Going into this season, Elias Ishoel was seen as a threat to win multiple rounds on the Amsoil Championship Snocross series, but his well-earned “checkers-or-wreckers” reputation in Pro-Lite class racing didn’t have many predicting he’d be a season points champion – Points champs have to be consistent in heat and finals, not fearless and occasionally bordering on reckless so DNFs count up as fast as victories.
However, the 20-year-old Norwegian Ski-Doo rider has officially flipped the script on his reputation, and with a Pro class sweep at the penultimate weekend of racing – this one in Iowa – has positioned himself to take his first of potentially many championships. His victories in Iowa were his third and fourth of the season in the series’ 14 rounds, but arguably more important for his point lead is the fact that he’s only failed to land in the top five two times, and only once crashed and failed to finish a final.
With his two victories in Iowa, Ishoel expanded his points total over second place Kody Kamm – a former checkers-or-wreckers racer himself – from 30 to 43 point heading into the final three-round weekend. Kamm has been a heat-winning phenom this season, claiming a series-leading 17 heat races, and heat race points count up fast. He hasn’t, though, matched Ishoel’s prowess in finals – with only one victory and four total podium finishes.
That said, Kamm closed out the 2016-17 race season with a dramatic finish at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to claim the points championship. Will he be able to do it again? We’ll find out next weekend! Below are the stories from the host ISOC race circuit from the two rounds of racing in Iowa, with the Friday story first. Enjoy.
Ishoel Boosts Championship Credentials In Iowa
What a difference a year makes. When last year’s iteration of Amsoil Championship Snocross, Powered by Ram headed to Sundown Mountain in Dubuque, Iowa, Ski Doo’s Elias Ishoel was just making his season debut after injuries sidelined him for the first 12 rounds. Skip ahead 12 months and now the Norwegian is healthy, leading the points, and after a spectacular run on Friday night, a winner for the third time this season.
Ishoel’s day of racing was far from clean. The points leader won one of his qualifying heats, but got crossed up in his second heat race, and crashed hard on the downhill. The track presented to the bevy of riders in Dubuque was consistently called “gnarly,” and despite getting swapped out and sent to the ground, Ishoel looked the part of a champion, and stormed back in the final. His biggest challenge came from inside his own trailer as teammate Aki Pihlaja was fast early, holding the lead through lap seven before Ishoel took over. Pihlaja, who won round 12 in New York, finished second.
“You know, I just did my job and the track was good for me,” said Ishoel. “And my teammate, we were one and two in the last race, too, but I was in second and he was in first. It has been a long time since I was up here in first place, so yeah, it’s good.”
Early season success has propelled Ishoel into a strong points lead with just three rounds now remaining on the 2018-2019 schedule. Ishoel’s win in Iowa was his first since Jackson Hole in December, but he has been the most consistent rider in the Pro class. Entering round 13, Ishoel held a 30-point lead over Polaris’ Kody Kamm. After winning both of his heat races, Kamm had a tough night show, finishing tenth.
The feel-good story of the night came from the body of work put in by long-time Polaris pro Kyle Pallin. The Michigan-native had his best day of racing this season, finishing second to Kamm in his heat races before putting in a spirited run in the final, finishing third. It marked the first podium of the year for the perennial fan favorite, and his highest finish since a fourth in Deadwood.
Pelletier Penalty Gives Patenaude Advantage
Snocross fans are definitely getting their money’s worth with the Pro Lite class this season. Multiple winners, many of them first-timers and rookies, means things are wide-open and it’s anyone’s guess on who will prevail night-in and night-out.
But since Deadwood, Ski Doo’s Hunter Patenaude has been on a hot-streak right to the top of the standings. He took over the points lead in New York over fellow Ski Doo racer Francis Pelletier, who had held point since the opening weekend in Duluth despite not winning a final this year.
In Iowa, the pair came out and rode like champions should. Both riders easily won their heats and lined-up next to each other in the final. Both sleds were side-by-side through the first turn, with Patenaude getting a slight edge. For the first two laps, Patenaude held the edge, but Pelletier took over on lap three. For the next several laps, the combo dashed up and down the technical circuit, dealing with big rhythm, downed riders and back markers. It was those riders that would help shape the finishing order, however, as Pelletier was black-flagged with four laps to go after a mid-race penalty for jumping on a yellow flag. As Pelletier pulled over and dropped back to fourth, it gave Patenaude the opening he was looking for since the opening laps, and he cruised to his fourth win in. The loss at the top was a gain for Max Taillefer and Adam Peterson, as both riders moved up one spot to fill out the podium.
“I was just trying to ride smart,” said Patenaude. “I just focused on doing the best that I could to hang on to the sled and not make any dumb moves, because if you make a little mistake, it can really cost you.”
Friday Night Lights
- The Snow Bike class is now the closest national points race on the tour thanks to Jesse Kirchmeyer third straight win. Keaton Ward picked up a second-place finish, one spot of points leader Mark Wilson who now sits just one point ahead of Kirchmeyer.
- Megan Brodeur won her fourth straight Pro-AM Women’s final over Taven Woodie and Jakki Farmer. She now has nine wins and 13 podiums this season.
