Snowmobile racing star ready to ride after injurySnowmobile racing star Tucker Hibbert goes into this weekend’s 21st annual Amsoil Duluth National Snocross at Spirit Mountain looking to prove he’s back and better than ever.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Snowmobile racing star Tucker Hibbert has been very fortunate to avoid serious injuries during his career, but that changed last March after he crashed during a snocross final at Lake Geneva, Wis.
Hibbert suffered a grade 4 kidney laceration and spent two weeks in the hospital, including four days in the trauma unit.
Hibbert goes into this weekend’s 21st annual Amsoil Duluth National Snocross at Spirit Mountain looking to prove he’s back and better than ever.
Hibbert doesn’t talk about the injury much, but word on the snow is that he is as fit and driven as ever. That could spell bad news for the competition.
“I’m probably running on less sleep than I ever have before the start of a season,” Hibbert said. “Duluth is always an interesting race because it’s the first one of the year. Everything about it is so unpredictable, from the weather to what happens on the track. I’ve been so totally focused on our race program that I haven’t had time to worry about what anyone else is doing, but I’m sure they are working just as hard as we are. I’m sure everyone is going to come into Duluth ready to rip.”
Hibbert, 28, burst onto the snocross scene as a 15-year-old in February 2000 by becoming the youngest Winter X Games gold medalist by winning the snocross event. He followed that by winning at the Duluth National Snocross the following November in his professional debut. He went on to dominate the sport while dabbling in motocross.
Hibbert, who lives in Pelican Rapids, Minn., swept the Pro titles at Duluth from 2008-10 before stumbling to third and fourth place finishes last year while working in a new Arctic Cat snowmobile. Hibbert said all the kinks should be worked out.
“We’re definitely ahead of where we finished last season, so we’re optimistic about Duluth and the season,” Hibbert said. “We were a little disappointed with our results at Duluth last season, and I expect to do a lot better this year. Arctic Cat has done a great job of improving the race sled over last year, so I think we’re in a lot better position. We just needed more time and more parts, and I think we’ve addressed those areas where we could improve.”
EARLY START DOESN’T DERAIL EVENT
This season is as early as the Duluth National has ever been held, but that didn’t stop organizers from making it work, even if everywhere in Duluth you look, you see no snow.
Snowmaking conditions weren’t always optimal, but the team at Spirit Mountain has become more efficient over the years and found just enough time over the past two weeks to create a pile that will be used for the track. After highs near 50 for most of the past week, temperatures are expected to cool for the weekend, creating more snowmaking opportunities to keep the track looking good.
“We’ve got enough snow to work with, which is great,” said Terry Mattson, president of Visit Duluth and one of the event’s founders. “It hasn’t been an easy forecast leading up to the race, but the good news is that we’re moving forward and it’s going to happen.”
Word spread through the digital world that the race was on, much to the surprise of some of the top race teams, who often chase snow this time of year in preparation for the season opener.
Hibbert has gone to Alaska and Canada to train in previous years and said this year was even more challenging than normal to find good conditions for riding.
Hibbert said he never heard the race was canceled or postponed, so in this case, no news was good news.
“I’m honestly surprised that they are able to pull it off,” Hibbert said. “This year has been challenging for everybody to find conditions to be able to test and practice on. They must be working super hard to get snow up there, so we’re excited to get to the track and see what it’s like, and hopefully, the guys have a pile of snow for us to play on.”