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HomeFeaturesDuluth Recap: What I Learned at the 2014-15 Opener

Duluth Recap: What I Learned at the 2014-15 Opener

2014 Duluth National snocross. Photo by

53-foot Dreams: For the past several years I’ve taken a similar photo of the Duluth pits, and every year the image looks the same. I tried counting all the 53-footers that were actual race trailers (rather than OEM promo rigs), seems like there were between 22-26.

I’m not sure what this says about the sport, but I can deduce that a lot of diesel is burned during the 8-stop ISOC National series.


2014 Duluth National snocross. Photo by

2014 Duluth National snocross. Photo by

Record crowds: Here’s a tip — never, ever believe the official spectator count of a race. There are simply too many political reasons for venues to fudge the number.

That said, I will absolutely go on record as saying that I can’t remember a year at Duluth (and I’ve been to all 23 of them) where the Saturday evening crowds were this big. It was nutty, actually, especially considering the B.A.C. of so many of the people.

The huge crowd combined with the tight, intimate track layout are a big part of what makes Duluth so dang awesome. There’s an electricity here that I don’t feel at any other snocross.


Team Arctic Cat's Wes Selby and Ryan Ryan Weidemann

While my primary goal when covering races is to see what happens on the track, some of the most interesting and enjoyable action occurs off the track.

Here Team Arctic cross-country racers Wes Selby (left) and Ryan Weidemann talk shop near the pits. Wes has already put in a couple days of riding on Pine Lake, site of the first USXC race of the season on Dec. 20-21, about which Ryan was asking questions.


Team Arctic engineers at Duluth Snocross. Photo by

Probably the biggest question heading into a new season is, How are the new sleds performing relative to the competition?

Arctic Cat takes this question very seriously, which is why a cadre of engineers come to observe, talk with racers and crew, take notes and learn.

Here engineers Dayne Efta (left) observes Logan Christian’s #43 Pro Open sled, while Brian Dick (right) talks with Hector Olson (middle) about what the Christian Bros. team were seeing and experiencing with the new race sleds.


Inside the Factory Team Arctic trailer with Cat honchos. Photo by

Here a similar discussion happened inside the Factory Team Arctic trailer that supports Pro racer Cody Thomsen and amateur Trent Wittwer.

From L-to-R: Roger Skime, Russ Ebert, Doug Braswell, Jeff Wittwer and Mike Kloety.

The topic at this meeting was some ideas on how to take some weight out of the race sled. A few ounces here, a pound or two there, and pretty soon the sled is five pounds lighter. It might not seem like much, but as machines get more evolved it’s details like this that make a noticeable difference.


Russ Ebert and Mike Kloety inside the Factory Team Arctic race trailer. Photo by

Ebert and Kloety have had hundreds if not thousands of conversations about race sleds while standing in this trailer, each piece of shared information contributing to the overall effort of Team Arctic’s race (and consumer) sled effort.


Cody Thomsen's Factory Arctic Cat Pro Open sled. Pic by

The heavy (and hard) use of brakes can necessitate the need for additional airflow to cool the rotor, hence the ducting on Thomsen’s sled to serve that purpose.


Logan Christian, Christian Bros. Racing-Team Arctic Cat. Photo by

While the mechanics tend to the race machines, the drivers tend to their body preparation that, for Logan Christian, means 10-15 minutes of a light warm up on this exercise bike.

Either that, or he’s training for the upcoming mountain bike race season?


Inside the Christian Bros. Racing trailer at Duluth snocross. Photo by

On the other side of the trailer wall from Logan, Betsy Haldorson makes final preparations to Logan’s sled.


Inside the Tucker Hibbert race trailer. Photo by

There’s an urgency and heightened pace at Duluth compared to most of the other events, simply because it’s the first race of the season.

Here inside the front half of Tucker Hibbert’s Monster Energy/Arctic Cat trailer, Sledhead 24/7 was interviewing Hibbert.

As you might imagine, Tucker is in great demand by media and well wishers. Considering how much is asked of him, he goes to great lengths to accommodate everyone.

However, he did deny my request to host a webinar about threshing machines from inside of his trailer.


