snocross champ Elias Ishoel
As the defending points champion, Elias Ishoel goes into the 2019-20 season atop the Pre-Season Power Rankings. Photo from Boss Racing press release.

The start of the new snocross season is just days away. Top teams and drivers are already in full-go mode – race sleds have been disassembled and rebuilt, drivers have trained for months on end and lap-after-lap is being run at pre-season practice tracks.

                On Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 29-December 1, to be exact) it all becomes very real when the green flag goes up on a new ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series season with the 28th annual opening weekend at Duluth, Minnesota’s Spirit Mountain.

                To get you prepared for the new year, and make it easier to make your picks in Snow Goer’s annual Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game (which is free, easy and fun to play), we’ve polled personnel from throughout the snocross world to come up with this: Our annual Pre-Season Power Rankings. There’s no surprise at the top – defending points champ Elias Ishoel goes into the season as the favorite, but there have been several retirements, several drivers have stepped up from the Pro Lite class and there is even a new Scandinavian drive to keep an eye on.

  1. Elias Ishoel, Boss Racing Ski-Doo, from Oppdal, Norway

2018-19 Pro Results:

Final Standings: First (771 points)

Podiums: 11 (5 wins, 2 seconds, 4 thirds)

Heat Race Wins: 17

Best Round: Victories at Rd 1, Duluth; Rd 4, Jackson; Rd 13, Iowa; Rd 14, Iowa; Rd 17 Lake Geneva)

The defending points champion is the easy pre-season No. 1 pick, though it wasn’t a unanimous from all of the experts that we asked. Maybe some are harkening back to the “wreckers or checkers” reputation Ishoel built when coming through the Sport and Pro-Lite ranks, but the 21-year-old Norwegian was incredibly consistent and steady last year, as shown in his stats above. He definitely goes in as the man to beat.

Pictured at his Jackson, Wyoming, victory last season, Lincoln Lemieux got off to a smoking hot start but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Image from ISOC press release.

2. Lincoln Lemieux, Scheuring Speed Sports Ski-Doo, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Pro Standings: Fourteenth (339 points)

Podiums: 6 (4 wins, 1 second, 1 third)

Heat Race Wins: 3

Best Round: Victories at Rd 2, Duluth; Rd 3, Jackson; Rd 5, Canterbury; Rd 7, Deadwood

The soon-to-be 26-year-old racer on the black Amsoil sleds won four of the first seven rounds last year and was in a clear position to challenge Ishoel for the points title until a shoulder injury ended his season after round 8. He’s fully rehabbed, strong and dedicated to his craft – those who lost track of him after his mid-season disappearance last year will be quickly reminded this year. None of our expert panelists  forgot him – nobody had him rated lower than third.

Kody Kamm
Kody Kamm didn’t live up to his own expectations in finals last season and is expected to be on the gas early when the season opens in Duluth. Photo from ISOC press release.

3. Kody Kamm, Hentges Racing Polaris, from Kenosha, Wisconsin

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Standings: Second (722 points)

Podiums: 5 (2 wins, 2 seconds, one third)

Heat Race Wins: 19

Best Round: Victories at Rd 11, New York; and Rd 15 Lake Geneva

The former points champion (2017) went into last year as a favorite but he struggled in finals, often chasing a bunch of Ski-Doos coming out of the first corner and unable to move very far forward. Nobody, though, won more heat races last year in the Pro class, proving the 25-year-old still has the talent. Maybe the upgrades to Polaris’ race sled will help put him back on top?

Adam Renheim wins
Swedish superstar Adam Renheim celebrated his first North American victory in style last season at Shakopee, Minnesota. Photo from ISOC circuit.

4. Adam Renheim, Warnert Racing Ski-Doo, from Lima, Sweden

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Standings: Fourth (659 points)

Podiums: 10 (3 wins, 5 seconds, 2 thirds)

Heat Race Wins: 4

Best Round: Victories at Rd 6, Canterbury; Rd 9, Michigan; Rd 16 Lake Geneva

After last season, rumors were flying that this popular racer didn’t have a ride lined up for this season and might just disappear back to Europe. After a deal was worked out for him to return to Warnert’s green Ski-Doos, he is now determined to prove those who passed on giving him a big contract were in error.  At 30, though, he’s suddenly one of the most-senior competitors on the circuit.

Daniel Benham (center) is flanked by Elias Ishoel (left) and Logan Christian (right).

5. Daniel Benham, Warnert Racing Ski-Doo, from Deer River, Minnesota

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Standings: Fifth (653 points)

Podiums: 2 (1 win, 1 second)

Heat Race Wins: 10

Best Round: Victory at Rd 10, Michigan

Last year’s brightest rookie closed the season by winning all six of his heat races at the last weekend in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, pacing the 21-year-old to 10 heat wins on the season – that’s the third best overall. This year, he switches brands, moving away from Arctic Cat and to the waiting arms at Warnert and Ski-Doo. He truly could be a rising star.

