After Elias Ishoel wrapped up his fourth consecutive points championship on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series in March, an intense debate was initiated among Snow Goer family and friends about where this young racer fits among the greatest to ever participate in the “modern” form of snocross racing – meaning the deep-snow, big bumps sort of racing that the sport evolved into in the early 1990s.
That discussion blossomed into this: The Top 10 Snocross Racers Of All Time list. It was created after polling many top snocross industry “insiders” including select race circuit officials, factory race directors, major team owners, media personnel, aftermarket industry leaders and others who were involved very directly in the sport over the past 30 years. We combined their input with an intense review of past race results and points standings to finalize our rankings. In addition, we also created an online poll and let fans create their own list. Read about No. 8 on our list, Chris Vincent, below, then check out No. 10 Dennis “DJ” Eckstrom and No. 9 Kirk Hibbert. Also, check back to see the rest of the list as it is unveiled over the next two weeks.
No. 8: Chris Vincent
Many words described Chris Vincent back in his hayday on the snocross scene. Square-shouldered and bold, he was an aggressive driver who seemed like he was never afraid. He would trade paint with anybody and everybody, and hold the throttle until he saw God (as we used to say back in the day). He lived hard and raced hard, and gained a broad group of both fans and detractors in his high-profile career.
SNOCROSS CLAIM TO FAME: Vincent rose to prominence on the Rock Maple Racing Circuit in New England, where he became a dominating force on his No. 46 Arctic Cats. He started making successful appearances beyond the East in 1995 and 1996, earning Snow Week Top 10 Racer status in consecutive seasons. His go-for-broke style was often on display, as he’d catch the biggest air and sometimes have the most spectacular crashes. But he’d remount his sled and re-engage in the race, seemingly unphased.
Yamaha saw Vincent’s star rising and signed him and Jesse Strege to lead their return to terrain racing after a long hiatus. Against all odds when racing a three-cylinder 600 against more dedicated race sleds, Vincent podiumed in his very first weekend with the team, grabbing second to Toni Haikonen in a star-studded final. Two months later, he won the Pro Open class at the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby. He star rose further when he joined the Scheuring Speed Sports team a couple of years later, and Warnert Racing after that.
There certainly was some finesse to his game – as evidenced by the many high-profile races that he won – but the good-looking racer from Colchester, Vermont, also succeeded through brute force and determination. And, when Blair Morgan happened upon the scene with his own aggressive style, Vincent was the first one to challenge him. The two had some truly memorable dust-ups on the track.
MOMENT IN TIME: Vincent became the first media darling of ESPN’s Winter X Games and the coverage of the WSA Snocross season on the same network, which dialed up his profile but also the pressure to perform. After an impressive showing at Winter X in 1998, Vincent – now racing on a Ski-Doo for Scheuring – went into the 1999 event as the co-favorite with Blair Morgan and defending gold medalist Toni Haikonen.
Vincent backed up that status by winning all of his qualifying races. He jumped out to the lead in the final, building it to more than six seconds at the halfway point of the six-lap final. However, a lap later his exhaust system broke, robbing the engine of critical back-pressure, and Vincent was barely able to hold off Morgan for the gold medal. When crossing the finish line, Vincent attempted a celebratory heel clicker but, due to the limited power that his sled could make, didn’t catch the necessarily air and instead did an odd-looking twisting flop off of his machine. Morgan then crashing while trying to avoid Vincent and his sled while coming over the finish line. Still, the gold medal was Vincent’s, his place in history secure.
BALLOTING: Vincent was rated as high as fourth on a couple of ballots among our expert panel, but was also left off of five ballots. In the fan voting, he finished 10th.
CATCHING UP: We ran into Vincent 14 months ago in West Yellowstone, Montana, where he was meeting some friends for a snowmobile trip in the mountains. He confirmed to us then what his Facebook profile claims: He’s living in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, where he’s a territory rep for a Bobcat dealership.