JOLIET, Ill. (Feb. 20-21, 2015) – For the first time in its 17-year history, Chicago’s Route 66 Raceway opened up its storied drag strip to the stars of pro snowmobile racing’s AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, with the inaugural running of the Hollywood Casino Snocross National, presented by Hayes Brakes.
Friday Pro Open
Hibbert left no doubt as to not only who was the fastest Pro Open racer on Friday at Route 66, but also who wanted it most. In somewhat un-Hibbert like fashion, the defending Pro Open champ and current class point leader put an aggressive first corner pass on the Stud Boy Holeshot winner, Kyle Pallin (LaVallee Racing/Polaris), bumped Pallin out of the way and taking the lead – one which he’d (Hibbert) never relinquish.
“It was a good race for me. Got a great start and put down some fast laps early,” said Hibbert. “The track was really technical, a lot like supercross. And I was having a lot of fun out there, and that’s when I ride my best.”
Hibbert’s opening corner move on Pallin kind of caught everyone by surprise as the defending series champ usually bides his time in an effort to reach the front. The move also foreshadowed some redemption for Pallin, which would come versus Ross Martin (Judnick Motorsports/Polaris) late in the contest in a battle for the third and final podium spot.
With Hibbert up eight seconds by lap 6 on No. 2 Pro Open qualifier Tim Tremblay (AMSOIL/Scheuring/Ski-Doo), and Tremblay having a solid lead on third place Martin and fourth place Pallin as well, fans keyed in on the battle for fifth between Jake Scott (LaVallee Racing/Polaris) and the No. 4 qualifier John Stenberg (Warnert Racing/Ski-Doo). That battle would rage on for a few laps before Logan Christian (Christian Brothers/Arctic Cat) ripped up into the mix and grabbed fifth place, which he’d hold on to through the checkers.
With Hibbert and Tremblay in complete command of the first and second positions on the podium, the battle ensued between Martin and Pallin for the third and final podium spot. Martin looked to have it, but a mistake leading into the final turn allowed Pallin to dive past Martin and snatch the final podium position away from his fellow Polaris racer – breaking Martin’s streak of podium finishes since the holidays.
“That was a crazy race,” said Pallin, who also launched past Martin for third in the overall Pro Open point standings, 365-361. “You can’t ever give up – no matter what. I stayed on Ross, saw him make a little mistake and capitalized off it on the last turn. Man that was a great race!”
Friday Pro Lite
A thrilling Pro Lite final opened the pro class main events on Friday at Route 66 with Carlson Motorsports/Polaris teammates Ryan Springer and Andrew Carlson dueling it out through the checkers to sweep the 1-2 spots.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Springer, who won his fourth-straight Pro Lite main event to go up ten points over Trevor Leighton in the overall point chase. “All these Polaris sleds are pulling starts from everywhere – inside, outside, in the middle. Didn’t matter wherever we lined up.”
Grabbing the Stud Boy Holeshot was Carlson, but was soon caught by Springer prior to the start of lap two. But Carlson would not let Springer go, putting on an amazing aerial show on the back straight triple jumps to keep a ski in the corners on Springer’s roost flap.
Things would come to a halt on lap three as the race would be red-flagged when Ski-Doo racer Marcus Johansson went down and required attention from ISOC track officials.
The ensuing single file restart would send the top three out in similar fashion, with Springer leading Carlson and No. 1 qualifier Travis Muller (Cottew Motorsports/Polaris), who got by James Johnstad (Judnick Motorsports/Polaris), out onto the low 40-second lap Route 66 track.
On lap five 16-year-old Norwegian Elias Ishoel (Warnert Racing/Ski-Doo) charged up toward the front and into fourth place, re-engaging with Muller after an epic battle in their opening Pro Lite heat race. The torrid pace between Ishoel, who clocked a 43.1 lap in pursuit of Muller, and the third place Muller would put them right onto Carlson’s sled as well – and the threesome would catch up to race leader Springer with three laps remaining in the ten lap final.
Not to be lost in the shuffle up front was Trevor Leighton (Leighton Motorsports/Polaris), who – despite a broken shoulder – rocked it into the top five (from 13th) to challenge for the podium as well. By lap eight the pace would jump up and bite rookie Ishoel, who sketched and dropped out of the chase. Carlson would make one last run at Springer, but the consistency of Springer would win out over the big air bravado of Carlson. Muller grabbed the final Friday Pro Lite podium spot with Leighton in fourth and Johnstad in fifth.
