Bender, Simons Win in Valcourt

Two weeks after winning the race for second place (behind Tucker Hibbert) at the Brainerd International Raceway, Brett Bender shocked the Pro Open field yesterday with his first pro victory on his home-turf of Valcourt, Quebec. Meanwhile, Ryan Simons captured Saturday's pro Super Stock race and TJ Gulla earned a spot on both podiums at the lone Canadian stop of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series this winter.

Brian Balsaitis

Brett Bender captured his first career pro victory on the same track his dad used to dominate on.

Brian Balsaitis

Robbie Malinoski (2), Brett Bender (1) and TJ Gulla (3), from left, atop Sunday's Pro Open podium in Valcourt, Quebec.

Brian Balsaitis

Start to finish, Arctic Cat had a strong showing in the Valcourt semi-pro Super Stock class.

Bender Shocks the Field with First Career Pro Win
Arctic Cat Sweeps Semi-Pro Super Stock Final with Ebert, Davis and Salemark

Valcourt, Quebec (Feb. 22, 2009)—It was perhaps fitting that it was at Valcourt's circuit Yvon Duhamel, during the Grand Prix Ski-doo de Valcourt on Sunday, that young Brett Bender (Polaris) championed his first pro victory of his career. In a community known for its passion for snowmobile racing and at a venue rich with racing lore—named after famed ice oval racer Yvon Duhamel—Bender scored his memorable victory where his father, world champion oval racer Tim Bender, also competed.

It was only a few weeks earlier in Brainerd, Minn., that Bender found the podium for the first time in his fledgling pro career, finishing second behind snocross king Tucker Hibbert. At the time it was one of the most emotional moments of his young racing career, but in hindsight it will pale in comparison to his AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series victory at Valcourt.

Bender emerged from the 16-sled Pro-Open main event field in second place with his teammate TJ Gulla (Polaris) in tow, both following crowd favorite Robbie Malinoski (Ski-doo) who drilled the holeshot. For much of the 20-lap final, it appeared Malinoski had the race well in hand, as he flawlessly negotiated the long and blazingly fast Valcourt track. But suddenly Malinoski fell of the pace, later to be attributed to engine woes. That opened the door for Bender, who had been running consistent and equally as fast lap times as well, to overtake Malinoski and the lead on lap 15. It was a position he would not relinquish.

Malinoski managed to massage his wounded Ski-doo to a second place finish, holding off a charging Gulla, who now leads the year-end point battle in the premiere Pro Open class. "My engine was going down," said Malinoski after the race. "I wasn't sure I could hold on until the end, and I knew TJ was coming."

Arctic Cat Sweeps Semi-Pro Super Stock
Turn one was a sea of green when the Semi-Pro Super Stock field launched from the start line earlier in the day, as top qualifiers, Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat), Cory Davis (Arctic Cat) and Christian Salemark (Arctic Cat), all vied for the lead position as the field stampeded into the opening lap. It was an image which played out twice during the Semi-Pro final, as a red flag forced a restart to the race after Mike Bauer (Polaris) and Tim Tremblay (Ski-doo) were involved in a opening lap tangle which saw Bauer unable to continue.

At the restart, the trio of Cats once again bolted to the front and this time it stuck. Meanwhile hometown favorite Tremblay suffered another get-off yet recovered albeit deep in the pack. At the checkered it was the Cat trio of Ebert, Davis and Salemark respectively, followed by crowd yellow faves Justin Broberg (Ski-doo) and Paul Bauerly (Ski-doo) completing the top-five. "These fans here are crazy. They love their sport… I think I need to learn some French," said an excited Ebert after the race. Ebert won the Semi-Pro open final in Valcourt a year ago.

LePage and Simons Shine North of the Border
Ryan Simons Uses Speed to Hold Off Gulla in Pro Super Stock; LePage Edges Quebec Native Tremblay in Semi-Pro Open

Valcourt, Quebec (Feb. 21, 2009)—A cloudy sky and snow flurries characterized the early hours of the Saturday program of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series at the Grand Prix Ski-Doo de Valcourt, in the Eastern Townships of Québec. In the opening morning practice session, Levi LaVallee (Polaris) showed his colors by recording the fastest time, ahead of Ryan Simons (Arctic Cat), Brett Bender (Polaris), TJ Gulla (Polaris) and Robbie Malinoski (Ski-doo).

With several drivers from the SCM, CSRA and Rock Maple circuits attending the event, a total of 62 entries were tallied for the two-featured races of the day, Semi-Pro Open and Pro Super Stock.

The Semi-Pro Open First Round produced at least one surprise, as Darrin Mees (Ski-doo) from Setanket, New York held off Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat) in the first round of qualifying. In other qualifying action, Bobby LePage (Polaris) won his flight; Tim Tremblay (Ski-doo) crossed the line first in front of his home crowd with a strong lead over Ryan Carey (Polaris); and the Swedish sensation Christian Salemark won his qualifier handily.

The Pro Super Stock first round followed without delay as bright sun was finally shining over Valcourt and its circuit Yvon Duhamel. Shaun Crapo (Polaris) took instantly the lead in the first heat, ahead of Brett Turcotte (Arctic Cat) and Bobby LePage (Polaris); T.J. Gulla and Garth Kaufman (Arctic Cat) led the second heat with Malinoski as a distant third. Ryan Simons went quickly off the block and took the lead of the third heat followed by Levi LaVallee. Behind them, an interesting battle took shape involving Brett Bender, Dave Allard (Ski-doo) and Dave Asselin, the leader of the Québec circuit. Bender broke halfway into the race and Asselin move to third keeping behind fellow Quebecer and ISOC regular Allard.

The long and fast Valcourt track didn't produced any major battles during the qualifying rounds, despite its character of several tight corners, but would retribute the spectators later in the day. Morning flurries and clouds gave way to sunshine when the Pro Super Stock final drew to the line. At the green, Ryan Simons bolted out of the gate and quickly established himself as a strong leader after the first corner and through the long washboard section. On his heels, T.J Gulla rode a determined race all they way to the checkered but could not overtake Simons. LaVallee finished as a distant third.

"It was a fun race," said the Albertan Simons after the race. "I love to battle with TJ and I could feel he was right behind me the entire race. He gained ground on me in the corners but Arctic Cat was wicked fast in the straight sections and it was well suited for this track." The win for Simons was his first at Valcourt since he first raced there in 2003.

The Semi Pro Open scheduled for the end of the program was also a spectacular final animated mainly by local star Tim Tremblay. The Ski-Doo driver left the gate just behind eventual winner Bobby LePage and never let him breath a second. Tremblay came close to pass the leader on at least four occasions, but was unable to make it stick. At mid-race, the challenger tangled with LePage and was forced off the track. Tremblay however, managed to get back on track keeping his second place position and one again put the head on LePage.

"I really wished to win. But I'm feeling good about tomorrow and I'm confident the Super Stock final will be mine", said a confident Tremblay who despite LePage's win took the lead in the Semi-Pro Open year-end standings.

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