It’s Thanksgiving week in the U.S., and for snowmobile racing fans that has meant one very important thing for the past 25 years: The snocross racing season kicks off at the end of the week in Duluth, Minnesota!
Here at SnowGoer.com, it also means it’s time to kick off the Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game, which is free, easy and fun. More on that at the end of the article, but first let’s preview the action.
The high-flying boys of winter have all been testing their sleds in the last couple of weeks at practice tracks. In the top Pro class in particular, it was an interesting late-fall, as the teams must prepare and get used to running new, stock-based equipment instead of building the highly modified Pro Open sleds as in year’s past. Controversial new rules were initiated last spring that severely limit what race teams can modify, limiting it to aftermarket silencers, skis, shocks and handlebars. Proponents say it will make the action closer and will allow more up-and-coming drivers to opt into the top-level Pro class.
Let’s take a look at the field of racers who are expected to compete in Duluth this coming weekend, so you can make good choices in the Snowmobile Racing Challenge game. UPDATED on 11/22 after Ishoel announcement.
Last year’s run for the season points championship in Pro Open came down to a thrilling season finale race weekend at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in March, where three ultra-talented riders representing the three different brands that compete in snocross each had a shot at the title. Kody Kamm, Tucker Hibbert and Tim Tremblay combined to win 13 of the season’s 17 finals and 31 total podium (meaning: top three) finishes, and most observers are guessing those same drivers will be the ones who battle at the front the most this year as well.
Young Kody Kamm, 23, from Wisconsin, won the title on a Polaris with two victories and one second-place finish to close the season in Lake Geneva. Over the course of last season, he won five finals and finished on the podium 10 times, and returns to the Hentges Racing Polaris team. This summer he broke a bone in his leg racing motocross, but he’s said to be healed up and ready to run for Duluth.
Quebec-based Tim Tremblay, 31, went into the final weekend last March with the points lead but a blown drive belt plus Kamm’s dominant weekend cost him the points title. Up until that point, however, he was very consistent – he only has one victory last year, but had 10 podium finishes and never finished worse than seventh until his belt grenaded in Lake Geneva. He returns to the Scheuring Speed Sports Ski-Doo team on a totally new Ski-Doo race sled. Tremblay was coming into the season healthy, but a nasty tumble in practice has him a bit hobbled heading into Duluth.
Longtime snocross dominator Tucker Hibbert, 33, had — by his amazingly high standards — an off-season last year, but he still won more finals (7) than anybody else and had the most podium finishes (11) in the 17 rounds of racing. Truthfully, Hibbert only had one off-weekend, and that was influenced by a tragedy that affected Hibbert and his team. Hibbert’s resume includes 10 national points championships, 10 X Games gold medals and 127 career victories – he truly is the best ever, and the Minnesota-based rider returns to his Arctic Cat race team this year.
There is an impressive group of racers returning to the top class in snocross this year, and some of its members have tasted some level of success and are looking for more. Somebody among this group will step up and challenge the top three: Who will it be?
Finishing fourth in points last year was Tremblay’s teammate at Scheuring Speed Sports, Lincoln Lemieux. The 23-year-old Ski-Doo racer from Vermont earned two victories last year – one at the season-opener in Duluth and the other in March in Iowa – and earned six podium finishes. He’ll turn 24 Sunday at Duluth.
Another up-and-comer to keep your eye on is Kamm’s teammate at Hentges Racing Polaris, 25-year-old Petter Narsa. The Swedish star earned the gold medal in snocross at the 2017 X Games Aspen event but failed to crack the podium in-season last year on the Amsoil Championship Series. However, a lot of fourth and fifth place finishes earned him fifth overall when all of the points were tallied.
The only other winner from last season who returns is the wild child from Norway, Elias Ishoel. Now 19, Ishoel made a splash last year at Duluth with a victory in the Amsoil Dominator specialty event and then won the Friday night Pro Open final at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. He’s young, fast and absolutely fearless, and if he settles down a little bit he could be a superstar. For the 2017-18 season, he stays on Ski-Doo but moves from the Warnert Racing team to Boss Racing. UPDATED 11/22 — Ishoel will miss the first four rounds of racing on the Amsoil Championship Snocross series as he recovers from a leg injury.
Ishoel essentially swapped places with Adam Renheim, who moves from Boss to Warnert. The 28-year-old Swede has earned silver medals at the last two X Games Aspen events in snocross and had two podium finishes last year.
Kyle Pallin, 26, returns to the LaVallee Racing Polaris team, where he has tasted success before, including one Pro Open victory. The Michigan native has been in the top five in Amsoil Championship Series points several times in the past.
Logan Christian, 25, returns with his Christian Brother Racing Arctic Cat team. The popular racer from Fertile, Minnesota, has collected several podium finishes in the past, including finishing second behind Kamm at the Saturday final at Canterbury Park last winter.
There are several other racers who will be chasing the national circuit this year who shouldn’t be counted out. They include Ryan Springer, who moves to Boss Racing Ski-Doo this year after the Carlson Motorsports Polaris team he ran for last year left snocross; Johan Lidman, who returns to North America racing for Woodie’s Racing Arctic Cat after competing in Europe last year for Lynx; Corin Todd, who will stage a challenge as an independent Polaris racer this year after the Leighton Motorsports team he ran for last year folded; and Brett Nastala, who is back to challenge on an Arctic Cat, though on a different team.
Two racers are stepping up to the Pro class and chasing the full Amsoil Championship Series this winter after tasting some success in Pro Lite.
The most high-profile is Jake Angove, a Wisconsin native who is stepping into the top spot in the Judnick Motorsports Polaris trailer after his legendary teammate Ross Martin retired. Angove, 25, finished second in Pro-Lite points last year and could definitely challenge for some podium finishes this year as a Pro-class rookie.
Meanwhile, a different Pattyn boy will be ripping around on an Arctic Cat in the Pro class this year, as Nick Pattyn is stepping up in class after his older brother Zach Pattyn hung up his race bib.
A handful of racers who have tasted success on other race circuits are expected to appear at the season-opening Duluth national and compete in the Pro class before returning to their home circuits later in the season. In some years, these sort of stars-from-afar step up and steal top five finishes.
This year’s class includes David Joanis (this year on a Polaris), Dylan Hall (a veteran Arctic Cat racer) and RJ Roy (the Pro-Lite champ on a Polaris) from the Canadian Snowcross Racing Association, and Kristoffer Holm, last year’s Pro Open champ on the East Coast Snocross circuit. Holm’s teammate on Team Southside Polaris Cody Paolella was hoping to also race at Duluth, but it sounds like an injury will likely keep him on the sideline.
There could be a couple of other surprise entries at Duluth this year as well, as sometimes a European racer or somebody from the Quebec-based Super Competition Motorsport circuit will show up and compete.
MAKE YOUR PICKS
The Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game begins with the first weekend of racing in Duluth. It’s super easy to understand, sign up for and play, and you can jump in and out with your picks at anytime. And, of course, it’s also free. Click through to learn how to play.