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The Fight to the Finish: Monster Nationals Ready to Thunder Through 2016

Mark Hall will try for a three-peat in the 2016 Monster Nationals season.

The holiday season is nearing with each passing day.  When this time of year comes around, majority of the monster truck teams across the country have ran their final show, hit their final ramp, and crushed their final car.  It becomes tear-down time for the teams as parts get replaced and refreshed, while any damage that remains gets fixed and set up for the new year.

For the entire industry, the first 3-4 months of the season is their big time of year, a weekly grind to compete against their fellow drivers, and then once one show is done it’s onto repairs to get ready for the next week.

The folks at Family Events have been spending a lot of time to get ready for their 2016 season, and now they are set to go for another year of high intensity action.

For the new year, the motto is “Fight to the Finish.”

That is appropriate because the main focus for this season is a rivalry that has become one of the most highly contested over many years, both indoors and outdoors.  It’s become the matchup that fans have enjoyed seeing to the point where it has become THE rivalry.

It will be a Bigfoot vs. Raminator headlining every show this season.

Bigfoot may celebrate it's anniversary, but this Ram was celebrating a title. Photo Credit: Jason Twite
Mark Hall returns in 2016 ready to win four-straight championships.

Mark Hall returns in the black-clad Ram Heavy Duty, trying to complete a quest for an unprecedented four consecutive Monster Nationals championships in the racing and freestyle categories.  Hall spent the latter part of the summer working on a new chassis, which he debuted at a Monster Nationals event in Illinois this past June.  The new chassis, although in looks was similar to the truck he debuted in 2014, had new improvements and upgrades in suspension and in steering.

It took until September for Hall to get the handle on the new truck, but when he did it proved to be a very strong piece, as he ended the summer tour on the 4-Wheel Jamboree season winning two of the three racing programs at Indianapolis.

Although he didn’t win that championship, Hall knows that indoors, he is the one that every driver is shooting for.

On the opposite side, the Bigfoot team is coming back hoping to capitalize on the success they had one year ago with Family Events.  In the winter, drivers Kevin Koszala and Josh Gibson would take home the long-jump and wheelie championships.  Gibson continued his strong year as a rookie driver through the jamboree tour, and showed that even with an older truck, the young driver was one to watch as the years progress.

Currently, the driver behind the wheel of the Bigfoot team has not been revealed, but the Foot team has a lot of stellar drivers to choose from.

Aside from Gibson, veteran Rick Long is a former champion in the Monster Nationals, winning three consecutive championships himself from 2010 through 2012 at the wheel of Bigfoot #15.  This past summer, Larry Swim added another championship to his resume by claiming his first 4-Wheel Jamboree title.

Add in Dan Runte and Darron Schnell, plus the possibility of a new truck being added to the fleet, and the Bigfoot team is ready to go for the new year.

However, Hall has one distinct advantage, because he will have a teammate all season long to keep the Bigfoot crew on it’s heels.

Last year’s winner of the donut championship, Mat Dishman, is back at the wheel of the Rammunition, and is not one to sit idle and simply be a teammate.  No, Dishman and Hall have thrown down some excellent side-by-side races over the last few seasons, including one last year in Illinois where both trucks nearly wound up on their sides.

Dishman is ready to take home more than a victory in a contest that is named after a pastry.

Joining these three machines is a truck that is more at home in a swamp, as it’s scales are more for the water than the pavement.  But, the truck is ready to chomp down on the rest of the field.

Returning to the Monster Nationals for a full indoor season, minus one event, is veteran Doug Noelke at the wheel of the machine known as Tail Gator.  A seasoned pro, Noelke broke onto the scene in the early 2000’s at the wheel of Big Dawg, and quickly became a strong driver and one to watch both in racing and freestyle.  However, the moment he took on the persona of the reptile, and began chomping his arms just like those seen when Florida hosts a football game on Saturday afternoon, it was the moment his career launched.

Noelke showed what he could do last June at the Lucas Oil Raceway, and now there’s no escape from this gator’s bite.

But, the fifth truck that is ready to compete has probably the biggest reputation of all to uphold.  It has been over 20 years since this machine competed on a regular basis.  For a long while it did a handful of appearances each year, slithering out every now and then trying to steal away a victory, then slip away into the night.

The fangs are coming back in the 2016 season.
The fangs are back, and Colt Cobra promises some fresh venom in the snake’s return.

Now, with the new year being the celebration of 25 years of competition, this machine is crawling out for yet another chance.

Coming out of Cobra Creek, Colorado, the creation of the masked mystery man known as Colt Cobra, is back, and back with the original look.  It’s red, yellow, and the green eyes are blinking.  The fangs are ready to release some monster venom.  The original “character” truck is back, as competing alongside the previously mentioned trucks is the return of Snake Bite.

The masked creator of the Snake Bite machine revealed the return at the Indianapolis jamboree this past September, and also announced he would not be the one at the wheel.  Instead, he was looking for a new driver to step into the seat and do exactly what he did best, win.

It’s not the first time Cobra let someone else take the wheel.  In the 1993 season, Cobra decided to take a year off to stay in the R&D Center at the team’s Colorado headquarters, while Ricky Rattler took the wheel, and showed that even with a different driver, the snake was to be feared.  In recent seasons, we’ve seen Petey Python also take turns at the wheel, and even on occasion when neither Rattler or Python were available, Bigfoot’s Rick Long went to the dark side for a couple of occasions.

However, Cobra said that this year, it’s a new year, with the old look, and he wants some new blood at the wheel.  It seems the fangs are coming out for 2016.

