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Mary Beenken , Published December 12 2010

Playing in the snow: Snocross event draws riders of all skills

The frigid air was thick with the sound of snowmobile engines and the smell of gasoline Saturday at the Dakota Magic Casino Fargo National at North Dakota State University’s Newman Outdoor Field.

The event, part of the nationwide AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, finished its two-day run on the man-made track at the baseball stadium.

For the current championship leader, Tucker Hibbert, the start of the snocross season is more difficult than the end.

“The first couple events are always the hardest because it’s early in the season and you don’t have all the bugs worked out yet,” said the Pelican Rapids, Minn., racer.

Hibbert, who began riding snowmobiles when he was 2 and won his first ESPN Winter X Games gold medal at 15, had a bumpy start to Fargo’s event Friday night.

“It was really intense,” said Mandi Johnson, Hibbert’s wife and PR manager. “It was a super-tight track.”

Hibbert won the main race on Friday, but only after falling off his snowmobile and being forced to gain the lead from behind.

“Rarely can someone fall off and then still win,” Johnson said. “He rode very hard.”

Currently the most popular type of snowmobile racing, snocross takes place on a circuitous racetrack of banked turns, tight corners, and steep jumps.

According to Johnson, these course obstacles added another challenge to Fargo’s event.

“It’s just really hard to get up there and then break away because it’s such a tight course,” Johnson said.

“The race track changes, like, every lap,” Hibbert said. “It’s rougher and holes get deeper. So you have to pay attention to where a bad spot on the track might come up.”

This weekend’s races featured both professional and amateur competitions in open and stock races. Competitors accumulated points by racing in two qualifying rounds and a final race.

“Whatever rider has the highest points at the end of the season is the champion,” Johnson said.

According to Hibbert, the Fargo event provided an opportunity to race for many local snocross amateurs.

“It’s kind of like a hometown race for a lot of people,” he said.

According to Johnson, the snocross season usually sees professional snocross racers like Hibbert criss-crossing the country for competitions.

“It’s just travel in and travel out as fast as we can,” Johnson said.

“It’s kind of nice to be so close to home and not be so far away always,” Hibbert said.

Main race results

Pro open: 1, Tucker Hibbert. 2, Ross Martin. 3, Tim Tremblay. 4, Robbie Malinoski. 5, Justin Broberg.

Pro super stock: 1, Tucker Hibbert. 2. Ross Martin. 3, Tim Tremblay. 4, TJ Gulla. 5, Garth Kaufman

Pro-Am Plus 30 super stock: 1, Justin Tate. 2, Mike Schultz. 3, Earl Reimer. 4, Joshua Zelinski. 5, Chad Bauerly.

Semi-pro super stocks (Friday): 1, Cody Thomsen. 2, Kyle Pallin. 3, Mike Bauer. 4, Dylan Martin. 5, Derek Ellis.

Semi-pro super stocks (Saturday): 1, Kyle Pallin. 2, Derek Ellis. 3, Darrin Mees. 4, Cody Thomsen. 5, Kody Kamm.

Women’s Pro-Am super stock: 1, Carly Davis. 2, Jennifer Pare. 3, Samatha Tarnowski.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Beenken at (970) 227-5613