May is in many eyes the unofficial kickoff to the summer season. Temperatures begin to rise, the sun stays out longer, and the grills begin to fire up to cook some steaks and ribs. It’s a time of year when the families can get together and do something fun, something that every individual can enjoy.
The folks at Family Events give every family an option to have that kind of fun every year beginning in May. Their 4-Wheel Jamboree season is a staple in the eastern part of the country, and when the middle of May rolls around, it is the time of year where they get to provide great entertainment, but intense competition, for all to enjoy. Since 2013, the outdoor season has began in a state that is famous for buckeyes and national championships.
Once again, Family Events decended on the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio, to kick off the 2015 season.
Over the last few years, the infield of the fairgrounds has seen some unique ideas for race courses, going from a horseshoe design to last year’s twisting Chicago-design, and this year was no exception. Newly-promoted competition and safety director for Family Events, Paul Monroe, came up with a classic design that drivers and fans have always enjoyed.
He laid out the infield with the ever-popular “S-track” design, where drivers would have the advantage of a short corner on one end, but then their opponent would have that advantage on the other end. However, he also came up with some extreme obstacles for freestyle that Lima has never seen before. There was the always-constant pyramid that was set up near turn 1, which was put at an angle with some steep ramps on either side for some intense air. Then on the frontstretch, he and the track crew added an elevated van pyramid at the exit of turn 4, plus a jammer setup right in front of the crowd, a perfect spot for wheelstands.
He then stepped it up even more with a very intense pyramid at the apex of turns 3 and 4, with only four crush cars, but every car was sitting on a base of heavy duty construction tires.
The eight-truck line-up for 2015 was ready for the season to get under way. Defending champion Mark Hall, fresh off his Monster Nationals championship, brought out the Raminator along with teammate Mat Dishman in the Rammunition. Team Scream brought out it’s biggest guns as the Koehler brothers, Jim and Steve, were piloting the Avenger and General Tire. The fans of the smoke were overjoyed when Dave Radzierez came out in the 2010 Ford Super Duty XDP, powered by the twin-turbo Cummins diesel.
But, the biggest eye-catcher was what the Bigfoot team brought to celebrate their 40th Anniversary. Larry Swim was again in attendance, driving the #18 chassis with the Lucas Oil colors. Rookie sensation Josh Gibson, who won the wheelie championship in the winter with the Monster Nationals, got the honor of wearing the retro 1974 body on his #14 chassis. And then, there’s Dan Runte, the lead driver of the team, brought out the all-new Bigfoot #21 to compete. However, it would not don the traditional silver and blue Summit Racing body as he’s ran the last year and a half.
Instead, to get the fans involved, at every jamboree this year, the people would get to vote via Facebook to what paint scheme his truck would run. The team will have nine different designs, with three each to be voted on for all three jamborees, ensuring no body would run more than once.
After tallying the votes, it was extremely clear what the newest Bigfoot would look like for this one weekend. When it rolled out in front of the fans, memories of TNT’s 1990 season and the Penda Points Series came to the forefront. Runte’s truck would be all-blue and carry the original red and yellow racing stripes that the Bigfoot team ran from 1990 through 1993. It would be the first design that Runte would drive when he went to a tube-chassis truck, and the paint scheme that brought home both the TNT championship in 1990, plus the Penda championship in 1992, both of them coming thanks to Hall of Fame driver Andy Brass.
The sunny skies welcomed the fans to the opening round of action, and not one was disappointed. After the first round, all three of the multi-truck teams would be represented in the final four. Swim would move onto the finals after defeating both Koehlers, first Steve in the first round, and then Jim in the semi-finals. However, after the second victory, track crews pulled the Lucas Oil machine to the pits, as he felt something a miss in the truck, meaning the Foot team then had to go to work to get him back for the finals.
At the same time, Runte would show the racing stripes had not missed a step as he would take down both Hall Brothers trucks in his march to the finals.
Swim would be able to make it back for the finals, meaning that it was going to be a 40th Anniversary final to determine the first winner of the new season. These two had intense battles last year in Swim’s first full jamboree tour, and both picked up exactly where they left off. When they poured on the Ford power after the final corner, it was the racing stripes that would make it across the line first. To kick off the 2015 season, Runte would put the new #21 chassis in victory lane, with a classic design adorned to the Raptor body.
- Round 1: Jim Koehler, Avenger, def. Dave Radzierez, XDP; Larry Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, def. Steve Koehler, General Tire; Dan Runte, Summit “Racing Stripes” Bigfoot, def. Mat Dishman, Rammunition; Mark Hall, Raminator, def. Josh Gibson, Retro Bigfoot.
- Semi-Finals: Larry Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, def. Jim Koehler, Avenger (Swim towed from infield with breakage); Dan Runte, Summit “Racing Stripes” Bigfoot def. Mark Hall, Raminator
- Finals: Dan Runte, Summit “Racing Stripes” Bigfoot def. Larry Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot
Fans would then get the opportunity to see the entire field get after the course in freestyle. Gibson and Dishman would get the crowd going, but it would be Steve Koehler providing the first “Wow Factor” in the season, but at a cost. After going over the big stack in the turn 1 area, the truck landed extremely hard, and the right-rear tire decided it had enough action for the day and broke away from the General Tire Chevrolet. The spindle snapped right at the hub, meaning it would be one long night of repairs for the crew.
After that, Swim came out and showed exactly what a Foot truck does best, wheelstand. On one hit alone from the jammer stack, Swim would sit the truck on the wheelie bar and walk it down the length of the front stretch to the crowd’s delight.
Hall would then follow suit with some dirt-slinging donuts, and then out came Runte to show what his new truck is capable of in an outdoor setting.
“Mr. Excitement” would then come out to show he can make a 1957 Chevrolet Fuelie fly like an airplane, and also pull a few wheelstands just like Swim could, and the crowd would show their appreciation as the field of drivers would then make their way to the souvenir tent to sign autographs for the fans.
But that is just the first day of a weekend full of action. Saturday’s festivities include two monster truck shows at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. For fans that don’t have tickets yet, no worries, because they are available at the gate. Visit 4WheelJamboree.com for all the scheduled events for the weekend, and check out their Facebook page to get all the inside details of the show.