Johnstad, Ishoel win Pro Lites races
Tucker Hibbert continued his red hot start to the 2014-15 AMSOIL Championship Snocross series with a pair of victories this weekend at Fargo’s U.S. Air Force Snocross National at the Buffalo River Race Park track. It was a rough track for racers as warm temperatures and limited slow forced organizers to cut the track down to about half its original size.
Qualifying in the No. 1 position, Hibbert (Monster/Arctic Cat/Ram) was pretty much unstoppable on Friday at BRRP. After dominating both of his heat races, Hibbert improved upon a fourth place start position off the holeshot, grabbing the main event’s race lead on lap eight and winning by more than 11 seconds over former Pro Open class champ (’12) Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Scheuring/Ski-Doo).
“Tonight’s race track was really short, and it was tough,” says Hibbert. “So you just had to hammer it all the way around. There was so much roost it was like going through a car wash the whole way around the track.”
Grabbing the Stud Boy Holeshot was David Joanis (Royal Distributing/Arctic Cat), followed by Leighton Motorsports/Polaris‘ Corin Todd in second and Logan Christian (Christian Bros/Arctic Cat) in third.
With the frontrunners battling early to stay ahead of Hibbert, Kody Kamm (Hentges Racing/Polaris), who had an excellent second heat race, wound up on the snow – righting his sled and entering back on the lead lap (albeit in 15th place). Todd got past Joanis on the opening turn of lap three, and began clicking off fast laps. Hibbert, now up to third place, gave chase, cranking out one of the night’s fastest laps (26.8) in his pursuit of Todd.
Doing his best to hold off Hibbert, the Pro Open class rookie (Todd) held the lead through lap eight of the 23-lap main before Hibbert finally caught and passed him.
Down the front straight fans were treated to Pro Open racers clearing three separate landing areas off the AMSOIL finish line jump (“Quadding” as its referred to by racers) in a 130-plus foot leap of faith pretty much on each and every lap. During the mid-portion of the contest Tremblay charged through the pack, getting past Joanis and Todd and into second place behind Hibbert. But Hibbert’s lead was too much for the former champ to overcome, settling on a well-deserved secondplace on the night.
“I’m happy with 2nd,” says Tremblay. “It was a great night for me, from my qualifiers to the main.”
Hibbert won by 11-plus seconds, with Tremblay in second and Joanis rounding out the Pro Open podium in third. The rest of the top five included Lincoln Lemieux (AMSOIL/Scheuring/Ski-Doo) in fifth and Todd holding on to a hard-fought fourth.
Heading into Saturday’s U.S. Air Force Snocross National main in Fargo, Hibbert had qualified in an auspicious seventh position (fourth and fifth in his heat races). His opening heat race featured a frightening wreck where Hibbert landed on the back of Corin Todd’s (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) sled, his momentum carrying his sled up onto Todd’s body. Hibbert remounted and rallied back to fourth, while Todd left the track under his own power (but was unable to answer the bell for the Pro Open main).
“It was a struggle for us in the heat races for sure, pretty scary,” says Hibbert. “But I’ve been racing a long time and fall back on my experience. Found some lines in the final and we got a couple more wins.”
Pulling the main event Stud Boy Holeshot was Kody Kamm (Hentges Racing/Polaris), the Pro Open’s No. 1 qualifier. Earlier in the day Kamm had clocked a 25.3-second lap in the opening heat, the weekend’s fastest lap time. And while the stage looked to be set for an epic Kamm vs. Hibbert bull ring-style oval track battle, much like how they went at it in Deadwood, SD last year, Hibbert made short work of Kamm, passing him briefly for the lead on lap two, then for good on lap three.
Running up front uncontested, Hibbert quickly opened up a five-second lead. Kamm then was challenged by a charging Ross Martin (Judnick/DuPont/Jack Links/Polaris), who caught and passed Kamm on lap 11. Kamm came railing back, but Martin had the better line selection and rode his most consistent and fast race of the season for second place.
“We had some tough luck the first weekend and yesterday we just weren’t doing it,” says Martin on his first podium finish of the season. “Got things figured out and hopefully we can keep things rolling and get back up here.”
Hibbert, Martin and Kamm ran unchallenged through the entire 23-lap Pro Open main at BRRP. Battling for the fourth and fifth spots were AMSOIL/Scheuring/Ski-Doo teammates Lincoln Lemieux (fourth) and Tim Tremblay. But unfortunately for Tremblay, who finished second on Friday, a late-race get off ended his night and Boss Racing/Ski-Doo’s Adam Renheim rounded out the top five.
While Hibbert has been dominating the Pro Open class, the Pro Lite class saw its third winner in as many races on Friday. This time it was James Johnstad (Judnick Motorsports/Polaris) that was able to utilize some creative line selection to pass Trevor Leighton (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) late in the contest and hold on for his first win of the season.
“I was behind Trevor and Travis (Muller) for quite a bit of the race, but kept seeing lines and kept pushing until I finally broke through,” says Johnstad. “Snow packed into my goggles so many times I couldn’t see. Just glad I was able to stay on my sled and win here in front of the hometown fans.”
Pulling the holeshot in the big rush off the start for the lead was Muller (Cottew Motorsports/Polaris), followed by Leighton in second and Johnstad in third. The three separated from the rest of the pack, with Leighton moving up onto Muller quickly (by lap three). On the same lap, 16-year-old Elias Ishoel (Warnert Racing/Ski-Doo), got bucked off his sled while rushing to catch the leaders and was not a factor in the remainder of the contest.
Using the entire track, Leighton dove to the inside of turn one to open lap five – with Muller running outside – and claimed the lead. Leighton held the lead for through the halfway point of the 15-lap Pro Lite main when Johnstad fired around the outside line in turn one to pass Muller, then set his site on Leighton – eventually passing him with three laps remaining.
Johnstad quickly opened up a 1.5-second lead and ran it through the checkers for the win. Leighton held on for second and Muller took third. Rounding out the Pro Lite top five were Corey Watkinson (Watkinson Racing/Arctic Cat) in fourth and Zak Mason (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) in fifth.
Saturday’s Pro Lite final was a three-racer duel from the start and highlighted by the most spectacular pass of the season thus far.
On lap 10 and running in second place, Norwegian sensation Elias Ishoel (Warnert Racing/Ski-Doo) cracked the throttle and literally berzerked his Ski-Doo over the AMSOIL finish line jump, 130-feet through the air and passing Zak Mason (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris) for the lead and eventual win. With the memorable move Ishoel also bumped Mason out of the overall No. 1 spot in the Pro Lite division.
“On the finish line I jump … and yeah, I pass him,” said Ishoel with a smile.
Off the start Ryan Springer (Carlson Motorsports/Polaris) yanked the holeshot, but was passed by Mason before the end of the opening lap. Mason and Ishoel then broke away from the rest of the field, but on two occasions each racer nearly threw away his position with near-crash bobbles through the tricky rhythm section on the BRRP back straight.
By lap five Johnstad had made his way up to third place, looking to challenge Ishoel and Mason. The three separated from the rest of the field and put on a great show for the fans, dicing in the corners and drawing close down the straights before, on lap ten, Ishoel pulled the Pass of the Year thus far in both Pro classes on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross circuit.
Off the aerial pass and into turn one, Ishoel rocketed out to the lead and opened up a gap on Mason. Johnstad challenged Mason for second, but Mason was able to hold off Johnstad’s furious run to the checkers. Rounding out the top five in Saturday’s Pro Lite main at Fargo were Jake Angove (Fort Fremont Racing/Polaris) in fourth and Travis Muller (Cottew Motorsports/Polaris) in fifth.