(Coverage By Christopher Allen, Photos By Jim Allen)
This time on “The Allen Report, we make a short trip over to the Arizona State Fairgrounds, which sees a wide variety of entertainment forms over the course of a calendar year, from expos and trade shows to concerts and, on two of the last three days of the 2016 Maricopa County Fair, earth shaking, sky touching monster trucks. Six of the best monster trucks in the southwest arrived in the Sanderson Ford Arena to do battle in an all freestyle event on Friday, and side by side racing as well as freestyle on Sunday.
Making the trip over from Menifee, California were the father and son duo of Rick and Eric Swanson. Rick drove his beautiful 20th Anniversary body on his usual Obsession while former Young Guns Shootout competitor Eric took time off from his trophy truck body and reverted to his longstanding pickup shell on Obsessed. Driving up from Tucson, Arizona were all three trucks in the Sturges Motorsports entourage. Per usual, Sam Sturges drove the 1942 Dodge Panel Wagon Unnamed & Untamed. Longtime friend Gary Ely took the helm of fan favorite Nasty Boy and Cesar Nunez made the trip across the border from Mexico to pilot the 1963 split window Corvette Rat Attack. Finally, Rod Wood’s stepson Murphy McCrorey got behind the wheel of McGruff the Crime Dog.
To open the freestyle only show on Friday evening, each monster made a jump over an obstacle on the floor one after the other. Unfortunately for Sam Sturges, the intro saw an input shaft in the transmission break, bringing his night to a premature end. To raise the curtain on the competition, Rick Swanson played it cool, getting decent air off the cross thread jump in the middle and finishing it up with his customary donuts. Next up was Murphy in McGruff, in his first monster truck action since a car accident a few years ago. Murphy lived up to his nickname “Werewolf”, starting with a great entry jump, cleared the double in the middle of the floor, and got some great cyclones, making it look like he had never left the driver’s seat. Cesar Nunez was not to be outdone, getting even bigger air and continuing the donut craze. Last out was the 20 year old rising star Eric Swanson. Early in his run, he shot for the moon off the cross thread jump and landed hard on the left rear tire, causing all kinds of damage to the rear end of the truck. Despite the mishap, the crowd was roaring for the kid. With the next show not until Sunday, all the teams with broken trucks had no shortage of time to get their machines back together.
On Sunday a huge crowd piled into the grandstand ready for some hot and heavy, heads up competition. In the opening round of reverse Chicago style racing, innocence briefly trumped experience as Eric Swanson in his fully repaired Obsessed upset the Unnamed and Untamed vehicle. Sam Sturges still advanced, however, as the fastest loser. When both Rick and Eric dispensed of their semi final round opponents, all signs pointed to a great final. And it didn’t disappoint, with the father getting the jump over the son off the start line, but Eric had made up the ground halfway home. With all eyes on the finish line, Eric just barely hit his finish line jump before his dad, taking the racing win.
In freestyle, Sam Sturges was angry after losing twice in racing, and it showed in his driving, getting huge air off the double and carrying on a team tradition with gorgeous slap wheelies. During one of these moves, Sam kept the move going right over the grandstand side racing jump. Murphy McCrorey was on another roll with McGruff before the head gasket in the transmission snapped, ending his weekend. Gary Ely gave an admirable effort in Nasty Boy with very good hang time and decent attempts at slap wheelies. Much to the delight of the fans, both Rick and Eric Swanson entered the floor right behind the other and started a game of follow the leader. The fans were on their feet for the father and son pair as they stepped out of their monsters to end the afternoon show.
In the fair closing evening show, Obsessed got a bye run with only five trucks. But in the semi final round against Rat Attack, Eric never got going, giving an easy win to the sleek hot rod monster and with it a berth in the finals. Rick Swanson ended Unnamed and Untamed’s racing night to advance to the finals and one last shot at a racing win. Rick poured on the gas in the straightaways and took the win to evenly split the racing glory between his son and himself.
In the last monster competition of the weekend, Sam Sturges gave excellent slap wheelies, continued to reach for the sky and turned in an overall exciting run. Cesar Nunez refused to be upstaged and turned in some great air off the double jump and some fast donuts to put himself in the hunt for the win. But the fans got on their feet once more when again Eric and Rick Swanson took to the floor in their monsters at the same time. Both went the wrong way up the rarely used step up behind the double, and turned in some dizzying donuts to end the monster entertainment at the fair.
In other action, the crowd was treated to smash n bash, all or nothing democross racing, a combination of off road racing and demolition derby. Fans cheered on and on as intentional spinouts, heavy contact and all around vehicular assault played out in front of them. Well, next we at “The Allen Report” seek to return to Turlock, California, for the popular annual Budweiser Monster Truck Spring Nationals, featuring eight big monster trucks, two mini monsters, ride trucks and freestyle motocross. Look for more coverage coming then. Well, thank you for reading, a special thanks to Zack McKinley and all the Grand Canyon State Promotions crew for having us, enjoy the photos and cheer on!