5 Minutes with ... Tucker Hibbert

June 3, 2008 1:30pm

As a frequent attendee of the East Coast Supercross Lites Championship, I was looking forward to seeing Tucker Hibbert out on a supercross track. The unfortunate news is that he didn’t make it indoors; the good news is that he added another Snocross Championship to his long list of accomplishments. As he was driving to a recent Loretta Lynn’s qualifier at Millville, I caught up with the seven-time Winter X Games medalist, who was also just named SnowWeek magazine’s Racer of the Year. Tucker is also making his AMA Toyota Motocross debut this weekend in Texas.

Racer X: Tucker, you recently wrapped up another Snocross Championship, right?
Tucker Hibbert: Yeah, I ended up winning the WPSA [World PowerSports Association] SuperStock Championship, which was kind of unexpected, as I only planned on racing half the season and then moving onto the East Coast Supercross series. But it worked out that I was able to finish out the snocross season, so it was pretty exciting.

And you took another X Games gold medal.
Yes, we did, it was my third gold medal and second one two years in a row. I won my qualifier and the main. All the testing before the event paid off and came together really well.

The plan was that you were doing the East Coast Lites Supercross - what happened?
I did plan on doing the East Coast Supercross, as I did two years ago. Nothing really major changed, besides my mechanic having some other things going on, and he wasn’t able to work with me to get ready - that made it very difficult to get prepared to race supercross. Trying to juggle both sports without somebody focused 100 percent on getting my supercross stuff ready was too much. I couldn’t do it on my own, so I was forced to sit out supercross and finish up Snocross – and focus on getting ready for the outdoor nationals. Our schedule now is racing seven of the AMA Nationals and two Canadian Nationals. Basically, I pick the races out of the AMA tour that I really enjoy going to, and the ones that are fairly close to home. I’m racing on my own with my mechanic, Timmy, my wife, and help from my dad - it’s a small program that we’re putting together. We’re doing the races that we have the best chance of getting good results at, rather than trying to do the entire series. We also left out some of the races that are back-to-back and that are long drives. We’re trying to not get spread too thin and get burned out driving.

For those that may not know much about snowmobiles, what are the major differences between Snocross and Motocross?
They’re pretty similar with technique and riding style, what it takes to ride a sled around the track is a lot like motocross. Our tracks are a lot shorter, though - they range from 30 seconds to a minute lap time, so the lap times would be more similar to supercross, but they get rough, and the track changes a lot like motocross tracks do. It’s kind of a combination of supercross and motocross, and as far as riding a snowmobile and using a lot of the same body positioning and movements. The primary difference is the weight: a snowmobile is about exactly double the weight of a bike, so it takes a lot more strength. You really have to work to ride the sled and be in control of it - it can get out of hand pretty easy. It definitely keeps me strong and helps with my fitness.  Probably one of the more challenging things about snocross is that the course changes so much throughout the day. The track breaks down, gets rough, and you really have to keep your eyes open. You’ve got to be able to change up your lines, and often use a totally different line choice at the end of the race versus the beginning. That’s something that I’ve learned a lot, and I feel that it carries over into motocross - being able to find your lines during the race.

Is Snocross similar to motocross, where there are factory teams and privateer teams?
Yeah, there are four manufacturers that build snowmobiles and race. Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo, and Yamaha all have their main factory teams. Then all, except Yamaha, have a couple different teams that they support. Then there are privateers and amateur kids, so it’s real similar. It’s a lot smaller in the number of riders compared to motocross, but the structure is the same. I would explain my team as being similar to the San Manuel Yamaha Chad Reed team, or the Factory Connection team where we get full factory equipment, but we’re able to have the flexibility to get our own sponsors and build our own teams. That’s what I’ve been able to do the last two years with Monster Energy and Arctic Cat – to have the ability to put together a solid team of sponsors and personnel that really work well together.

You may have been one of the first Snocross riders to bring in a big outside sponsor like Monster Energy.
Definitely, but Red Bull has been in Snocross a little bit, and now Rockstar is starting to get in it, but our Monster Energy deal started five or six years ago. I began working with those guys right from the beginning when Monster first came out and started backing the sports market. We worked up from just a small deal, and now they’re the title sponsor of our team. It’s definitely grown a lot, and they are a great company to work with - they definitely set the bar high.

Do you kind of have similar plans where you do snocross and then part-time supercross or motocross for next year?
Right now, I’ve started negotiations with Arctic Cat on next year’s Snocross series. But the series has gone through some bumps, and there’s been some changes going on. We’re not 100 percent sure what the series is going to look like next year [ed note: reportedly, the WPSA just recently suspended operations]. Obviously, X Games will be an event that I’ll be there for, and we’re going to do that no matter what.  I would really like to get in and do five or six Snocross races and then move on to the entire East Coast supercross series like I did a few years ago - I really enjoyed going right from one sport to the next. It’s pretty exciting for me. It keeps it fun, and that’s what I’m hoping to do. Switching between snowmobiles and motorcycles keeps me motivated and keeps everything chugging along rather than having an extended-break time off. I feel I’ll do better if I can keep racing both a little bit for the next couple years. If the time comes that I need to stop racing snowmobiles completely to get where I want to be on a bike, then I’ll do that. Right now, I’m enjoying both.