Kaufman Falls Short of Title Hopes, Gulla and Simons Follow LaVallee to Podium; Ebert Wins Semi-Pro Open Race But Tremblay Clinches Title
Even the best Hollywood writer could not have scripted a better scenario for the final Pro Super Stock race of the season than what unfolded on the slopes of the Mountaintop Ski-Resort during the final weekend of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series. Before the Nielsen’s Grand Finale began to unfold, the battle for the year-end championship was a dead heat between Garth Kaufman (Arctic Cat) and Levi LaVallee (Polaris). While neither racer has notched a win on the season, both had demonstrated uncanny consistency with multiple podium finishes.
Coming out of qualifiers, the duo remained tied for the title, with each scoring a win in their respective heat race. To coin a cliché’ they each controlled their own destiny, with only Ryan Simons (Arctic Cat) having an outside chance to win the year-end title.
With it all on the line, it was appropriate the pair lined-up side-by-side at the start, positioned near the far outside of the massive up-hill starting zone, where a top of the hill kicker sorted the wheat from the chaff. At the green, it was Levi who purchased the better line, gaining traction and catapulting him to the front of the pack. Kaufman was not so fortunate, who crested the hill a sled length behind Levi and emerging from the top-of-the-hill turn in 7th place. Close in tow behind LaVallee was his teammate TJ Gulla (Polaris) followed by Matt Piche (Arctic Cat) and Mathieu Morin (Ski-doo).
In the early going, Kaufman picked his way through the pack, moving up to 5th and eventually 4th, giving himself a glimpse at the lead pack of LaVallee, Gulla and Simons. But it wasn’t to be, as the long and grueling track took its toll on even the most fit of riders. The attention then turned to the teammate duo at the front. Gulla held fast to Levi’s snowflap just 1.5 seconds behind the entire 14 lap final, and even flashed a ski-tip from time to time. But Levi rode fast, smart and consistent, giving him not only his first podium of the season but more importantly the Pro Super Stock year-end championship.
The beaming smile on Levi’s face said it all during the podium celebration. “I’m so happy right now, I don’t know what to say,” said Levi from the top box. “I can’t begin to thank everyone involved with our team. For the past three years it seems all I did was get hurt or fall on my head. I just want to thank everyone for sticking with me.”
Levi’s teammate Gulla shared in the celebration finishing second and being equally excited for his teammate. “I’m super pumped for Levi, he deserves this win and this championship. He was super squirrelly during the first couple laps and I wanted to tell him to chill out,” laughed Gulla.
The win for Levi could be a sign of things to come for the Hentges Racing Team of which both LaVallee and Gulla are members of. Gulla is currently leading the point chase in Pro Open and could conceivably give the Minneapolis based racing effort both Pro championships on the season.
Ebert Wins But Falls Just Short of Tremblay for Semi-Pro Open Title
While the battle for the year-end championship wasn’t as dramatic in the Semi-Pro Open ranks, it proved to be much closer than eventual champion Tim Tremblay (Ski-doo) preferred to make it. Leading the battle by 11 points over Bobby LePage (Polaris) and 15 points in front of Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat); it appeared to be Tremblay’s championship to loose, having to finish 6th or better if LePage took the win or 10th or better if Ebert took the win.
It was the worst of scenarios however for Tremblay when the final field charged from the start and up into turn one. At the front of the pack it was Ebert, who quickly pulled out to a comfortable margin in the opening laps. LePage meanwhile was running 4th until a bobble on lap five shuffled him back to 7th place and out of contention for the year-end crown. But the real drama was back in the 10th position; one occupied by Tremblay, the virtual bubble for the Quebec rider given Ebert was in the lead and was showing no signs of slowing.
As the 12-lap final wore on, Ebert continued to dominate at the front, keeping a 3-second gap between himself and Paul Bauerly (Arctic Cat). And as Tremblay hung it all out in the back of the pack to eventually slide up to the 9th spot, it was the young rider from Sweden, Christian Salemark (Arctic Cat) who was putting on a clinic in speed. Salemark sliced his way through the field, digging out of a 7th place start and eventually working his way all the way to 2nd, putting Bauerly back onto the final podium position.
At the line it was Ebert, Salemark and Bauerly claiming the hardware respectively, but it would not be enough for Ebert to take the year-end crown, as Tremblay hung tight to his 9th position, giving him a narrow 2-point margin to claim the title.
While elated with the win, it was one that was bittersweet for Ebert. “If I could sum up this season in one word it would be injuries,” said Ebert during the post race interview. “Missing the race in Duluth at the start of the season really hurt my chances. And a week ago I could barely walk. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to race this weekend.”
Andrew Lieders Completes Season with Win and Championship in Sport Stock #2
In Sport Super Stock #2, Andrew Lieders (Polaris) entered the final race of the season with the year-end title virtually locked-up, holding a 21-point margin over Cody Thomsen (Arctic Cat). But by winning the final race of the season, Lieders put an exclamation point on the championship. Following him onto the podium was Stephen Edwards (Polaris) and Ryan Huston (Arctic Cat)