(Photo courtesy of Gary Walton/Action Graphics)

It was a thrilling start to the 2011-’12 AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series on Friday, Nov. 25 as Polaris pilot Ross Martin sent a statement to the rest of the premier Pro Open class by winning the inaugural AMSOIL Dominator – a one-on-one, 16-rider bracket racing contest that was about as big a hit with the fans at Duluth’s (Minn.) Spirit Mountain as any snowmobile promotion in the 20-year history of ISOC AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series racing at the legendary facility.

(Photo courtesy of Gary Walton/Action Graphics)

Martin, the second seed behind Arctic Cat’s Tucker Hibbert, would meet Ski-Doo mounted Robbie Malinoski in the finals after Malinoski upset the favored Hibbert in the semis. Putting the hammer down on the start, Martin pulled the holeshot and led a feverously-charging Malinoski through the tricky downhill rhythm section and into the second turn. Martin bobbled a bit down the ensuing straight – and Malinoski tasted blood – only to wad up on the start line tabletop jump and hand the win – and a check for $10,000 from AMSOIL – over to Martin.

“This is one of those races where anything could happen,” says Martin, hoisting the over-sized check with a lot of zeros above his head while fireworks blazed in the background. “I’m just glad I made it to the line first.”

“We (AMSOIL) had four guys in the finals and the last race was neck-and-neck – what a great way to end the AMSOIL Dominator,” says Jeremy Meyer, race program manager, AMSOIL Inc.

Here’s the breakdown of the bracket racing leading up to the finals of the AMSOIL Dominator:

Semifinals … 1st (Tucker Hibbert) vs. 4th (Robbie Malinoski) … Malinoski won the drag race to the first turn from the outside gate pick – which may have stunned Hibbert. In his effort to charge back, which you have to do quickly in a 2.5-lap race, Hibbert made an uncharacteristic mistake in the downhill rhythm section – got a bit sideways – and that was it. Malinoski ran fast and hard through to the checkers and Hibbert could never recover, making Malinoski’s AMSOIL Dominator holeshot in the semis the biggest move of the night. Winner: Malinoski

2nd (Ross Martin) vs. 14th (Cory Davis) … Would Davis be able to hand out another upset? Would Martin continue to run flawlessly and dominate? The latter would be the case as Davis’’ luck/skill ran out as Martin turned the holeshot into a five-second victory and trip to the finals. Winner: Martin

Quarterfinals … 1st (Tucker Hibbert) vs. 9th (Mathieu Morin) … Close at the start, Hibbert puts the rail of his Arctic Cat on the edge of the downhill section and cracks the throttle to hold off Morin. Clean air through the next two laps, Hibbert puts it on auto pilot and into the semis. Winner: Hibbert

4th (Robbie Malinoski) vs. 5th (Dan Ebert) … Malinoski, on the inside, pinched Ebert off at the start and quickly opened up a five-sled lead. With two seconds up with one lap to go, Ebert saves his sled for Saturday. Winner: Malinoski

2nd (Ross Martin) vs. 10th (Brett Bender) … Martin pulled the holeshot and the early lead, but Bender was charging – only to case the last bump in the rhythm section. Martin seizes the moment and opens up, textbook riding for the checkers. Winner: Martin

3th (Tim Tremblay) vs. 14th (Cory Davis) … With the freestyle cancelled due to high winds, the pressure was off Davis (who also jumps) and he responded with the day’s biggest upset, tracking, catching and dogging Tremblay on the top of the ski hill and holding off the hard-charging Canadian for the victory and pass to the semifinals. Winner: Davis

Opening round … 1st (Tucker Hibbert) vs. 16th (Logan Christian) … Defending Pro Open champion Tucker Hibbert pulled the opening holeshot of the inaugural AMSOIL Dominator and didn’t look back , though Christian wadded up in his all-out effort to catch the champ. Winner: Hibbert

8th (Justin Broberg) vs. 9th (Mathieu Morin) … On paper this should have been the closest race. And while it was balanced, Morin would win the 2.5 lap battle to the checkers by 1.5 seconds. Winner: Morin

4th (Robbie Malinoski vs. 13th (Danny Poirier) … Malinoski grabbed the holeshot and nailed the uphill triple perfectly to extend his lead. Poirier would bobble on the downhill rhythm section as Malinoski cruised to the opening round victory. Winner: Malinoski.

5th (Dan Ebert) vs. 12th (TJ Gulla) … In the AMSOIL Dominator’s best opening round race, Ebert got out in front early – but was all over the track. Gulla would close the gap and challenge for the lead, only to have Ebert pull things together for the close victory. Winner … Ebert

2nd (Ross Martin) vs. 15th (Emil Ohman) … ISOC/ACSS Pro Open runner-up Martin pulled the holeshot and ran a flawless 2.5 laps – as did Ohman in another close one. Winner: Martin

7th (Johan Lidman) vs. 10th (Brett Bender) … In the second upset of the night Bender pulled the holeshot and held on at the top of the ski hill when he and Lidman came together. Lidman would sketch in the downhill rhythm section, allowing Bender to cruise to the win. Winner: Bender

3rd (Tim Tremblay) vs. 11th (Darrin Mees) … Mees pulls the holeshot and Tremblay shows a ski on the top of the ski hill before passing Mees – with authority – on the downhill rhythm section. Winner: Tremblay

6th (Garth Kaufman) vs. 14th (Cory Davis) … The biggest upset of the first round would come in the last race when Kaufman got crossed up in the first set of doubles and Davis roared into the lead. The racer/freestyler put the hammer down, making the quarters. Winner: Davis