Happy 2021, race fans! Usually I’d be leading you into the New Year two races deep into the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series. But, due to COVID, organizers delayed the season opener, which turned into a fan-less weekend that found me cozied up on the couch with my toddler watching the livestream instead of on the ground at ERX Motorpark, in Elk River, Minn.
The livestream gave us a look at the start of what should be a great season (in addition to some pretty sick drone footage) that’ll feature new faces, new rivalries and new tracks.
AMSOIL Championship Snocross last made a stop at ERX Motorpark in 2012. With the testing track itself unable to open until about a month ago, folks at ERX and ISOC had their work cut out for them. Using 3.5 million gallons of water to build the track, they created one of the longest tracks in Snocross history, turning both to the right and left (uncommon in these tracks) along I-69, a stone’s throw from the Championship Off-Road track we saw this past summer at the very same facility.
Racers also saw one of the longest holeshots the circuit has ever seen. When fielding a lineup of all-star athletes who’ve been anxiously waiting to race, anything can (and does) happen. Running mainly one-minute lap times throughout Pro practice earlier on Friday, only Daniel Benham and Elias Ishoel were able to run sub-50-second laps. Reduced visibility throughout the weekend caused some racers to experiment with tear offs, while others hoped for the best.
Coming out of last season third in Pro points, Scheuring Speed Sports’ Lincoln Lemieux never really felt like he found his groove. Landing on the podium only twice, he knew he could do better.
Honing in on that sentiment, Lemieux came into Friday night’s final qualifying fourth, with teammate Hunter Patenaude qualifying seventh. Off the start Lemieux took the holeshot, narrowly escaping some first-turn carnage. After that he hit his stride and never looked back, leading the entire 10-minute-plus two-lap final (a new format for 2021).
“(As for the start), there were five guys inside of me and I said, ‘Hey, I got to beat those five guys to the corner.'”Lincoln Lemieux
Hunter Patenaude was required to move up to the Pro class this season after winning the Pro Lite championship in 2019 and finishing just short in 2020 behind Francis Pelletier (who also moved to the Pro class this season).
After an impressive fourth-place finish on Friday night, Patenaude qualified first for the final. Off the start, Patenaude took the holeshot with his teammate Lemieux right behind him. After two turns, the veteran bested the rookie, taking the lead.
It was much of the same until about two minutes remained in the 10 minutes. Last year’s champ, Elias Ishoel, rocketed out of fourth to pass Patenaude in second. Then he set his sights on Lemieux until Lemieux was forced off the track with a black flag after a clutch cover fell off his sled, handing Ishoel the win, with Patenaude tailing behind in second. The finish landed the rookie first in points on the weekend, setting up a highly competitive final.
“Everybody in this Pro class is just insane. They are so fast, and every time you go out there, there are 11 guys that can probably win a race. To have that kind of competition makes it a lot more fun.”Hunter Patenaude
A few other notes on the weekend:
- The ascension of Patenaude & Pelletier into the Pro class left the door open in the Pro Lite class for others to shine. Noteably Adam Peterson, Camryn Anderson and Taylor Cole.
- Pro Women stalwart Megan Brodeur found herself heavily contested in the opener by Marlene Anderson and Taven Woodie. She took the top spot Friday but finished runner-up to Anderson on Saturday.
- Jesse “Cowboy” Kirchmeyer swept the weekend in Pro Snow Bike, heading into next weekend with a 14-point lead.
The series heads to Dubuque, Iowa for rounds three and four this weekend. Be sure to catch all the action on the livestream and stay up to date from all the race-day happenings on our social channels.