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The Fight to the Finish Begins For the Monster Nationals

The Snake struck early and often to start the Monster Nationals season.

Feature Image Credit:  Danny Maass, Maass Media/TheMonsterBlog.com

The anticipation has been getting higher and higher since the end of the 2015 season for Family Events.  A long three-month layoff from competition had everyone from the fan buying the ticket, to the driver that straps on the helmet, right down to the individual spraying the paint on the sacrificial metal had everyone wanting to get back to the action.

Finally, the wait was over.  The “Fight to the Finish” for the Monster Nationals was ready to get rolling to start out the 2016 indoor season.

Just like a year ago, Sioux City, Iowa, would be the first stop on the tour, and the Tyson Events Center was ready to rock with not just one or two, but FIVE of the top machines in the industry.  Defending champion Mark Hall would carry the Monster Nationals champion flag for a second straight year, hoping to defend his crown in the Raminator.  He was joined with the team truck, Rammunition, but this year it is fellow driver, and brother-in-law, Dale Benear at the wheel of the Ram Rebel.

New for this season, but not new to the tour, is Doug Noelke as he brought out his Super Duty Gator named Tail Gator.  But to finish the field, it is a classic battle that dates back to the early 1990’s.

Darron Schnell got the nod from the Bigfoot team to represent the Original Monster Truck, complete with the classic red and yellow racing stripes design on his Ford Raptor.  But his rival made his return, also in red and yellow.  But there was a nose that included fangs, green neon, blinking eyes, and a man in a mask.  Across the floor was the return of the classic red and yellow venomous machine known as Snake Bite.

As a special treat, Colt Cobra himself, the creator and legend in the sport, came to the show to assist in getting the truck ready.  But, Cobra was not suiting up to drive.  He spent months finding a new shoe to take the wheel of his beast, and he found him a rookie driver with a lot of desire.

Hidden behind the new snake mask is one Vinny Venom, and he was already set to throw down long before everyone arrived.

That being said, it was time to get it on.

Up first on the night was the wheelie contest, and the fresh cars were a blessing for every driver.  It would mean a lot of height, along with distance.  Fans would get the opportunity to decide the winner, and for Friday night’s competition, Noelke would chomp down on the competition.

Up next, something new for the 2016 season.

Instead of having a free pass for the previous champion in the racing bracket, Family Events officials decided to change it up, and all five trucks would get a qualifying pass to determine their position in the bracket.  The fastest qualifier would get a bye in the first round, with the second-fastest taking on the slowest in the first round.  The winners of the first round will face one another in the second round, while the fastest qualifier would then take on a fast loser.  However, the fast loser would be determined by qualifying times.

This in turn made it important to be fast all night long, because being fast meant lane choice.

For the fans that enjoyed the character bodies, they were in for a treat as the snake would then sink it’s fangs into the competition for the first time, as Venom would top the charts and make it easily into the second round of competition.

Once qualifying was done, it was time to make some smoke, because the donut contest would provide that, especially on the concrete.

Venom decided one victory was not quite enough, and when he took to the floor the smoke began billowing from the four Firestone tires.  The fans once again would decide the victor, and Venom was the loudest among the crowd.  Many even were holding up the fangs to make sure officials saw he was the true winner.

He was not done yet, because Venom decided to go for a hat trick.  The rest of the field was now playing from behind, as Bigfoot had been winless thus far, and the Hall Brothers team still hadn’t broken into the column.  However, the HBR crew knew the long jump contest would be their event to dominate because of their high-horsepower HEMI engines.

Then again, a bit of snake venom seemed to halt that idea because once again, Venom decided to sink his fangs into the field.  Hat trick complete.

Now, it was time to get down to business.  The big trophies were on the line at that moment because now it was time to go side-by-side racing.  Venom was looking to go for a grand slam, but to do so he had to look to his right into the eyes of a RAM that was snorting, and ready to take down the racing reptile.  When the lights went green, both had a quick reaction time, so this was going to be decided by the cameras at the finish line.

