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Ski-Doo’s Lemieux, Pihlaja Each Take Pro Snocross Wins In Deadwood

Snow Goer staff

Ski-Doo racers Lincoln Lemieux and Aki Pihlaja continued the brand’s domination of snocross this season with Friday and Saturday night victories, respectively, in Deadwood, South Dakota, in rounds 7 and 8 on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series.

The racing was held in falling snow on both nights on a rough, narrow and short course filled with land mines that swallowed up many top competitors. Lemieux’s victory was his fourth of the season – one each race weekend so far this season. Pihlaja, meanwhile, notched his first career victory in the Pro class, which he joined this year after a couple of great seasons in Pro-Lite.

Also, Pihlaja’s Saturday victory came after he crashed hard late in Friday’s final and brought out a red flag – a rarity in snocross racing, which usually continues the race while the crashed competitor is pulled off the race course. But Pihlaja returned with style on Saturday.

On Saturday, though, Pihlaja’s Boss Racing teammate and current season points leader Elias Ishoel one-upped his teammate in the crash department, suffering a nasty endo, with the Norwegian getting tossed over the handlebars of his Ski-Doo and then had the sled flip over on top of him and pound him into the race course. Luckily the course featured mushy snow, but it was still a hard hit that we were darn glad to see Ishoel get up from, though he pulled his sled off the course at that point and exited the race.   

So, below are the two press releases of the weekend action from the ISOC circuit, starting with Friday and following with Saturday. The season continues next weekend, with the Soaring Eagle Snocross National in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Feb. 1-2.

The press releases don’t go very deep in the field, so for the record, the finishing order in the Pro class Friday was 1) Lincoln Lemieux; 2) Tim Tremblay; 3) Adam Renheim; 4) Kyle Pallin; 5) Johan Lidman; 6) Travis Muller; 7) Logan Christian; 8) Elian Ishoel; 9) Petter Narsa; 10) Kody Kamm; 11) Nick Pattyn; 12) Corin Todd; 13) Montana Jess; 14) Brett Nastala; 15) Aki Pihlaja.    Saturday:  1) Pihlaja; 2) Christian; 3) Lemieux; 4) Renheim; 5) Daniel Benham; 6) Pallin; 7) Narsa; 8) Kamm; 9) Tremblay; 10) Jess; 11) Muller; 12) Pattyn; 13) Nastala; 14) Todd; 15) Ishoel.

Lemieux Wins Another Opener

Crazy things have happened in the history of Deadwood, South Dakota, and with snow falling upon round seven of Amsoil Championship Snocross, Powered by Ram, a new chapter of odd endings was added to the books.

Ski Doo’s Lincoln Lemieux has a knack for winning on opening night, making good in Duluth, Jackson Hole and Shakopee, entering some sort of historical consistency that has only been done by Tucker Hibbert.

Things seemed to be on par in the final, with Lemieux grabbing the holeshot and an early lead. But it wasn’t an ordinary night in the shadows of the Black Hills. On lap three, Lemieux pushed wide and Arctic Cats Johan Lidman took over the point. Lemieux kept charging and a few laps later he had overcome a three-second deficit and went back into the lead on a close pass coming surrounding of a local yellow.

Lincoln Lemieux

Lincoln Lemieux scored his fourth victory of the season at Deadwood on Friday. Click to enlarge.

As Lemieux pushed forward, the bull ring of a snocross track began to swallow up riders, including Tim Tremblay and points leader Elias Ishoel. While significant, it was a crash on the backstretch by Aki Pihlaja almost made the biggest impact of the night. A red flag was brought out and as the the FXR Medical staff attended to Pihlaja, the field waited for the restart. But when it was time to line-up, Lemieux’s sled wouldn’t start and the Scheuring Speed Sports driver was on the clock. With time ticking down, his mechanic was able to manually get the sled running, and Lemieux back to the line.

With three laps to go, and a single file restart, Lemieux pushed into the lead as the pack battled behind him. With two laps left, Tremblay forced the issue and pushed past teammate and round six winner Adam Renheim for second, and Polaris’ Kyle Pallin went up one spot off the restart in fourth.

For Lemieux, it was another big win, and one of the most intense of his career.

“I was battling with Lidman, lost the lead for awhile and I noticed he was getting tired, so I just rode smarter and waited to make my move,” said Lemieux. “I got by him and just put a gap on Renheim. Unfortunately, Aki crashed and got hurt, so we had to red flag it, and my sled wouldn’t start. I got it started and then shut it off. It was a stupid move by me, but then Elliott [Burns] got it started back up and we had three laps left to go and it was just cruise control.”

Winner Nisse Kjellstrom (center) is flanked by second-place Max Taillefer (left) and third-place Francis Pelletier (right) after Friday’s Pro-Lite final. Click to enlarge.

 

Another First Timer in Pro Lite

Rookies and surprises have dominated the story lines in Pro Lite this season, and the seventh round saw another new winner in Deadwood.

Artic Cats Nisse Kjellstrom’s day started with an early exit in his first heat race, resulting in an eighth place finish. But the Swedish rider rebounded nicely, winning in round two and setting the pace for the final. In the main, Kjellstrom was strong from the get-go, grabbing the Stud Boy Holeshot and holding of early charges from Hunter Patenaude and Max Taillefer, For his first career win in Pro Lite.

“It was rough out there, but I had a lot of fun,” said Kjellstrom. “I took the holeshot out there and rode my race. I’m super happy, especially since it’s my first win in Pro Lite.”

