High flying, snowmobile racing action in Chicago

ISOC Championship Snocross returns to Route 66 Raceway near Chicago, Illinois

by Austin Calderone

A snocross racer taking a jump and punching the sky with a fire ball behind him.
Sport rider Nickolas Lorenz of Lorenz Racing from Kenosha, Wisconsin, takes the win Saturday night. He is the current points leader in the class. Austin Calderone photo

For the second time in ISOC Snocross Racing history, the series returned to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, on March 4 and 5, 2016.

This oval-shaped course was built directly on top of the drag strip, used during the summer by many organizations including the International Hod Rod Association and the National Hot Rod Association. From talking with the track crew, they said there was 10 feet of snow on top of the strip. Although the weather this season has been unfortunately (for racing) warm, the track builders were still able to make a bunch of snow weeks prior to the event.

Thirteen-time X-Games medallist, Tucker Hibbert, flying his Monster Energy, Arctic Cat, Ram Trucks mod sled under the stadium lights during a heat race. Austin Calderone photo

Friday was beautiful with blue skies and warm weather. My first impression of the track was that the jumps were huge. Throughout the day, there were many crashes; none were too serious, but it seemed like there was at least one yellow flag for each practice session and race. Many of the riders in the sport, pro lite and pro open classes were launching high above the track throughout the day.

During the sport class round one race, points leader Nickolas Lorenz, No. 572, had an issue with his sled that prevented him from finishing the race. He ended up in the LCQ (last chance qualifier) and took first place, landing a seat in the final. Pro Lite practice went well also, and I was surprised to see Grant Glashagel, No. 227, who is a good friend of mine, in that class, as he moved up from sport and did not tell me that he was moving up. He was doing really well and made it directly into the final after his heat races.

The 120 riders going over the finish line jump. These little guys start racing at six years old on the big track—it isn’t knocked down at all for them. Austin Calderone photo

Friday throughout each pro open practice session, Tucker Hibbert, No. 68, was taking it easy—going slower than usual and analyzing the track. In the final, Ross Martin, No. 837, led just about the entire race with Hibbert creeping up behind. They ended up colliding. I wasn’t able to see as I was on the other side of the track, which put Hibbert behind some positions and leaving Martin in first. The race ended with Martin finishing in first, Corin Todd, No. 36, in second, Tim Tremblay, No. 11, in third, and Hibbert back in fifth. Martin was ecstatic. He said he really enjoys the technical tracks, which most riders do not.

Saturday’s weather was a little subpar compared to Friday since it was pretty much overcast the entire day. The track crew had made a few changes to the course, chopping a little bit off the tops of the jumps to prevent some crashes, which was successful as there weren’t nearly as many crashes on Saturday. Later in the evening, before opening ceremonies, the track crew also knocked down the banked corner before the finish line and made it into a flat corner; not too sure why, however.

John Stenberg of Warnett Racing smashing through the jumps during a heat race. Stenberg is from Lofsdalen, Sweden. Austin Calderone photo

Saturday’s race lineup contained a lot more action than Friday, including a full lineup of younger racers too—all the way from the little 120s where the racers are six to 12 years old, up to the junior 16 to 17 class, and everything in between. The practice sessions began at 8 a.m., and these classes ran until about 2 p.m. when the pro classes began their practices; however, the 120 class did have their final at night under the lights where Cameron Cole, No. 747, of Plaisted Racing from Medina, Minnesota, took first place on his Polaris sled.

In the sport class, Nick Lorenz took first and second in his heats, which landed him a seat directly into the final. The first heat race of pro open had an interesting result—Tucker Hibbert ended up locking sleds with another rider, causing him to finish in seventh. The final race of the night, pro open, ended with Tucker Hibbert taking first, followed by Ross Martin in second, and then Tim Tremblay in third. 

Pro Am women riders signing autographs during the autograph session in the warming tent Saturday afternoon. Austin Calderone photo
Aerial view of the pits. This is where all the riders hang out in between races and where their mechanics modify their snowmobiles. Austin Calderone photo
Brett Nastala of N2 Racing from Edgerton, Wisconsin, was having a blast in this corner during his practice session. It amazes me how well this racers can manoeuvre their sleds. Austin Calderone photo

Event Summary

  • Location: Route 66 Raceway in Elwood, Illinois
  • Saturday’s approximated attendance was 7,500
  • Total of 76 races and practice sessions combined from Friday and Saturday
  • Minimum 10 feet of snow on the course
  • Length of track ~ ¼ mile ~ 0.4 kilometres

For additional information and results from the event, check out the website.

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