Shakopee, Minn. ~ The 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season opened up in mid-December with great racing in Ironwood, Mich. What it didn’t have was ideal snow conditions as the world’s best snowmobile racers tackled a dirty downhill track with five-time defending champion Elias Ishoel taking the opening round win.
The New Year brought forth a familiar stop on the national tour and more traditional winter conditions. The weather dropped just in time to get an extremely racy track, fresh with a blanket of white snow that entertained the enthusiastic Canterbury crowd throughout the frigid Friday night showdown.
Triple Crown Format Favors Ishoel
Fans pay to see the top pro’s and AMSOIL Championship Snocross gave them a heaping helping of hard-charging racing in Canterbury on Friday night thanks to the return of the Triple Crown format.
With valuable points (and the overall win) possible for all three rounds, the fans in Shakopee were witnesses to a trio of races that showcased a completive mix of hard racing and unpredictability.
Five-time defending champion Elias Ishoel came out swinging in Shakopee. The Ironwood winner nailed another perfect hole shot and held off early pressure from Kody Kamm and Francis Pelletier to take the round one win.
The second round would raise a few internal temperatures on a frigid night in Shakopee. Ishoel and Kamm staked their claims for the top spot early in the race, with Kamm finding a faster rhythm early to put pressure on Ishoel. Kamm would pull away from Ishoel and take the win, while Ishoel would drop down to fourth thanks to a tremendous come-from-behind run by Oskar Norum into second and another solid ride from Pelletier
Kamm and Pelletier held the points advantage heading into the final round, but Ishoel was only one point behind. Ishoel separated himself from the field on the first lap and rode to his second win of the night, taking the overall and keeping him atop the Pro standings.
“I was just trying to do my best,” said Ishoel. “I was struggling in the second round, and I don’t know what was going on, but we fixed it for the last one. I just grabbed the hole shot and went for it.”
Pelletier capped off a great night of racing with a determined ride in the third round. Pelletier appeared to have settled into the runner-up spot. Still, the hard charger continued pushing towards the race leader, erasing a nearly five-second deficit and whittling it down to just over a second as Ishoel crossed the finish line. His 2-3-2 put him into second overall for the night.
Norum’s fantastic ride in the second round vaulted him into contention, and he would finish the night 6-2-7 for third overall.
Rookie Dillon Streaks to Second Straight Win
Off the start of the Pro Lite final, Evan Christian avoided getting stuck outside the top five, and a lap later, he was out front of a hungry and competitive field. His time atop the leaderboard was limited on Friday night as rookie Crayden Dillon worked through a mini-early hole to challenge the race leader.
After several laps of tight racing between Christian and Dillon, including some close-quarter competition in the tight Canterbury turns, Dillon got past Christian on lap 12. The round winner would sustain his top-end speed for the remainder of the final, pulling away from Christian for his second straight win to start the season.
“Evan and I went at it, but I’m a little young, and I made a bit of a rookie mistake when we got into it in the back corner, but rubbing’s racing and it’s all good,” said Dillon. “I found a sweet line up here in the front and just stuck down to the inside and went big off the finish line and got the deal done.”
Christian continued to give chase but settled into the runner-up spot, grabbing his first podium of the season and moving into third overall after two rounds of racing. Trent Wittwer worked his way through early traffic and was closing the gap on Christian as the clock wound down. While Wittwer ran out of time, he was able to lock down his first podium of the season in third.
PRO-AM WOMEN: It was a drag race to the first turn, but Malene Cottew found the edge over the rest of the Pro-AM Women’s field as the defending champion drove to her second straight win.
With Cottew out front and pulling away from the track, Tausha Lange moved into the second slot. While she would hold onto the runner-up spot for the remainder of the race, it was a tight finish as Inanna Hauger ran alongside Lange for the entire contest. They would cross the line 2/10ths of a second apart at the line.
PRO SNOW BIKE: The Pro Snow Bike class made its season debut in AMSOIL Championship Snocross, and it brought the excitement early in the second of the two-moto format.
After nabbing a wire-to-wire win in the first moto, Yanick Boucher’s second almost never got going. Three riders, including Moto One runner-up Troy Horbaty, had to bail from their seats. That put R.J. Marnoch into the lead, and he never gave up the top spot, pulling away from the field for the moto win.
Boucher would get clear of the carnage and ride to a second-place finish, giving him the overall with a 1-2 finish. Marnoch would couple his win with a third place finish in the first moto, giving him second overall. Horbaty would finish 2-3 for third overall.
SPORT: Brady Freeland and Cameron Cole put together one of the best battles of the night in the FXR Sport final; Freeland started out front but gave way to Cole on the second lap. Freeland jumped back into the lead for the following ten circuits before Cole darted back into the lead; Freeland gathered himself back up and took over the top spot on the last trip round to secure his second straight win. Cole held on for second, and Domenic Hegman crossed the line in third.
SPORT LITE: Colin Taggart put together a complete day of racing in Shakopee, capitalizing on a pair of solid qualifiers and taking the Sport Lite victory. Taggart started second in the final but pushed himself into the lead on lap two. He didn’t give up the spot as he rode to his first win of the year. Shade Meyer grabbed the holeshot before settling in behind Taggart in the second. Meyer would cross the finish line just ahead of Connor Campbell, who picked up his first podium of the season in third.
STOCK 200: Sullivan Bergman grabbed the holeshot in Friday night’s Stock 200 final and never looked back. The young rider led from start to finish for his first win of the season. Defending class champion and opening-round winner, Jack Gelinas would finish second, with Kody Krantz in third.
TRANSITION 9-13: Tavin Knudson opened his title defense with a weekend sweep in Ironwood and backed it up with his third straight Transition 9-13 win in Shakopee. With Knudson out front from the start, Jimmy Stanisich had to work his way into second on lap two on his way to his third straight runner-up finish this season. Riley Johnson earned his best finish of the season, crossing the line in third.
JUNIOR 14-15: Brandon Martinson took the lead on lap two of the Junior 14-15 final but never gave it back as he raced to his first podium and win of the season. Cole Goike also made it on the box for the first time this year, finishing second. Shane Beasley had to work through early traffic, moving into the final podium spot with two laps remaining for third.
TRANSITION 8-10: Noah Gillis was quick from start to finish on Friday night. Gillis led the Transition 8-10 field around the tear-drop shaped track for his first win of the season. Ironwood winner Kody Krantz finished second, and Tripp Knudson was third.
The 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season will return with a full day of racing on January 13th at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn. For more information about the 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season, visitwww.snocross.com. You can tune in all season long, live onwww.FloRacing.com. Event day schedules and tickets will become available in the coming months atsnocross.com.