It is set to be a stellar season for the Monster Nationals, and the seven-city tour is ready to rock many arenas in the northern part of the country.  Here’s the full schedule for the 2016 indoor season:

  • January 15-16:  Sioux City, Iowa-Tyson Event Center; Three shows (7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday)
  • January 29-31:  Madison, Wisconsin-Alliant Energy Center; Three shows (7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday)
  • February 6:  DeKalb, Illinois-NIU Convocation Center; One show (6:30 p.m.)
  • February 19-20:  Corbin, Kentucky-The Arena; Two Shows (7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
  • February 26-27:  DuQuoin, Illinois-Southern Illinois Center at the DuQuoin State Fair; Three Shows (7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday)
  • March 4-5:  Hoffman Estates, Illinois-Sears Centre Arena; Two shows (7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
  • April 30:  State College, PA-Bryce Jordan Center; One show (6:30 p.m.)*

*AllAboutHorsepower.net will be in attendance

In addition to the monsters competing in wheelie, donut, long jump, racing and freestyle competitions, the additional attraction is the transforming dinosaur Transaurus, which will look to feast on an unsuspecting mid-size car while the monsters rest up for their next battle.

Prior to each event, a pit party will be held on the floor of the arena, allowing fans the opportunity to get up close to the trucks, get autographs from the drivers and snap a few pictures with the big machines.  The pit party will start two hours before show time and last 90 minutes, allowing the teams to get ready for the action the fans waited to see.

Ticket information, along with all the facts and times for each show are available on MonsterTruckNationals.com, and be sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter.  Don’t forget, all the results will be available each weekend of action right here on All About Horsepower.

 

*UPDATE*

Per the Hall Brothers Racing team, they have made a slight change in their line-up for the 2016 tour.  Trucks will stay the same, but there is a driver swap.

Behind the wheel of the Rammunition for the new season will be Dale Benear, who is not unfamiliar with competition.  Benear has been a big part of the Hall Brothers team since the inception of both the Raminator and Rammunition machines in 2002.  Benear, who is the brother of Mark Hall’s wife, June, was the original driver of the second Hall Brothers truck for about three seasons, before handing over the duties to Geremie Dishman, and then to Mat.

Benear returned to the team this past season as a driver on occasion, still crewing for Hall, Dishman, and the team’s third driver, Mike Miller.  When Hall got his new chassis in June, it was Benear who took over Hall’s old chassis, the same one that holds the current 99.1 MPH Guinness World Record for speed.

The actual chassis that Benear piloted those early years as the driver of Rammunition competed up until the end of the 2014 season, with Miller being the driver of Mopar Muscle.  Now, the entire Hall Brothers Racing team is running the new chassis design, a proven design that has already won championships.

This is the first time in many years that Benear has done a full season with any promoter, but he likely will take to it very easily.  With a reputation like HBR has, you know he will be winning early and often.

 

*UPDATE 2*

With all the events completed for the 2015 season, Team Bigfoot finally was ready to book their drivers for the new season.  That meant deciding who was going to go to what venue, and who would be going for the championship on what tour.

For the Monster Nationals in 2016, the team has elected to go with an old look with a new driver.  After spending two weekends on the #21 chassis this past year, including it’s debut at the Lima 4-Wheel Jamboree, the popular “Racing Stripes” body will make it’s return for a full campaign.  However, it will not be Dan Runte at the wheel.

Instead, doing the honors of running this classic look will be one of the younger drivers for the team, one that is not afraid to run hard, fast, and without abandon.

It's an old-school look for Bigfoot on the tour in 2016.
It’s an old-school look for Bigfoot on the tour in 2016.

Bigfoot has chosen Darron Schnell and Bigfoot #19 to try and win back the racing and freestyle championship from the Hall Brothers.  This truck is unique to the team as it is the only CRD chassis the team has in the fleet, which is normally a chassis that is seen quite often on the Monster Jam tour.

However, after being ran for a couple seasons by Larry Swim, Schnell took over the truck last year and has felt right at home.

Schnell himself started out by doing displays in Bigfoot #8 before moving into the now-retired #11 chassis, which he ran from 2011 through 2012.  In 2013, he moved up into the #15 truck, where he campaigned the “Bessie” look with Vi-Cor sponsorship.

Now, he has the duty of trying to bring the original racing look to victory lane, but after seeing his performance and improvement over the last few years, Schnell is more than ready.

Meanwhile, the team out of Colorado has been hard at work on their new truck.  When it was announced that Snake Bite would return for the 2016 season to celebrate 25 years in the sport, Colt Cobra knew that even though he still had a ferocious bite on the competition, he needed someone that could inject a new dose of venom on the circuit.  He also knew that when he decided to bring back the retro red design of the truck, the Bigfoot team would not hesitate to bring back the racing stripes.

So he went looking, searching, and even made a stop at the new Bigfoot shop to see what his competition was up to.

Finally, his search was complete.  He found his successor to the Snake Bite legacy.  After himself, Ricky Rattler, Petey Python and a couple others dabbled in the dark side, the newest man to take to the wheel of the slithery monster is Vinny Venom.  Cobra himself wouldn’t say where he found him, nor his experience at the wheel, but he was insistent that the new rookie is more than capable of handling the responsibility of driving his truck.

The team from Cobra Creek, Colorado, is ready, and the fangs are sharp.  It is an old-school rivalry between Bigfoot and Snake Bite, and only one will come out victorious.

About Dustin Parks

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