Press Release –
Joy turned into heartbreak and gold became silver in the blink of an eye in the snocross final at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, on January 31.
Polaris snocross racer Levi LaVallee – who had led by a wide margin most of the race – landed awkwardly off a jump and bounced off his sled on the final lap of the race, costing the 24-year-old racer the lead and forcing him to settle for second place.
Fellow Polaris racer Ross Martin, 21, finished third, putting two Polaris IQ race sled pilots on the podium with winner Blair Morgan.
At the start, LaVallee battled with Arctic Cat racer Robbie Malinoski for the holeshot. They made contact coming off a jump on an early lap and Malinoski’s sled was knocked sideways while LaVallee maintained his balance and sped off in the lead.
The Polaris IQ® race sled with its Liberty™ engine carried LaVallee to a lead of as much as 13 seconds, and he lapped several racers while maintaining a solid 12-second lead.
Heading into the final lap, LaVallee still had a lead of about 7 seconds over Morgan. LaVallee landed roughly off a jump just past the start-finish line and was pitched off the right side of the seat. He was reconnecting his safety tether cord when Morgan went past.
LaVallee won his quarter-final and semi-final heats leading up to the X Games final. Martin finished fourth in his semi-final and Gulla took second in the last chance qualifier to reach the final. This year’s final lasted 15 laps, up from six laps in previous years, and 12 racers were on the starting line, rather than the 10-man fields of the past.
LaVallee and Martin represent the talented, aggressive and fit younger generation of snocross racers. While they’re not nearly as experienced as a veteran like Morgan, LaVallee was competing in his fourth Winter X Games and he won the gold in HillCross in 2004. Fellow Polaris racer T.J. Gulla, 24, finished eighth in Wednesday night’s final.
Martin is the current point leader in leads the WPSA Pro Open class and Polaris racer Dennis Eckstrom is second. Gulla is eighth in Pro Open points and LaVallee and Carl Schubitzke fill slots 13-14, respectively.
The X Games snocross was run on sleds used in Pro Open competition. For the Polaris racers, that meant riding on the smooth-handling, super-durable IQ® Chassis powered by modified versions of the class-leading Liberty™ 600 HO engine.
In WPSA Pro Stock points, Eckstrom is currently in fifth, Martin is sixth, LaVallee is ninth and Gulla is 10th. The next WSPA racing is the Park X National, February 11-12 in Hill City, Minnesota.