By just barely a tire, Hall would finally find the antidote for Venom, and the Raminator would finally be atop the standings, taking home the first official racing win of the season.

But still, one trophy was up for grabs.  It was time to turn the trucks loose one at a time to freestyle for the Iowa crowd.  Each one would put on a show for the people, with donuts, launches, and skyward wheelies to satisfy everyone.  In the end, another character would take home a victory, as Noelke would bookend the opening night with a freestyle trophy.

After one show, Venom has three wins to his credit, Noelke with two, then Hall would take one.  Through one night, Bigfoot and Schnell would be shut out.  However, one day remained in the opening weekend of action.

FRIDAY NIGHT RESULTS

  • Wheelie Competition:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Fast Qualifier:  Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Donut Contest:  Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Long Jump:  Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Racing Final:  Mark Hall, Raminator, def. Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Freestyle:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator

 

It would not even be 24 hours until the next show was ready to go, but the weekend in Sioux City would have double the fun on Saturday as there would be two shows slated to go down.

When the afternoon event was set to go, every truck was set to go after spending the night adjusting, fixing, and repairing from the previous event.  However, with a new day meant new opportunities, but it also added in some surprises.

The afternoon began with wheelies, and the track crew brought in a few fresh cars to help get the trucks launched to the sky.  What that also provided was some controversy.  Venom had the new Snake Bite roaring in front of the fans, as on both hits the red Super Snake was staring at the roof of the Tyson Events Center.  But, in a big shock to many, it was Hall in the Raminator that was the winner of the fan cheer off.  It shocked many, including the rest of the teams in the pit area.

However, that is what stood, but it only enraged the new man at the wheel of the Snake, and he made sure to make it clear when qualifying took place.

For the second straight event, Venom would have the quickest time of the five trucks, giving him another free pass to the second round.

Photo by Danny Maass.
Photo by Danny Maass.

When qualifying was over, it was time to make some smoke with the donut contest.  What it also provided was even more controversy.  To many that were in attendance, both in the stands and in the pit area, Schnell had the Bigfoot truck putting on a clinic on how to cyclone.  The #19 chassis created so much smoke it felt like a fog rolled into the arena.  All seemed like it would go the way of the big blue Ford, but again it was not to be.

Winning the donut contest on this afternoon was Noelke in Tail Gator.  Despite not having as much smoke in his attempt, he did his donut with the steering wheel out the left window.  Still, it was even more controversy on top of what happened in wheelies.

The next competition would have no controversy because it was all about distance, as the long jump once again would see who could sky the farthest.

Schnell would make up for not winning the previous event as the racing stripes would make it the distance, giving him his first win of the afternoon, and the first win by Bigfoot all weekend.

It was then time to get the big trophies ready, and for the fans that came out the night prior and decided to make it a weekend getaway at the Monster Nationals, they got a special treat because the same final they had the night before, it was happening again.  The only difference was that Hall would put the Raminator in the left lane, while Venom would take to the right.

But unlike the night before, this race was decided at the line.  Both trucks came off hard, but Venom seemed to spin his tires and had to correct the steering, hitting the cars slightly off angle.  That gave Hall enough room to put the new Raminator Ram Limited across the line a champion for the second consecutive event, adding yet another trophy to the HBR case in Illinois.

After all the controversy that occurred to start the night, one competition was left, and no driver wanted to win it without making an impact.

No one was willing to lay down for the win, nor was any driver wanting to be tentative and build up to a great performance.  It was time to freestyle for the fans in Iowa, and every truck was pushing their limits.

But the afternoon show went to Hall, who right after rolling onto the floor halted the truck, and let the Rams on both the sides and the hood snort, then with one hit of the throttle let the Firestone tires scream while leaving some smoke in their wake.  Hall would spin donuts, launch high, and drift the Raminator all over the floor.  It was more than enough to give him the decisive cheers from the crowd to sweep both trophies for the afternoon show.

