(Coverage By Christopher Allen, Photos By Jim Allen)
This time on “The Allen Report”, we go far from home to Indianapolis, Indiana, a city where motorsport has thrived for decades with open wheel racing’s Indy 500, stock car racing’s Brickyard 400 and drag racing’s U.S. Nationals all hugely popular events on the calendar. Another such occasion this past September was the historic 35th Anniversary of the Lucas Oil 4 Wheel Jamboree Fall Nationals at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Seven of the nation’s fastest and most destructive monster trucks were on hand to settle the Monster Truck Thunder Drags Racing and Freestyle Points titles. On the racing side of things, the series returned to its roots with a simple two obstacle drag race track with no turns. Reigning champion Larry Swim pulled in with the Lucas Oil Bigfoot #21. The old rivalry in monster truck competition continued as the mysterious Vinny Venom, nephew of Colt Cobra, arrived in the retro Snake Bite. From Champaign, IL were no less than three different Hall Brothers Racing team trucks. Team co-founder Mark Hall, as usual, drove the sleek black Raminator. Mat Dishman came to town in the bright red Rammunition and Dale Benear completed the Hall Bros team triple threat behind the wheel of the General Tire Monster Truck. Returning to the 4 Wheel Jamboree circuit after a few years elsewhere was Doug Noelke and the Tail Gator monster truck. Finally, series newcomer Denver Echternkamp and his Venom Chevrolet monster rounded out the field.
There was non-competitive, display-only monster presence on the grounds too. Jeff Krekeler had recently bought the iconic High Roller monster truck from a long time ago and, with some help, the truck has been restored and it certainly looked great. Also, Alan Fenstermaker brought his former mega truck turned Stage 1 old school truck Earthquake to the fairgrounds. Finally, International Monster Truck Museum and Hall of Fame creator and President Jeff Cook had his 1934 Coupe monster Hot Rod Harry in tow. Jeff set up a tent to advertise the Hall of Fame ceremony in Auburn in a couple short months, complete with this year’s Hall of Fame banner and flyers to pass out.
As far as points were concerned early Friday, Larry Swim was the betting man’s favorite, needing to win five rounds of racing at the least to retake the title. Snake Bite, however, was running away with the freestyle championship and a win on Friday night would lock up the win for the Snake Bite team. With every round of racing and every freestyle run counting, it wasn’t going to be easy for any of the teams eligible for either championship. Bearing this in mind, the drivers strapped into their trucks and the weekend of competition began on Friday. Even a horrible rainstorm just a few hours before Friday’s show time couldn’t keep the monsters off the track as the Family Events staff dried the track quickly as best they could to ensure a fast and even racing surface and the freestyle obstacles would not be a hindrance.
In the first heat of Round 1, the Bigfoot team’s chances of a second straight title got off to a bad start when Larry Swim barely lost in the first round to Rammunition. It was no easier for Mat Dishman in the semi finals, however, as the opponent was teammate Mark Hall. But Mat duplicated his speed and finesse from the round before, punching his ticket to the finals. The rival for the racing win would be Snake Bite. Vinny Venom pushed as hard as he could, but the power of Rammunition was too much, taking the first win of the weekend and closing ground on Bigfoot in the points.
In freestyle, the Hall Brothers team trucks all gave very good efforts, doing tire smoking cyclones, some hitting the bus at the finish line end of the track and putting together all around exciting runs. Snake Bite, however, hit the cars on top of an eight foot hill sideways, did some drifting around the far end of the track with one rear wheel over the edge of the banking and did excellent slap wheelies to take the freestyle win and the points championship in the freestyle category.
Over the course of the weekend, the side by side racing remained intense and fast, with many heats decided by less than a truck length. Freestyle was also a heated affair, with multiple trucks getting big air and others going progressively faster on donuts. With only freestyle in the second show on Saturday, Snake Bite shed his fiberglass skin from the cab forward early in the run and later crushed it, causing much cheering from the spectators.
When all was said and done in racing on Sunday, Larry Swim and Bigfoot became the first person all weekend to defeat Rammunition in the racing semi-finals and winning a second consecutive series championship by just one single race in doing so. When his opponent in the finals, General Tire, could not return, Larry took it easy over the course and snagged the Sunday racing title. Dale Benear in General Tire had just barely beaten Doug Noelke and Tail Gator but landed awkwardly and suffered a horrible crash which saw the truck tumble both end over end and side over side. In spite of the severity of the crash, Dale walked away unhurt.
Between shows on Saturday, the 2016 International Monster Truck Museum Hall of Fame Class was revealed on the main stage at one end of the grounds to much positive adulation. This year’s inductees include:
• Bob George, promoter and founder of the USHRA. Coined the term “monster truck”.
• Charlie Pauken, driver of famous trucks including Excaliber and Grave Digger.
• Jerry Richmond, owner and driver of Lethal Weapon and Weapon 1 and builder/driver of Overkill and Maximum Overkill.
• Terry Woodcock, owner, builder and driver of numerous monster trucks including several bearing the on-screen identities of 1990s wrestling superstars and the legendary Cyclops name.
All of us at The Allen Report sincerely congratulate this year’s Hall of Fame class and we look forward to seeing them inducted into monster truck immortality in just a matter of weeks.
When the monsters were not racing, there was no shortage of other four wheel drive action going on throughout the weekend. On Saturday, a new Jamboree tradition was born in the UTV Side by Side Shootout. A burnout contest was held as well, which had the audience cheering long and loud. Also, there were tough trucks racing each other head to head on a special figure-8 course that included elements of the monster truck race track. Finally, four young people of eight to fifteen years of age showcased what they could do in their mini monsters. Even a rollover here or vehicle breakage there could not dampen the happy spirits of both the kid drivers and the crowd.
Well, tickets for the International Monster Truck Museum Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Reunion are now on sale. There will be a meet ‘n’ greet the evening of Friday, November 11th and a history discussion with the inductees in the late morning of November 12th. This will be followed by an autograph session and hearty dinner on Saturday evening prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony later that night. We hope to see you there.
With this weekend behind us, we at “The Allen Report” turn towards a month of October jam packed with monster truck shows her in the Southwest. After a weekend with our friends at WGAS Motorsports in Perris, CA, the Arizona State Fair will receive new participants with a new promoter and we will cover the long-awaited return of monsters to the drag strip of Wild Horse Motorsports Park, formerly Firebird Raceway.
Thank you ALL for reading, a special thank you to Family Events for having us, don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Instagram under the name “Monster Truckin’ with Jim and Chris”, enjoy the photos, and cheer on!