Inside the Tucker Hibbert race trailer. Photo by

In the back half of the trailer, Tucker’s dream team works their special kind of magic on this sled. The combined knowledge and experience of Kirk Hibbert (left), Steve Houle of Speedwerx (middle) and Garth Kaufman is so far beyond the norm, and a big part of why Tucker goes so stinking fast.


Inside the Tucker Hibbert race trailer. Photo by

Tucker’s sled might come apart multiple times during a double-header weekend like Duluth. And each time Kirk (and Garth) will check, fine-tune and re-check every critical component. The sled is fully dried inbetween each round of heats. 

It’s all like clockwork, and the sled looks so dang clean you could eat off of it.

It’s a long ways from what racing looked like at Duluth 23 years ago but, interestingly, Kirk was there (and winning).


Christian Bros. Racing Zach Herfindahl, Hector Olson and Cory Berberich. Photo by

Early Saturday morning, Christian Bros. Racing sent their three thugs, Zach Herfindahl (left), Hector Olson and Corey Berberich (right) to shake down any out-of-control spectators.

Instead of performing meaningful crowd control, the three just stood at the top of the hill making fun of each other while talking about the upcoming cross-country race season, where Zach will try to defend his USXC Pro title aboard Hector/Corey-prepped sleds.

By the way, Zach is not 12 feet tall. Hector and Corey are 3 feet tall.


Team Arctic Cat sweeps snocross Transition. Photo by

On to the actual race action…

…in which Team Arctic enjoyed a truly exceptional weekend with 8-of-16 class wins and 20 podium finishes. It was the best of any manufacturer, and it’s definitely worth bragging about.

Team Arctic racers swept the Transition 8-12 class, with Anson Scheele (middle) taking the win ahead of Brayden Kernz (left) and Raycer Frank.

Gotta love the big smiles!


Team Arctic Cat's Carson Alread wins Duluth. Photo by

Carson Alread captured the win in Junior Novice.


Team Arctic Cat's Trent Wittwer wins Duluth. photo by

And Trent Wittwer took the win in Amateur #2.

Colin Kernz was the one Team Arctic class winner that I did not get a photo of (sorry Colin, very lame of me). Kernz won Amateur #1.


Team Arctic Cat's Dan Benham. Photo by

Dan Benham didn’t win a class at Duluth, but he grabbed a second and third in the Sport finals to serve notice that he’s a race and championship contender for this season.


Team Arctic Cat's Montana Jess wins Sport at Duluth Snocross. Photo by

In what might have been the most emotionally satisfying win of the weekend; Montana Jess was victorious in Sport #2. It was his first race since nearly losing his hand in a snocross accident that occurred last season (his doctor told him that he might never hang onto a handlebar again).

It was an awesome performance by Jess and a well-deserved win!

What I saw regarding the three brands of competing snowmobiles was that they were pretty darn equal.

Yes, my underwear are green. That said, Arctic Cat took 45 percent of all the podium places. My rough math shows that there were more Polaris riders (and significantly so in the Sport class) than Cat or Ski-Doo, so the numbers favored them but the actual results don’t.

In any given class, each brand appeared capable of getting a holeshot. Same for negotiating the uphill whoop section. I saw very few broken sleds getting hauled off the track.

Unlike last year, Yamaha did not contest Duluth and are (apparently) putting their effort into cross-country, hillclimb and perhaps enduro.


Team Arctic Cat's Travis Kern. Photo by

Last year Travis Kern was robbed of the Sport class championship when he was steamrolled by a competitor in the last corner of the last race of the season.

Instead of returning to Sport, Kern made the jump to Pro Lite, where he scored a third place finish at Duluth! It was another stunning performance by a guy who has made big goals for himself and is doing everything he can to achieve them.


Team Arctic Cat's Lee Butler wins OldGuysPro. Photo by

Lee Butler put Cat back on top of the ProAm Plus 30 class with a thoroughly dominating performance.


Factory Team Arctic Cat snocrosser Cody Thomsen. Photo by

Factory Team Arctic’s Cody Thomsen did not have the kind of performance at Duluth that he expected, finishing 8th in Pro Open #1 and failing to qualify for #2. He showed flashes of brilliance throughout the weekend.