Now the crews went to work, because for the drivers it was their down time to be with the fans, while the ones turning wrenches had to get ready for one more show on the day.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON RESULTS

  • Wheelie Competition:  Mark Hall, Raminator
  • Fast Qualifier:  Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Donut Contest:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Long Jump:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Racing Finals:  Mark Hall, Raminator, def. Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Freestyle:  Mark Hall, Raminator

 

It seemed like the turnaround that was needed for the final show was hardly any time at all, but in reality, that is what it was.  With the average time of a show lasting a few hours, a 1:30 start like the afternoon event gave crews very little time to get set for the next round, including the time the track crew had to bring in fresh metal for the start of the competition.

But somehow, all the drivers were ready to go by the time the second and final pit party kicked off, and when it was time to get down to business, the field of five was ready to roll.

Little did the fans know that there would be a much different theme to the final show.  There wasn’t much controversy.  Instead, it was carnage.

The wheelie contest would lead off in a big way, especially with who was leading off.  Schnell was ready to launch the Bigfoot Raptor to the sky.  His first hit on the cars sent the truck skyward, problem was the front tires began going too far backward.  There was no saving this one, and onto the roof went Schnell for the first rollover of the 2016 season.  Track crews came out to put the truck back on it’s wheels, and to the pits it went.  Minus the body damage, the truck was just fine.  The Foot crew decided to take the body off to prevent any damage for the remainder of the night, but it’s not the first time the #19 chassis has been run minus the fiberglass.

At that point, it was clear who was the winner as Schnell’s spectacular performance would be enough to capture victory.

Qualifying once again would be the follow-up to the intense start to the night, and it was a continued theme from the previous two shows.

No matter what, on the opening weekend no one was faster than Venom.  The new Snake Bite was running at peak performance, and for the third consecutive show he would grab the top qualifying spot to move him directly into the semi-final round of racing.

When it came down to making some noise and laying down some rubber, it was time to let the cyclones fly in the donut contest.

Each truck would leave rubber down as best they could, but when Noelke brought out Tail Gator once again, he would show that no steering was needed when he was performing.  Another no-wheel donut was able to give him the victory, his second of the weekend.

Up next was the racing bracket, as due to time there was no long-jump contest held, so every driver had to get ready to go as quick as possible to move into the finals.  In what seemed like the monster version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” Venom once again would work his way from his fast qualifying spot to make it to the championship.  The Hall Brothers once again made it to the final round, but this time it was not Hall making to the title run.  Instead, it was the Rammunition making it in with Benear at the wheel.

Yet no matter which Ram it was, the Snake was barely missing the mark, as Benear would take home the third racing trophy of the weekend, giving a sweep for the HBR organization over the weekend, and Benear’s first victory at the helm of the Ram Rebel.

Finally, closing out the weekend, it was time to freestyle.  The theme on the night was all about breakage.  Schnell would race and freestyle a truck without a body, but more destruction was on the horizon.  Hall would do exactly what he did the previous event, and put on a show, but it quickly came to a halt.  The truck suddenly would squat hard onto the right front.  It appeared the suspension in the Raminator gave out, and the body suddenly was right down on the tires.  Rather than risk more broken parts, or damage to the driver, Hall pulled into the pits, knowing that it was going to be a long week for repairs to get the machine ready for the next weekend of action.

One guy that wasn’t breaking anything except the bank was Noelke, as he would stake his claim that despite not being on tour for a while, the gator was chomping down, as he would go 2-for-3 on the weekend and take home the freestyle championship to close out the weekend.

SATURDAY NIGHT RESULTS

  • Wheelie Competition:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Fast Qualifier:  Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Donut Contest:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Racing Finals:  Dale Benear, Rammunition, def. Vinny Venom, Snake Bite
  • Freestyle:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator

 

Luckily for the teams that are on tour with the Monster Nationals, they have two weeks to relax and get prepared for the next event.  The next stop on tour will be the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for a three-show weekend.  The shows on Friday and Saturday are both at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday event is a 1 p.m. matinee.  All shows have a pit party that will start two hours before the event.

Visit MonsterNationals.com for all the ticket information, and all the event details so you too can see the “Fight To The Finish.”

About Dustin Parks

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