Patenaude swapped out on lap 8, and Taillefer took over second for the duration. Points leader Francis Pelletier made a late-race charge on Taillefer for second, but couldn’t get the final pass, finishing third. RJ Roy continues to impress as a fill-in rider for Judnick Motorsports and was up as high as third before finishing fourth, ahead of Marcus Ogemar.

A Third Player Arrives in Pro Women

Meghan Brodeur and Teven Woodie have been the one-two punch the Pro Women’s class has always searched for over the sport’s history. The pair has put up some of the best racing on the national circuit this season. Lurking in their shadows has been Marlene Anderson, who has had success in the class in past years but has not finished higher than third this season.

Anderson grabbed the holeshot and never looked back, as she led every lap for the win. Behind her, Brodeur started second and finished second. Woodie had a slow start to Friday’s final, pushing from as far back as tenth before finishing third.

Friday Night Lites

  • Jordan Lebel led from started eight in the Sport Lite final, but made a last lap pass on Eli Epling for the win.
  • Samuel Blouin led from start to finish in the Sport final, finishing ahead of Mitchell Thelen.
  • Austen Madison won his first career Snowbike race with a complete race win.

 

Aki Pihlaja Bounces Back for First Pro Win

Pros on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross, Powered by RAM tour knows how important the Deadwood rounds of racing are to the big picture of a successful season. A rider with true championship aspirations needs to leave the South Dakota stop in good health, and historically speaking, in the top five overall for a chance at the championship.

Ski Doo’s Aki Pihlaja entered the weekend just outside of the top five and was looking for consistency across his heat races and finals. It looked like the Boss Racing rider had put it all together on Friday, with a heat win and a fast start in the final. But his bad crash with three laps left brought out a red-flag restart and ended his podium chances. Despite the hard fall on Friday, Pihlaja rebounded in remarkable fashion on Saturday night. A second-round heat win gave the rookie momentum for the main event, and he capitalized on another fast start, grabbing the Stud Boy Hole Shot and led for all 24 laps on his way to his first career win.

“I feel pretty awesome,” said Pihlaja after the race. “Everything is working really good. It’s a new class. The competition is good, and I’m really happy to have won tonight.”

Aki Pihlaja

A night after a hard crash, Aki Pihlaja returned to earn his first-ever Pro class victory. Click to enlarge.

Pihlaja was also able to close the gap a bit and even though he still sits in sixth, he is now just 20 points behind Tim Tremblay for fifth. As for the rest of the top five, the major shake-up came after a strong weekend performance by Ski Doo’s Lincoln Lemieux. The Scheuring Speed Sports driver came to Deadwood with three wins but sat fifth overall. Another win on Friday, and a third on Saturday paired well with strong heat race results and the Vermont rider was able to jump into second overall, tied with Adam Renheim. Lemieux was 53 points behind Elias Ishoel, but after Deadwood, he is just 25 points behind. Polaris racer Kody Kamm sits fourth overall.

Arctic Cat’s Logan Christian had his best night of the season in Deadwood and was the main challenger to Pihlaja in the final. He started third in the final and took over the second spot on lap ten after getting around Arctic Cat’s Daniel Benham.

Career First for Hunter Patenaude

Ski Doo’s Hunter Patenaude was a mid-season fill-in on the Scheuring Speed Sports team last year in the absence of top rider Tim Tremblay. With Tremblay now racing for the Warnert’s Racing program, a spot opened up for Patenaude on one of the most high-profile teams in the sport. With the great opportunity came great expectations, and as the season switches into its second half, it looks as if Patenaude is ready to meet them.

The Pro class podium – winner Aki Pihlaja at center, second-place Logan Christian at left and third-place Lincoln Lemieux at right. Click to enlarge.

The Vermont-native has been consistent all season long, as he entered Deadwood second in points behind Francis Pelletier. He was a top qualifier on Friday night, but crashed out while battling for a podium spot. Much like pro winner Pihlaja, Patenaude rebounded nicely on Saturday. Patenaude, Pelletier and two-time pro lite winner Trent Wittwer came through the first turn on the tight Deadwood track neck-and-neck, but by lap three, Patenaude had taken the lead, with Wittwer and Pelletier in tow. That running order would hold true for the remainder of the race, as Patenaude joined his brother Leo as a first-time winner on the national tour.

“The whole teams been working really hard, clutching, suspension, everything,” said Patenaude after the win. “We knew that I had it in me, and everyone pushed me to my absolute limits, and never let me get down on myself. It’s huge to have that kind of support with you.”

Two third place finishes by Pelletier in Deadwood allowed the Ski Doo rider to increase his championship lead on Patenaude, who still sits second overall. Marcus Ogemar moved into third with a good weekend, and Nisse Kjellstrom benefited from a win on Friday night and now sits in the top five.

Saturday Night Notes

  • Meghan Brodeur picked up her fifth win of the season in Pro AM Women. Friday nights winner Melane Anderson finished second and Inanna Hauger grabbed her third podium of the season.
  • Taylor Cole grabbed his first win of the year in Sport. Andy Pake kept him honest in second.
  • Brady Freeland won again in the 120 Champ final.
  • Jordan Lebel continued his hot streak in Sport Lite, finishing ahead of Jake Belair.
  • Matt Pichner came across the line first in Pro Plus 30.
  • Landon Giese won the Stock 200 final ahead of brother Lane Giese.

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