BY JAMES COOK
WILLIAMSBURG — In the wake of Caleb Moore's death at last month's X Games, the AMSOIL Championship Snocross has decided not to proceed with its inaugural Turtle Creek Freestyle Battle portion of this weekend's event.
"It's out of respect to the family of Caleb Moore," said Pat Schutte of AMSOIL Championship Snocross.
The freestyle events were something the racing series had added as an exhibition for two of its stops — here in Traverse City and at Wisconsin's Lake Geneva Resort on March 15-16.
"The freestyle show was roughly — in the grand scheme of things — about three percent of the actual action taking place this coming weekend," Schutte said.
Moore, 25, died from complications a week after his Jan. 24 freestyle crash at the Winter X Games.
Even without the freestyle event, this weekend's slate at Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg is packed with three days of nearly constant racing.
"Everything else is still a go," said Grand Traverse Resort's Tracy Kurtz. "We're really excited.
"We blasted that extreme track for two weeks with over five million gallons of water. It is amazing. It's a mountain of snow."
Friday's amateur races start at 9:45 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m., with the opening ceremonies for the professional events at 6 p.m., capped off by the Pro Open final at 9:10 p.m.
Saturday follows a similar schedule, with amateur races starting at 8:40 a.m., the pro opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. and the Pro Open race at 9:10 p.m. On Saturday, pro riders — including Levi LaVallee — will be signing autographs from 2:30-3 p.m.
LaVallee will sign autographs, although it is unsure if he will race while he continues to recover from a torn back muscle suffered at the Winter X Games.
Sunday will have regional races on the same course that are free to the public.
Other top racers slated to participate this weekend include six-time X Games gold medalist Tucker Hibbert, defending Open-class champion Tim Tremblay and Ross Martin, who just beat Hibbert at last weekend's race in Deadwood, S.D. to snap a five-race series win streak by Hibbert.
"The sleds are flying upwards of the length of an NBA basketball court through the air every lap for 24 laps," Schutte said. "Fifteen sleds side-by-side. Therein lies the action."
Brothers Zack and Nick Pattyn — known as the "Michigan's first family of Snocross racing," according to Schutte — and who have Traverse City's Tom White as a mechanic on their team, are also in the races.
"It's pure excitement, pure adrenaline," Kurtz said. "It's something amazing to watch that we're never had up here nationally in northern Michigan."
Michigan Xtreme Racing (MXR) — which has previously held events in Gaylord — will be part of Sunday's regional and semi-pro races.
Last year's Michigan race in the series was held at the Pontiac Silverdome in front of 20,000 spectators.
This year's event will be televised by CBS Sports Network on Feb. 24 at 10:30 a.m. (Friday's Round 1) and March 3 at 10:30 a.m. (Saturday's Round 2).