By James Cook
Before Tucker Hibbert could beat most professional Snocross racers, he had to top his dad.
And he did it on a big stage.
In grand style.
The 28-year-old was first able to top pops at the 2000 Winter X Games in Mount Snow, Vt., earning the first of his seven X Games gold medals in the process.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” said Hibbert, who will be one of many professionals in this weekend’s AMSOIL Championship Snocross at Turtle Creek Casino. “I was racing in my first X Games. It was my first professional Snocross event — and I definitely wasn’t expecting to win.”
And he was only 15.
“That was a really cool opportunity to be able to race against my dad,” Hibbert said. “That was the first time we really competed against each other. For him to finish in fifth was pretty exciting.”
Luckily his father Kirk — who was inducted into the snow mobile Hall of Fame in 2007 — didn’t take the loss the wrong way, or it could have led to some awkward family dinners.
“No, not really,” Hibbert joked. “The first couple times I had to try to pass my dad on the track I was a little bit nervous and didn’t know what to do, but it was all good. We never got into any intense battles or anything bad. It was always lots of fun and good memories.”
They raced against each other about 15 times, Hibbert estimated, before his dad retired from pro racing about five years ago.
“He won a few and I won a few,” Hibbert said. “We went back and forth a little bit, but I’d like to say I won more than he did. We’ll just leave it at that.”
Since then, he’s racked up 11 Winter X Games medals and pulled off the first six-peat in X Games history by winning the Snocross event for the last half dozen years consecutively.
The six-peat came just in time, as he beat out Shaun White by a matter of hours two weekends ago. White won his sixth straight Snowboard Superpipe gold later in the day after Hibbert’s Snocross victory.
“Going for the six-peat was a really big goal for me,” Hibbert said.
To win that sixth gold, he had to pass Ross Martin, who will also be in pro events Friday and Saturday evenings that conclude each day packed with races.
Martin was able to avenge the X Games defeat in last week’s International Series of Champions race in Deadwood, S.D., to end Hibbert’s five-race series winning streak.
“I had a little bit of a winning streak going and I lost that on Saturday in South Dakota,” Hibbert said. “I’m motivated to get back on top and come away with some wins this weekend.
“Deadwood was good on Friday night. I won both of my qualifiers and the main event on Friday. On Saturday, I had not quite as good luck. I ended up in the 10th-place qualifying position, which put me on the far outside of the start line and I ended up going off the track on the first turn. So I started the race off on a bad foot. Then I tried to charge back up and made it to fifth place. I was somewhat happy, but a little disappointed with the results.”
The fifth-place finish was enough to hold on to the series points lead, which he’ll have to defend this weekend.
Hibbert comes in with 321 points to Martin’s 298 after eight events. Each night at Turtle Creek counts as a separate round for series points considerations. Robbie Malinoski (274), Tim Tremblay (272) and Logan Christian (231) round out the series’ top five with eight events remaining on the docket.
And in trying to hold onto that lead, Hibbert will have one advantage in his pocket.
He arrives in Traverse City for a press conference and demonstration tonight at Turtle Creek, which gives him first crack at the track as northern Michigan hosts its first national Snocross series event.
“It’s always a little bit of an advantage,” Hibbert said. “But usually the course isn’t completely done and how it will be when we race. So it’s not a huge advantage, but it definitely helps to get out there and test the sleds and get my body warmed up and ready to go.
“I’m just excited to get back on the track after not winning Saturday in Deadwood, I’m pretty motivated to go out and get back on top. Michigan’s got a lot of snow, so we should have a good track.”