Aki Pihlaja

6. Aki Pihlaja, Boss Racing Ski-Doo, from Rovaniemi, Finland

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Standings: Sixth (599 Points)

Podiums: 4 (2 wins, 2 seconds)

Heat Race Wins: 5

Best Round: Victories at Rd 8, Deadwood; Rd 12, New York

Both in his Pro-Lite racing days and now that he’s moved up to Pro, Pihlaja is a bit of an enigma. Sometimes he looks darn-near unbeatable; other times he gets lost in the crowd. With his talent and the machine beneath him, he seems likely to get several podiums this year, and if he finds more consistency he could challenge for a lot more. Though he’s only a couple of years into the Pro class, he’s closing in on his 31st birthday.  

7. Logan Christian, Christian Bros Racing Arctic Cat, from Fertile, Minnesota

2018-19 Results

Final Standings: Eighth (534 points)

Podiums: 4 (2 seconds, 2 thirds)

Heat Race Wins: 1

Best Round: Seconds at Rd 8 Deadwood and Rd 16 Lake Geneva

Now Cat’s lead driver, Christian, 27, had a down season by his standards last year, but he still found the podium four times. Every year this popular racer has a couple of rounds that wow the crowd. So was it the sled that partially held him back last year, or were there other issues?

8. Kyle Pallin, Team LaVallee Polaris, from Ironwood, Michigan

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Standings: Ninth (530 points)

Podiums: 2 (2 thirds)

Heat Race Wins: 3

Best Round: Thirds at Rd 13, Iowa; and Rd 17, Lake Geneva

The 28-year-old racer with the brightest smile in the sport likely spent some time frowning about his 2018-19 season results, which were below his growing standards. Our expert panel had him rated all over the place – as high as fourth to outside the top 10. Maybe this will be the year the popular Yooper puts it all together.

9. Trent Wittwer, Judnick Racing Polaris, from Bemidji, Minnesota

First-Year Pro

The 19-year-old rookie has won a lot of class titles as he’s worked his way through the ranks, including a 2017-18 national Sport class title, and then finished fifth last year in points in his rookie season in Pro Lite – a highly competitive class in which he won three finals. He joins a championship-winning Judnick team that’s been desperately looking for its next Ross Martin. Time will tell if he’s progressing too fast or is on the right track.

10. Oskar Norum, Hentges Racing Polaris, from Bjurholm, Sweden.

First Year Pro

With Petter Narsa staying in Scandinavia this year, Hentges turned to another Swedish star to take his place in the trailer next to Kody Kamm. Norum’s bio is impressive, with 34 Pro victories in Europe and multiple Swedish championships. Certainly a lot of Scandinavian racers have found success on this side of the Atlantic – the question is how Norum, 26, will adapt to North American style race courses. He has made spot appearances here in the past in Pro-Lite.

11. Jacob Yurk, Zandstra Motorsports Arctic Cat, from Grand Blanc, Michigan

First Year Pro

Yurk is a 2018 Pro Lite class champion who had a less-than-ideal season last year and ended the year with an injury. Rehabbed and turning Pro, the 22-year-old has caught on with a new team and will be trying to establish himself as the No. 2 rider for Arctic Cat this year.

12. Zak Mason, Diesel Freak Polaris, from Gaylord, Michigan

First Year Pro

After looking at times like a rising star over the years in the Pro Lite class, Mason has fought through injuries and team changes and is looking for a fresh start for 2019-20 with a new class and a new team.  He turns 25 this month.

13. Nick Pattyn, Stud Boy Racing Arctic Cat, from Ravenna, Michigan

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Pro Standings: Eleventh (400 points)

Podiums: 0

Heat Race Wins: 0

Best Round: Ninth at Rd 4, Jackson; Rd 11, New York; and Rd 13, Iowa

Pattyn is one of those heart-and-soul sort of racers that every sport needs, but his aim it to be more than a field-filler. At 25, he’s still a young man despite having a lot of experience in snocross. 

14. Travis Muller, Arctic Cat, Windom, Minnesota

2018-19 Pro Results

Final Pro Standings: Twelth (382 points)

Podiums: 0

Heat Race Wins: 0

Best Round: Sixth at Rd 7, Deadwood

Now 26, Muller had some success in the undercard in the past but didn’t make much of a splash in his rookie Pro season last year. Admittedly, though, was swimming a bit upstream against some of the big-dollar teams.

15. Cole Cottew, Cottew Motorsports Polaris, from Lake Nabagamon, Wisconsin

First Year Pro

Five years ago, Cottew proved he could race against and beat many of the other young racers in this field in the Sport class, earning multiple victories and some points championships. The last few seasons haven’t been as kind in Pro Lite, thanks to injuries and such, so the timing of moving up to Pro is interesting. He’ll start the season rated down here, but could climb.

16. Tyler Adams, Stud Boy Racing Arctic Cat, from Hart, Michigan

First Year Pro

Adams’ break-through victory came nearly five years ago in Pro Lite at Canterbury Park when racing for Christian Brothers, and he had a couple of other podiums back then as well. He’ll have to prove he’s up to the task in the Pro class this season.

Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door 6 times per year for a low cost.

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