Tucker Hibbert wins race
Tucker Hibbert wins thrilling race!

Twenty-four hours after a fabulous Pro Open final on a rough track at Shakopee, Minnesota’s Canterbury Park, the best snocross racers on the planet did it again – putting on a spectacular final in front of a huge crowd at the ISOC National sponsored by Traxxis and Jimmy John’s.

.       Weather that has been mega-depressing for snowmobilers in southern and central Minnesota proved to be excellent for snowmobile racing. Under a full moon on a perfectly clear night, the crowd exceeded promoters expectations both nights. Virtually every seat inside and outside of the horse racing track was filled, and hundreds if not thousands of additional fans crowded the standing area near the track.

.       After two rounds of qualifying heats and a last chance qualifying race, Saskatchewan-native Robbie Malinoski and Vermont-based TJ Gulla were the top qualifiers on their Scheuring Speed Sports Ski-Doo and Hentges Racing Polaris, respectively. The 15 who made the final (out of 25 entries) included six Ski-Doos, five Polaris sleds and four Arctic Cats.

.       On green for the 22-lap final, the black Amsoil-backed sleds of Malinoski and teammate Darrin Mees lurched into the lead, with Tucker Hibbert’s Cat and Tim Tremblay’s Ski-Doo hot on their heels, and points leader Ross Martin right behind them.

.       The first couple of laps, Malinoski pulled out to a 2.5 second lead, but there was a war behind him. Mees struggled to hold off Tremblay, while Hibbert was running fast and loose in fourth on his Monster Energy Arctic Cat. Then came the three Polaris of Martin, Gulla and Mike Bauer, with Logan Christian, Mathieu Morin and Bobby LePage rounding out the top 10.

.       By lap 4, Hibbert was on the move, literally flying past Tremblay at the starting line tabletop jump, then chasing down Mees and knifing past him with a block pass on lap 8. The winningest racer in modern snocross history spent the next five laps searching for lines while reeling in Malinowski. The two flew past flagman Bruce Mosher virtually tied on lap 15, but then Hibbert held the gas deep into turn one, doubling over a big hole that had gotten worn in by other riders and sailing into the lead.

.       Hibbert immediately opened a second and a half lead, and he looked like he might pull away to an easy victory, as he had done so many times in the past, but Malinoski found his second wind. Soon he was all over Hibbert as they both battled through a mess of lapped traffic. With two laps left, the two were side-by-side in the air on the backstretch, and this time it was Malinoski who held the throttle deep into a turn, flying high on the berm and momentarily taking the lead. Hibbert answered just as quickly, however, banking the sled off a different berm toward the inside of turn three, tilting the sled at a 45-degree angle and staying on the gas. He emerged on the front stretch with a narrow lead that he built on the final lap into a 1.5-second victory.

.       Tremblay took a distant third, about 15 seconds behind the winner, with Martin fourth another six seconds back. Mees had faded to fifth, with Bauer sixth and the last sled on the lead lap. Zach Pattyn, Morin, Garth Kaufman and record jumper Levi LaVallee rounded out the top 10.

.       When asked over the P.A. after the race about his DNF in Friday’s final, Hibbert said, “Yeah, the jackshaft broke yesterday, but we’re not talking about yesterday, we’re talking about today.”

.       The race “was exciting for me, and I hope it was exciting for everybody else… It was a challenge for sure, I have to thank God for keeping me safe out there,” he concluded, later calling the racing conditions “pretty sketchy.”

.       The affable Malinoski said, “There are not too many people out there who can say they just about had Tucker Hibbert, but I just about had Tucker Hibbert. He raced me clean and got out front and it was a great race until the end.”

.       Talking about his late charge, Malinoski explained that he could go for broke when running second in lapped traffic. “I felt that was my only chance. With the traffic, Tucker had to pick and choose and I could just banzai through there.”

.       “That was a pretty good race. Tucker and Robbie were pretty fast and they just went away from me. I couldn’t find a rhythm” on the rough track, said the Foremost Insurance-backed Tremblay, who also admitted on the stand to getting engaged a week ago.

Kamm Sweeps Pro Lite

Kenosha, Wisconsin-native Kody Kamm made it a weekend sweep of the Pro Lite class with his victory Saturday night. He took the lead on the backstretch of lap 1 and stormed away to a 12-second victory on his Hentges Racing Polaris.  David Joanis ran relatively close for much of the race but he came off his sled with two laps left on the backstretch. That opened up second to the Jimmy John’s/Boss Racing’s Derek Ellis. For much of the race, a pack of five sleds ran together behind Ellis, but eventually Travis Muller pulled away from that crowd and ended up third. Canadian Dylan Hall and Alaskan Casey Boylan rounded out the top 5.

Notes:

* Malinoski was running a large spacer atop the spindle of his Ski-Doo’s front suspension. Asked after the race, team owner Steve Scheuring explained that the spacer created less roll in the front end, and somewhat reflected the spread of the A-arm on Arctic Cat’s race sled.

* New Year’s Eve stuntman Levi LaVallee won a heat race Saturday evening and got a HUGE ovation from the crowd, but his timing seemed a bit off in the final. It’s obvious his attention has been on the famed Red Bull jump the past couple months while all others at the track were focused on snocross. Still, for a first race back, a week after the death-defying jump, he fared pretty well.

* On the podium after winning Pro Lite, Kody Kamm said he hoped to race a mod sled in two weeks at the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby, but immediately after the comment, Polaris Race Manager wasn’t terribly enthused about exposing his prized Semi-Pro/Pro Lite racer to something different in the middle of the season. “He would LIKE to be on a mod at Eagle Ruiver, but he won’t, I assure you that,” Rager said.

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