Saturday Pro Open
Blasting off the starting line to pull the Stud Boy Holeshot was Ross Martin, only to have Hibbert somehow defy logic by evading being pinched in the first turn from his inside No. 1 gate pick and running up into a close second place behind Martin. And before you could say “end of the first lap” Hibbert was past Martin and into the lead – a lead he’d extend to multiple digits in the seconds dept. at race’s end.
Dominant was an understatement for Hibbert at Route 66 Raceway this weekend. He just flat out crushed it.
“This whole weekend’s been great for us,” said Hibbert, who logged his 104th career win tonight. “We won all of our qualifiers and both main events.”
The technical Carl Schubitzke designed and built Route 66 track won praise from Hibbert and the other racers all weekend long. Its supercross-style layout would suite Hibbert best, no doubt part in due to Hibbert’s extensive supercross racing background.
With Hibbert checked out early and Martin holding strong in second place, a great battle would brew between Kyle Pallin and Logan Christian for the third and final podium position. And while those two were going at it Martin would blow off the track, allowing both Pallin and Christian to move up on to the box.
But Tim Tremblay was having nothing to do with that.
The former champ came rocketing back from a mediocre start to challenge and pass Pallin on lap four (just prior to Martin’s off), inherited third with the Martin wreck, then moved up on to Christian and started what became the best battle of the weekend in the Pro Open class for several laps.
As Hibbert navigated the lapped traffic with seemingly no problems, Christian put it on the edge to hold off former Pro Open champ Tremblay. And just when it seemed like Tremblay had gotten the upper hand, momentarily passing Christian at the beginning of the back stretch, Tremblay would suffer a sizable get-off, pulling his safety tether from the sled as he dismounted and tumbled after casing the landing on a double jump.
Gathering his sled up quickly, Tremblay was able to remount – but not before Pallin came ripping by to take the third and final podium spot. Tremblay would hold on for fourth, with Adam Renheim (Boss Racing/Ski-Doo) placing fifth.
Saturday Pro Lite
It was a wild night at Route 66 Raceway in the Pro Lite class, as racers made top five positions from all points of the starting line – including the back row!
But from the onset it was Travis Muller that took charge from the opening straightaway, passing Stud Boy Holeshot winner Andrew Carlson for the lead on lap one and running it though the checkers with uncanny ease.
“It’s awesome to be up here,” said Muller. “The whole team just had an awesome day. Had two teammates do really well in the amateur and sport classes, then for me to get up here is just great.”
All kinds of heck broke loose behind Muller throughout the remainder of the contest, highlighted by a back row run to the No. 2 position by 16-year-old Pro Lite rookie Elias Ishoel. Adding to that having to transfer through to the main via the Last Chance Qualifier (which he won), it was another big night for the Norwegian speedster.
“I tried to find some good lines and I ran good. Thanks to everybody,” said Ishoel as he continues to improve on the English language from the AMSOIL Championship Snocross podium.
Noticeably missing from Saturday’s Pro Lite podium at Route 66 was overall Pro Lite point leader Ryan Springer. Springer, who had won four-straight main events – including last night’s inaugural Pro Lite contest at Route 66 – got out of the start in 7th place and wasn’t a factor until the end when he made a key pass late in the race on second overall point racer Trevor Leighton and took fourth (to Leighton’s fifth).
Ishoel would clock the fastest lap at 47.419 on the night, until James Johnstad came blazing out of nowhere late in the race, laid down a race-best 46.797 lap, and got by Arctic Cat-mounted Corey Watkinson, Leighton and Springer and into third place with two laps remaining. Johnstad would hold the third and final podium finish through the checkers.
So through 11 of 16 rounds Springer holds a 12-point lead over Leighton, 417-405. Muller jumped into a third place tie with Carlson at 402 points, with Ishoel rounding out the top five at 386 points.
The AMSOIL Championship Snocross, powered by Ram, tour moves to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., for Soaring Eagle’s Ram Trucks National at Soaring Eagle Resort & Casino, February 27-28.