Logan Christian, Christian Bros. Racing-Team Arctic Cat. Photo by

Logan Christian was on a tear during Sunday’s round of Pro Open racing, winning his heats and running third (and gaining) in the final until he accidentally pulled his tether. He recovered to finish 7th. Combined with the 4th place in Saturday’s final, Logan is off to his best season start as a Pro.


David Joanis, Christian Bros. Racing/Team Arctic Cat. Photo by

Nearly matching his Christian Bros. Racing teammate, David Joanis took a 5th and a 7th in Pro Open classes.


Team Monster-Arctic Cat snocross turkey Tucker Hibbert wins Duluth. Again. Photo by

If there were questions about whether Tucker Hibbert would pick up where he left off last season, he answered pretty emphatically by crushing all of the heats and both finals at Duluth.

There were 10 laps of drama during Saturday’s Pro Open final, when Tucker was working his way up from a crummy start. But with lap times that were one second (or more) quicker than anyone else, it was apparent that, barring mishap, Hibbert would find his way to the front and take the win. Which he did, and then it was game-over.


Team Monster Energy Arctic Cat snocrossing turkey Tucker Hibbert. Photo by

High fives after every heat race.


Team Monster Energy Arctic Cat snocrossing turkey Tucker Hibbert. Photo by

Team Monster Energy Arctic Cat snocrossing turkey Tucker Hibbert. Photo by

Tucker Hibbert and his Monster Energy-Team Arctic crew celebrate Duluth victory. Photo by

Monster Energy-Team Arctic Tucker Hibbert is interviewed following his Duluth win. Photo by

Tucker notched his 96th and 97th career Pro wins at Duluth, further distancing himself as the all-time winningiest snocross racer.

While he was being interviewed for television, I heard someone in the crowd yell “Undefeated for the whole season!”

That’s such a huge task that involves far more than just Tucker’s immense skill and talent. It involves luck as well as bad luck.

In fact, had Spicolli not taken him out last year, Tucker would likely already have his undefeated season.

Could he do it this year? Of course, but it’s WAY too early to be talking about that.

For now, let’s just enjoy the racing.

Thanks for reading.



  1. I finally made it to Duluth this year along with my wife and daughter. So cool to see Cat so competitive again! Let alone Tuckers performance! It was awesome!!

  2. It’s amazing that the team Arctic Cat factory racer is awful. How is it that they don’t have a respectable driver. Is it a money issue? Like not willing to pay someone so they will just settle since they have Hibbert winning all the time that it just doesn’t matter?

  3. Spicoli! That’s awesome. Cool to see Arcticwear making a comeback. Def see lots of it everywhere this year. I agree that Thomsen needs to get his shizzle together. Maybe Cat should send him back to Pro Lite!

  4. Great coverage John!
    I missed the action… nursing injuries from motocross this summer, and very happy to see my Wisconsin team mates, the Kernz brothers make it to the top.
    I knew Colin Kernz was going to be tough, and happy to see brother Brayden follow up to Colin’s success.
    Everyone involved had a great weekend!

  5. Did people boo Tucker again? I heard a lot of that last year and it drove me nuts. The guy is nothing but great to fans no matter which brand you ride. Now I know winners get booed. The New York Yankees for example, but their arrogant and Tucker simply isn’t. He could be ****y like a lot of the newer generation of racers and act like signing autographs is something he’s contracted to do, but he doesn’t. Plus all of the hate I read about him spewed on other sled sites just drives me insane! I watched the Blair Morgan Project the other day and he said the booing when he won really sucked. Ok my rant is over. Support your local Tucker Hibbert!

  6. Cody: Ross beat Tucker at Fargo because Kamm cleaned Tucker out in the first corner.

    Eric: Well said. I don’t get it either. I didn’t hear what the crowd was doing regarding Tucker this year. Haters gonna hate, I guess.

  7. John
    I’m sure Kamm meant to take Tucker out as much as Tucker meant to take Turcotte out in the Dominator.
    Also what’s wrong with taking each other out. It’s part of what makes it exciting.
    The idea that Isoc can decide what is and what isn’t a “take out” is just asking for controversy.

