Ironwood, Mich., ~ After an opening night of head-to-head racing saw rookie pro and Swedish rider Gustav Sahlsten take home the $10,000 payday for winning the AMSOIL Dominator, it was a return to Mt. Zion on Saturday for the opening rounds of Pro and Pro Lite racing,
That meant the opening night of a title defense for five-time champion Elias Ishoel and the pro-class debuts for Jordan Lebel and Ryley Bester. Mix in a talented Pro Lite field and a must-watch Pro Women’s class, and Saturday in Ironwood, Mich., was a fantastic wrap-up to an exciting weekend of racing in the Upper Peninsula.
Ishoel Hits the Hole Shot on the Way to Opening Night Win
With all of the off-season rider moves, pre-season training, and the pomp of Friday night’s Dominator done and gone, it was time for the pro riders to get to work.
Only a few riders have won as much as Elias Ishoel. The Ski-Doo rider has dominated over the past half-decade, winning five straight championships. He entered the season healthy and motivated by a deep, competitive field that was enhanced by a pair of promising rookies in Lebel and Bester.
But Elias’ title defense got off to a near perfect start. After winning his second heat race, Ishoel hit the start clean and quick, grabbing the hole shot and an early lead. He would tackle the Mt. Zion track with his trademark speed and aggression, pulling away from the field and picking up the opening night win.
I got the hole shot and just made some fast laps in the beginning,” said Ishoel. “There were ice holes in the bottom of the track, so it was kind of sketchy. So, I just got into a flow where I could manage the lead.”
It was a three rider race behind Ishoel for the runner-up spot. Sahlsten held down the second spot early, but Emil Harr picked up his pace after the first few laps and locked down the second place spot. Kody Kamm would remount after an early off to get back into the mix, eventually tracking down Sahlsten and moving into the third place spot, joining his new Judnick Motorsports teammate Harr on the podium.
Rookie Dillon Debuts With Pro Lite Win
The offseason talk around the Pro Lite field has centered on rookie Crayden Dillon, and the 2023 Sport champion lived up to the hype on Saturday night.
Dillon had his sights set on a solid start to his rookie season in the Pro level class, but he had some work to do early in the race to get into podium contention. Dillon started outside the top five, buried in a talented mix of riders looking to chase down early race leader Adam Ashline. But Dillon stayed patient early, working his way into second on lap three before working his way and overtaking Ashline on lap seven. From there, Dillon pushed hard, opening up a 20 second lead as he crossed the finish line with his first career Pro Lite victory.
Baily Forst kept near the front of the field for most of the race and got around Ashline on lap nine. Forst would hold on for second, with Ashline crossing the line in third.
PRO AM WOMEN: Malene Cottew’s title defense didn’t open as she wanted on Friday night, but the defending Pro AM Women’s champion took care of business on Saturday night.
Inanna Hauger once again grabbed a fist full of throttle and pushed to the early lead. She would separate from the pack, but Cottew was busy moving to the front. Cottew would get around Cerissa Blessum on the second lap to get behind Hauger, but it would be three more laps before Cottew would overtake the race leader. Cottew would pull away from the field for her first win of the season, with Hauger in second and Blessum rounding out the podium in third.
PRO AM PLUS 30: Corin Todd took home a well-earned win in the Ironwood opening on Friday night, sneaking past defending champion Andy Lieders at the race’s midpoint. But Lieders wasn’t going to let Todd get the weekend sweep, leading the field from start to finish for the win. Todd would settle into the second position and held off a hard-charging Kurt Bauerly, who started fifth before moving into third late in the race.
SPORT: Brady Freeland missed the podium on Friday night but responded perfectly by winning the FXR Sport final on Saturday night. Freeland led from start to finish and held off defending Sport Lite champion Brandon Nelson for the win. Domenic Hegman missed Friday’s final but responded nicely with a third-place ride on Saturday night.
SPORT LITE: Gavin Fleury led from start to finish for his first Sport Lite win of the young season. Fleury’s win also pushed him into the overall points lead after two rounds. AJ Skogquist missed Friday night’s final but bounced back for a runner-up finish on Saturday. After starting tenth, Kamden Duffy put together a spirited ride to the third and final podium spot.
STOCK 200: Defending Stock 200 champion Jack Gelinas had a perfect start to the new season, taking home a weekend sweep after winning Saturday’s final. George Boettger started fourth and worked his way into the runner-up spot for his first podium of the season., Brock Wilson also landed on the podium in third, his first trip to the winner’s circle this year.
TRANSITION 9-13: Tavin Knudson’s title defense of his Transition 9-13 crown got off to a perfect start in Ironwood. Knudson swept the weekend’s finals, besting second-place rider Jimmy Stanisich and third-place finisher Gavin Brault on Saturday.
JUNIOR 14-15: Kamden Duffy picked up a big, early season win on Saturday night in Junior 14-15. It was a nice bounce back for Duffy after finishing fifth in Friday’s opener. Friday night’s runner-up, AJ Skogquist, duplicated his effort on Saturday night, finishing second ahead of Colin Taggart.
TRANSITION 8-10: Kody Krantz broke out the brooms and completed the weekend sweep in Transition 8-10 on Saturday night; Tripp Knudson just missed a podium finish on Friday but completed the task on Saturday, finishing second. Bernice Thicke rounded out the podium in third.
JUNIOR GIRLS 9-13: Avery Hemmer and Victoria Dillon’s championship battle last season went down to the last weekend of racing, with Dillon atop the final standings. But Hemmer got the first leg up on the 2023-24 championship chase by winning Saturday’s Junior Girls 9-13 final. Hemmer would lead from start to finish for the win, with Dillon in second and Bernice Thicke in third.
JUNIOR 10-13: Jimmy Stanisich capped off a strong opening weekend of racing by winning the opening round of Junior 10-13 on Saturday night. Stanisich held off Tavin Knudson on the final lap by 2/10ths of a second for the win. Gavin Brault trailed Knudson to the line, finishing third.
120 CHAMP: Ryan Shimanski opened up his 120 Champ title defense with a wire-to-wire opening-round win on Saturday night. Kody Krantz would tally another podium finish in Ironwood, finishing second, one spot ahead of third place finishing George Boettger.
The 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season will return after the New Year with a full weekend of racing January 12-13 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.