Arctic Cat pilot sweeps Pro Open races
After finishing off the podium at the AMSOIL Championship Snocross season-opening Duluth National two weeks ago, Monster Energy/Arctic Cat‘s Tucker Hibbert responded by utterly dominating this past weekend at the Blackjack National in Bessemer, Mich.
Qualifying first in Friday’s Pro Open main event by sweeping both his heat races in convincing fashion, Hibbert passed Duluth double winner Robbie Malinoski (AMSOIL/Ski-Doo) three laps into the 15-lap contest and pushed his sled on the treacherous track to a massive 23-second lead at the checkers.
“That was a good ‘ol fashion butt whipping I took from Tucker,” says Malinoski.
Hibbert passed Malinoski in the gnarliest section of the Blackjack track. Dubbed the “Dirty Dozen” for its 12 downhill jumps, it was the most talked-about section of the day and a spot where most of the passing was done, or set up for passes on the finish line straightaway.
Joining the aforementioned racers on the Pro Open podium in third place was Malinoski’s AMSOIL/Ski-Doo teammate Darrin Mees, who added: “I couldn’t believe how far out front Tucker was.”
With Malinoski pulling the Stud-Boy Holeshot, Polaris‘ Ross Martin was up front early and well into podium position when he was struck by Mees’ sled and run off the track into a deep valley. Once Martin, who won the Blackjack National opener last year, got back on the track he was way out of the top five and would be a non-factor.
“I got squirrely on that downhill section and bumped Ross off the track – and I’m sorry for that,” says Mees.
Back in the pack as well was defending AMSOIL Championship Snocross Pro Open champion Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Ski-Doo). Tremblay would, however, salvage a decent fourth place finish, with fan-favorite Levi LaVallee (Polaris) rounding out the top five.
But the night was Hibbert’s as the former champ came blazing back in to the overall Pro Open points picture.
“We had a lackluster weekend in Duluth, so I think this was a good statement for us,” says Hibbert. “Hopefully we can do it again here on Saturday.”
Those proved to be prophetic words as Hibbert’s dominance continued the next day. In fact, the only thing bigger than Hibbert’s massive start-to-race-lead in Saturday’s Pro Open final at Blackjack was the statement he sent to the rest of the Pro Open class with another win and a clean sweep of rounds three and four of AMSOIL Championship Snocross. Winning by 15-plus seconds on the tour’s most difficult track over Martin and Tremblay, Hibbert is now just ten points back of Malinoski, 165-155, for the overall Pro Open points lead.
“It was definitely a lot of fun out there,” says Hibbert. “But it’s a challenging track and I’m thankful I got the holeshot. There was a lot of hard work back at the shop the last two weeks to get this sled ripping. Glad we got up here with two wins this weekend.”
According to ISOC officials the short Stud Boy Holeshot was narrowly grabbed by Mees. But before you could say new leader, Hibbert, with the seventh gate pick, had jetted past Mees and into the early race lead. As Hibbert checked out, setting the day’s fasted lap time (55.047) by an amazing two seconds, Mees would inherit second based on his excellent start, with Martin blasting up to third.
By lap six Hibbert’s lead was up to 7.5 seconds. Martin set up and passed Mees off turn one – pulling ahead of the Scheuring Speed Sports super team that included Mees, Tremblay and Malinoski.
About the only thing at this point in the race that could happened to Hibbert was a mistake – to which he made one in the second heat race when he went down in the middle of the “Dirty Dozen” downhill section. But Hibbert wasn’t about to make that mistake a second time and gunned his Arctic Cat through seemingly impossible lines to take the 15-plus second win.
As Hibbert drew the checkers and set the AMSOIL Championship Snocross finish line pot fires off, the fans’ attention diverted their attention quickly to the battle for second place between Martin and Tremblay (who had gotten past Mees on the previous lap).
“In the end I just ran out of time,” says Tremblay.
“Feels great to be up here. The guys were up until 4 a.m. working on my sled, so thanks to my team for that,” says Martin.
Continuing his reign on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross’ Pro Lite class, Ski-Doo’s Canadian pilot David Joanis ripped to his second main event win in three rounds on Friday, topping Polaris racers James Johnstad (second) and Andrew Carlson (third) for the victory.
“It was really rough out there and everyone raced awesome,” says Joanis, rallying back in a big way from a black flag DNF at round two at Duluth. “I just let the race play out and tried not to make many mistakes.”
Up front early in the night’s first Pro class main event was Carlson. His Polaris pulled holeshots for him all day and he was able to parlay that explosive out-of-gate speed into an early race lead. But biding his time and pretty much stalking Carlson was the #115 of Joanis, who passed Carlson five laps into the 11-lap race and made it stick – extending his lead as the laps ticked off.
The best battle of the Pro Lite main would be for second and third when Johnstad reeled in Carlson and passed him late in the race.
However, all was not lost in Carlson’s third place effort as it was his first career podium in the Pro Lite class.
“I had a great start on my Polaris, second off the start and led part of the race,” says Carlson. “Congrats to Dave on the win.”
Rounding out the top five in the Pro Lite class on Friday at Blackjack were Sweden’s John Stenberg (Ski-Doo) in fourth and Canada’s Dylan Hall (Ski-Doo) in fifth.
Three new faces were up on the Blackjack National Pro Lite podium on Saturday as Jake Scott (Polaris) put on a masterful performance in topping No. 1 qualifier Stenberg and third place Renaud Alexandre (Ski-Doo).
“I was so pumped at the start. After I got by (Matt) Pichner I saw John Stenberg back there. He’s been running so good I got really nervous,” says Scott on his first win of the 2012-’13 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season and second trip to the podium. “But I just ended up riding smooth and I got up here. Pumped!”
Pulling the holeshot in the Pro Lite main was Arctic Cat’s Pichner. Scott would move quickly into second place, but bided his time in making a move on Pichner for the lead. Midway through the contest, on lap four (of eight), Scott shot to the outside of Pichner on turn one and took the lead heading up the big uphill section. As he stated previously, Scott rode a smooth, calculating Pro Lite main at Blackjack and brought ‘er home for the win.
Stenberg, contesting his final ACS event in the States this year before moving back to Sweden to race, soon moved into second place past Pichner and set his site on Scott. Alexandre then moved past Pichner – on the same section where Scott took the lead – and grabbed the third and final podium spot. The veteran Pichner would hold on to a solid fourth place finish and Friday’s Pro Lite main runner-up, Polaris’ James Johnstad would round out the top five.
|ACSS Pro-Open Standings||ACSS Pro Lite Standings|
|1.||Robbie Malinoski||Ski-Doo||165||1.||David Joanis||Ski-Doo||141|
|2.||Tucker Hibbert||Arctic Cat||155||2.||James Johnstad||Polaris||140|
|3.||Tim Tremblay||Ski-Doo||149||3.||John Stenberg||Ski-Doo||139|
|4.||Ross Martin||Polaris||143||4.||Renaud Alexandre||Ski-Doo||136|
|5.||Darris Mees||Ski-Doo||135||5.||Andrew Lieders||Polaris||134|
|6.||Logan Christian||Arctic Cat||108||6.||Jake Scott||Polaris||130|
|7.||Cody Thomsen||Arctic Cat||91||7||Travis Muller||Ski-Doo||116|
|8.||Justin Broberg||Polaris||89||8.||Dylan Hall||Ski-Doo||106|
|9.||Petter Narsa||Ski-Doo||86||9.||Joe Sagan||Ski-Doo||98|
|10.||Levi LaVallee||Polaris||86||10.||Andrew Carlson||Polaris||92|