Thanks to complete overuse and #fakenewz marketing, the word “domination” has lost much of its meaning in world of snowmobile language. But I can’t think of a better word to use for Team Arctic’s assault on the opening round of the 2017-2018 ISOC National Snocross season in Duluth, Minn., last weekend.
The women and men in green — aboard the new Arctic Cat ZR 6000R SX snocross race machine — truly did dominate in a way that I don’t remember seeing, ever, in the 26 years of this fine event. I’ve been to ’em all, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
The raw numbers prove it: 14 wins (out of 20 possible classes) and 25 of 60 podium positions.
To this we can credit truly exceptional drivers and their crews, as well as the all-new Arctic Cat ZR 6000R SX snocross machine.
When the ISR and the snocross circuits announced their intention to go to Stock class machines for the Pro Open class this season, Arctic Cat went all-in to fully reengineer its production based race sled, the ZR 6000R SX. An intense engineering and testing effort produces a machine with that had a longer 137-in. track; new taller ski spindles and revised front suspension geometry; revised sliderail profile; new seat and fuel tank; new bodywork; a revised C-TEC2 EFI engine; and more. It took a huge effort on the part of engineers, racers, race department personnel and Speedwerx to design, test, calibrate and produce the new race sled. And in some ways it was a bit of a gamble, at least in terms of not knowing how it would compare to the competition.
It didn’t take too many races at Duluth to learn the answer. The sled kicked butt! It was the holeshot king at Duluth; it cornered wonderfully; and (perhaps most importantly) it did exactly what the racers expected it to do. During the course of the weekend I probably asked 20 different racers what they thought of it, and every single one of them mentioned the word “confidence” when describing how it road and how they felt on the machine.
There’s still a long season of racing ahead, and I suspect that all brands/teams will find ways to improve their machines (including Team Arctic). From where I sit, Team Green has the best overall package.
Ryley Bester has been a regular winner in snocross since his days on a 120. He hit the ground running again this year with a win in Sport #1 at Duluth. Team Arctic’s Baily Forest grabbed a second in the same final.
Must have been a fun weekend in the Frattalone semi, as Bester’s teammate Sophia Hulsey also scored a big win (in the Jr. Girls 9-13). Addison Bourdages, also on a Cat, got second in the same class.
Trent Wittwer came into Duluth a new racer. He was on-fire, in terms of his intensity and his results. ISOC still doesn’t have results posted, but I’m pretty certain Wittwer won both heats in Sport #2. He definitely triumphed in the final, going wire-to-wire with an emphatic victory. Team Arctic’s Kaden Woodie scored a third in the same final, yet another example of Team Green’s stacking of each class.
Who was the most dominant racer at Duluth? Anson Scheele!
The dude was on a completely different level, and the results showed it: three…THREE class wins during the weekend, including Junior 14-15 (with Andy Pake in third), Junior 16-17 (with Justin Hodge in third) and Sport Lite #2.
Seeing the smiles from his camp (Christian Brothers Racing, Team Arctic, etc…) was really, really cool. But nothing compared to the beaming smile on his dad’s face.
Note: Sorry for my lameness, but I don’t have photos of Team Arctic class winners Drew Freeland (Transition 8-13), Jesse Hallstrom (200 Class) or Tucker Haala (Champ 120).
Clearly Team Arctic owned the non-Pro support classes at Duluth. So does that mean they didn’t back it up in the Pro ranks? Hardly.
Malene Anderson (above) took second in the Pro Women’s #2 final.
Wes Selby is once again hitting a couple snocross races prior to the start of his cross-country campaign. It was a great decision, as he delivered a huge win in the Pro Am 30 Plus #1 final (where teammate Matt Pichner grabbed third).
A few years ago, there was some consternation among Team Arctic faithful about the lack of depth in the Pro Lite and Sport classes. Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety told me at the time to “be patient.” That was sage advice.
Martin Molland (above) had a great weekend at Duluth, grabbing a very strong second place in Pro Lite #2.
After a couple years of knocking on the door, Travis Kern (above) finally bust through barrier to claim his first career Pro Lite win on Saturday night. It was an awesome display by the Factory Team Arctic pilot, and I was particularly impressed with the calmness in which he dissected the track and lapped traffic. He was so smooth, calm and collected that, frankly, he reminded me of Tucker Hibbert.
The only bummer for Travis was his sled getting landed on (and broken) in the first heat of Pro Lite on Sunday morning, which pushed him into the LCQ (where he got taken out in the first turn scrum). I have zero doubt that, had that first heat fiasco not occurred, Kern would have been battling to win the second Pro Lite final too.
As it turned out, Team Arctic’s Factory team STILL went undefeated in Pro Lite. Den Benham (above) was every bit as impressive as his teammate was the day before, taking the win with a level of precision that belies his still relatively young age. Martin Molland kept him honest, but Benham was not going to be denied.
Team Green came within a cat’s whisker of sweeping the podium in this final, as Jacob Yurk got sniped on the last lap after holding down third.
Okay, now onto the class formerly known as Pro Open (and now simply, Pro)…
Along with the new sled, Brett Nastala has upped his game for his sophomore year in the big class. He put himself onto the front row of a final, and had great finishes in the heats.
Johan Lidman is back, and on a Cat again to boot!
Dylan Hall was another racer who made a HUGE leap in speed and strength. Add to the fact that he holeshotted almost every heat, and it’s no wonder he was on the front row and enjoying his best-ever finishes in the big class.
Logan Christian was faster and more consistent than I’ve ever seen him, winning heats with speed and confidence. He held down third place in the Pro #1 final until the final half-lap, when a bad line choice opened the door and put him in fourth, one spot off the podium. On Sunday he finished 6th.
As to the off-season question of whether or not Tucker Hibbert still had the moxie to win and dominate in the Pro class, the winningest racer in snocross history left zero doubt. He was sensational! He dominated both finals (if my memory is correct, he lapped up to 4th place in both) while racing at level that was clearly well within his “safe” zone.
If his competition had hoped that his star had faded a bit during his 33rd summer, it was extinguished by the end of the weekend. I will make no predictions about the rest of the season. Lots can happen, including bad luck. But from what I saw at Duluth, the wins are going to keep coming to the guy who has done nothing but win his entire career.
Yep, Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety left Duluth a very, very happy man.
Congratulations to all the racers who competed at Duluth, regardless of the result or color of sled.
Thanks for reading.