- Andy Pake held off Kenny Mandryk in the Sport class. Evan Christian took home his first podium of the season in third.
- Jordan Lebel grabbed his seventh win in Sport Lite and can clinch the season championship on Saturday.
Ishoel Doubles Up in Dubuque
From day one of the 2018-2019 AMSOIL Championship Snocross, Powered by Ram season, it has been Elias Ishoel standing atop the points. Fourteen rounds later, Ishoel hasn’t conceded his perch as King of the Mountain. Now, after a dominant weekend in Iowa, he looks poised to stay there.
The rap on Ishoel when he came to the United States was the Norwegian was blistering fast, but had to harness the speed on the bigger, tougher tracks. That reputation was thrown out the window on Saturday night in Iowa where Ishoel, fresh off a Friday night win over teammate Aki Pihlaja, was in control despite immense pressure breathing down his neck all night.
Weather was a major factor in all of the races at Sundown Mountain Resort. Rain, sleet and fog dampened the region, making visibility tough and track conditions deteriorated quickly. Ishoel was ready from the get-go on Saturday. He won a heat race and said just before the start that he “was going to get the hole shot.” Arctic Cat’s Daniel Benham got the jump on the Stud Boy Hole Shot, but Ishoel was right next to him, and as the cluster of sleds cleared, Ishoel jumped into the lead with Pihlaja once again in tow.
Out front, Ishoel pulled away from his teammate Pihlaja and began checking out. Pihlaja quickly had his hands full with two-time winner Adam Renheim, who was aggressive on the tricky downhill sections. On lap four, Renheim moved into second and set his sights on the race leader. Despite a five-second gap, Renheim caught up to Ishoel and applied heavy pressure. But Ishoel showed his mettle when it looked like Renheim had him covered. Ishoel was strategic, constantly switching lines on each lap and made Renheim adjust the strategy that had moved him into second. Renheim would bobble a bit on lap 11, and despite another charge at the leader, Ishoel had enough space to nab his second straight win.
“This season, I’ve been in front and I’ve had the red plate from the first day,” said Ishoel. “I’m just trying to do my own thing and just have fun every time, don’t think and just go out there and race.”
Ishoel’s fourth win of the season was a boost to his championship hopes as well. Kody Kamm again won both of his heats but started dead last in the final before pushing his way up to ninth. Unofficially, Ishoel went from a 30-point lead over Kamm entering the Iowa rounds to a 33-point lead. Renheim’s second place finish was his fifth podium of the year. Tim Tremblay made it another all-Ski-Doo winners circle as the Canadian overcame a mid-pack start to finish third.
Bester Back on Top
Arctic Cat’s Ryley Bester started the run of first-year riders winning in the Pro Lite class with his opening round win in Duluth. It has been a roller-coaster type of year for the rookie since then, but a flawless race on Saturday night was a much-needed boost.
Bester raced a smooth, smart race in Iowa, and he did it with a pair of championship contenders sitting in his roost. Ski Doo’s Hunter Patenaude grabbed the holeshot, but Bester won the drag race to the first turn. From there, Patenaude’s presence was surely felt by the rookie and he handled it like a seasoned pro. While Patenaude was trying to get around Bester, Francis Pelletier was thrashing his way towards the leaders. A back-row start didn’t discourage Pelletier, and he knew he had to get to the front to keep pace with Patenaude in the season points chase.
But the story out front for the entire nine lap final was Bester, who held his own in extreme circumstances.
“We started the day with rain, then snow, and now we are back to a misty-rain,” said Bester atop the podium. “And the fog was horrible. Up at the start you could barely see the finish line. Yeah, conditions weren’t the best, but we made the best of it today.”
Despite just a four-point lead coming into Iowa, Patenaude had a strong weekend and was able to stretch his lead to 19 over Pelletier. With two rounds of racing left in Lake Geneva, Wis., both riders have a strong chance to win their first pro championship.
Saturday Night at Sundown
- Arctic Cat’s Taven Woodie picked up her third win of the year in Pro AM Women. Megan Brodeur overcame a ninth-place start to finish second. Tausha Lange finished third.
- Ski Doo’s Jordan Lebel has a stranglehold on not one, but three amateur titles this year. Lebel, who signed mid-season with Boss Racing team (home of Elias Ishoel and Aki Pihlaja), continued his dominance by winning the Sport Lite, Junior 16-17 and Junior 14-15 finals in Iowa.
- Zach Pattyn will keep the points lead in Pro AM Plus 30 after making an inspired comeback. Pattyn started sixth but got around the Matt Pichner on lap six for the lead. Pichner, who was five points behind Pattyn, finished second with Kurt Bauerly in third.
- Jessie Kirchmeyer now has four straight wins in Snow Bike. Kirchmeyer was ninth after the first lap but moved to the front on the second circuit. Wilson Ward finishes second.
- Aiden Leonard took home the win in Transition 9-13.
- Landon Giese won Stock 200 over Tristian Hinton and Owen Matthies.
- Arctic Cat’s Andy Pake made it two-in-a-row in the FXR Sport class. Taylor Cole and Anson Scheele rounded out the podium.
- Brady Freeland led the 120 Champ charge over Shane Beasly.
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