective gasp when we all thought the young superstar was leaving us in a cloud of dust (like, real dust as kicked up on a MX track, not snowdust).
Here’s the story, ripped directly from a March 2003 issue of Snow Week magazine.
Hibbert Steps Away From Snocross Racing
Arctic Cat’s popular snocross racer Tucker Hibbert announced after the World Snowmobile Association (WSA) Snocross Worldwide Championship (SWC) finale that he is stepping away from snocross racing in facing for motocross racing.
Arctic Cat Race Manager Brian Sturgeon said that Hibbert approached Arctic Cat last fall with his intention to leave snocross, and at that time Sturgeon told him he’d need to know by January 1.
At the WSA awards banquet after the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, finale, Hibbert made his announcement public.
“It was no real shock to me,” Sturgeon said. “We’ve talked about it for quite some time now.”
Near the end of the awards banquet, WSA announcer Dean Norrell called Hibbert to the podium to accept the second-place plaque for his Pro Open points performance. Norrell introduced T-Train by stated that rumors surrounded his future and that this would be a good time to clarify his intentions.
Hibbert strode to the podium and did just that. First, though, he opened his remarks by congratulating the champ.
“Hats off to Blair Morgan and Blair Morgan Racing,” the 19-year-old stated. “They had a great year and we just got beat.”
Then Hibbert made public his dirty little secret: He’s choosing dirtbikes over snowmobiles and leaving snocross racing behind for motocross and supercross.
“I’ve had a lot of success in snocross, but I really want to pursue that level of success in motocross and supercross, and that means full time,” he told the hushed crowd. “This is just something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had a great time and made a lot of friends along the way. It’s going to be really hard to watch the raves on TV, but I think it’s time to move on to a new stage in my life.”
Hibbert’s announcement shocked some and raised a number of questions.
“I was [surprised],” said Blair Morgan Racing Team Race Manager Jamie Anseeuw. “I wish him all the best. He’s one of my favorite kids.”
Some have speculated that Hibbert will be back. Hibbert’s last snowmobile race will be March 28-30 at the Jackson Hole World Championship Hill Climb in Jackson, Wyoming. From there he’s going to California to start riding dirtbikes. Those close to Hibbert expressed their sentiments after his announcement.
“It’s really unfortunate that he’s decided to exit snocross and go motocross racing, but it’s a dream he’s had,” Sturgeon said. “Not only was he a fabulous racer, but he was big for our sport. The way he presented himself on and off the racetrack, the way he worked with all the race associations and the officials. It’s a shame that fans won’t be able to see him race snocross anymore.”
Sturgeon said Arctic Cat tried to talk Hibbert into staying. “We tried to point out the fan base he has, which is huge,” Sturgeon said. “Tucker’s words were, ‘Money isn’t the issue. You can’t offer me enough money to stay snocross racing.’”
Since Hibbert won the 2000 Winter X Games as a 15-year-old, he garnered a successful snocross racing career. When he turned Pro the following season, he won 12 of 22 WSA SWC finals. The next season, he captured both WSA Pro point titles. This season, Hibbert won nine WSA finals.
Hibbert’s departure leaves a hole in Arctic Cat’s snocross racing effort, but Sturgeon said they have their eye on one WSA National racer, though he wouldn’t say who.
“There’s a driver we’d like to bring into the mix,” Sturgeon said. “It’s a driver that Russ Ebert and Steve Houle would really like to work with. We may not win as many races as we did this year, but I definitely think if we can get this individual on board with us, I strongly feel you’re going to see him podium every week, and he’s going to be winning some races.”
After Hibbert accepted his plaque and made his announcement, he left the stage at the awards banquet to a standing ovation. Once the awards ceremony concluded he was met by a long line of well-wishers, many of them offered hugs and words of encouragement. “Go kick some ass,” Polaris Race Team Manager Tom Rager whispered in his ear.
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