  8. Every couple of years cat has some butt ugly gear. This is one of them. Way to go team Arctic! You done good in Duluth. Lets rock Pine Lake!

  9. I miss the days when tucker and Morgan used to duke it out. I bet they do too. Those guys can read, memorize and adjust to conditions better then anybody. I bet tucker could do the last lap blind folded!!

    He has had some good mentors with roger, Russ, dad and countless others.

  10. Eric, I find it interesting that you criticize the negative reactions towards Tucker yet condone it towards an entire sports team. Is it all New York Yankees that you find arrogant? Or just showboaters like Derek Jeter? You could just see the hatred people had towards him last season. Also, it is “they’re” or “they are”, not “their”.

  11. Great story and photos John, thank you. I do not know Tucker and his Dad, I have spoken to some people who have met both of them, and the first words they have to describe them is ‘class act”. Along with an incredible talent Tucker has a magnetic personality, just listen to him during an interview, read his comments, the fact that he is available to all race fans says it all. Thank you Tucker and thank you Mr. and Mrs. Hibbert for having raised a fine young man.

  12. Brian I am a huge Yankees fan I didn’t note that because I didn’t want to get flamed so thanks for making me bring it out! I respect why they get booed. No I wasn’t talking about Jeter I was talking about the organization. Do people boo Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Mo Rivera? No, they boo the Yankees organization because The Boss was arrogant and so is Cashman. Thanks for helping me with my spelling also mom. This place is starting to turn into HCS with all of these trolls.

  13. One other thing, there were a lot of bandwagon fans for Jeter who were caught up in the moment. I have been to many away Yankee games and fans would ridicule people in Jeter clothing. They would boo Jeter and say many non baseball related things to him. This year when he retired everybody became his biggest fan and bought his apparel. That was due to the league showing him respect and fans getting caught up in the moment.

    Jet was a great guy he signed autographs and took time with the kids whenever he got a chance just like Tucker. Did he deserve to get called some of the names I had heard and booed? NO! I had many friends who talked trash and hated Jeter claim to be his biggest fans last year last year anyways. Now back to snowmobiles if I have the English teacher’s permission….

  14. John you nailed it on the head with the “Spicoli”

    It was a great weekend with perfect weather,big crowds and good racing.As far as the booing I did hear some but that always seems to go with any sport,any person who dominates in whatever they do very well and with my personal slogan of “jealousy will get you know where” I chalk it up as their rider sucks so they boo the one who dominates week after week!

  15. Congrats to Team Arctic for the good weekend!! As far as Tucker and all the guys on the Monster/Arctic Cat team go, they are a class act. We were at Mount Pleasant, MI for the race, and my son is a huge fan of Tucker, his favorite colors are “Tucker Hibbert green and black”. Anyways, we were able to spend some time talking to some guys on the team, picking Garth Kaufman’s brain, and Tucker even let my son sit on his race sled and take a picture. Great guys, I don’t understand the hate.

  16. When tucker was racing up here in Winnipeg, manitoba about 10 -12 years
    ago, it was WSA circuit i believe, well Tucker and Blair both signed my
    son’s and myself jackets and someone in Tuckers crew also gave us a set of
    his carbide skags! still hanging on my wall!
    A true class act and some good racing by those two aswell!

  17. I was GLAD Kamm didn’t make the box so i didn’t have to hear him speak. I don’t mean to bash the kid but he sounds dumber then a sack of hammers.

    No one can put down consistent fast laps like Tucker, no one. Undefeated season is damn neer impossible with all the variables.

  18. Anyone who uses the line “dumber then a sack of hammers” may want to reevaluate himself before trying to bash others.
    Kamm has his job because of his riding abilities, not because of his public speaking skills.

  19. The weather this year is gtneitg weirder and weirder. In Saskatoon, on the 6th of November, we hit 17 C. The last time it was warmer than that was the 26th of September! We topped 15 C today. The last time we had a double digit reading so late in November was 12.7 C on the 20th Nov 2005. That was just before the powerful El Nino that winter. [url=]rarzykggv[/url] [link=]swgzds[/link]


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