The first quarter of monster truck action is just over halfway complete. The week-in and week-out action that encompasses the first three months of competition is the main focus of every driver, crew chief and technician that gets these 10,000-pound beasts ready for the next show. No one is thinking about the next tour they will travel with, or the first outdoor show of the season.
Of course, those that help put together the premier summer 4×4 event, the Lucas Oil 4-Wheel Jamboree Series, the focus has been to bring together the best line-up of monsters to give the crowd a lot of cheers, and thrills.
Since the beginning of the year, the Family Events company has worked together with some of the best MTRA teams in the country to put forth a line-up that will bring some of the best racing and freestyle one can witness over the spring, summer, and into the fall. In doing so, they have put together what can be considered the “Lucky Seven” to compete at the three big events of the season.
Let’s run down the field, and take a look at the teams that will go after the racing and freestyle championships in 2016.
For the 2016 season, the 4-Wheel Jamboree is welcoming in some new blood into action. Making his debut this season is Denver Echternkamp, who’s team of Vengeance Motorsports, has been hard at work on a brand-new build that has been named Venom.
The Venom name is not new to the monster truck industry, as it was run for a few years under the Holman Motorsports team.
But, this particular build is a ground-up start. The 2013 Chevrolet Silverado is going to catch many eyes, as the white body is accented in green, with purple snake skin graphics. The matching transmission colors, plus the green and purple rims, will surely grab many looks while sitting in the pits.
It may be a new driver, and a new truck, but anything can happen when given a big stage to showcase what a new machine can do.
The Return: Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
A lot of the 2016 line-up has a character theme, specifically an animal look to the truck. Already having a spectacular season in the Monster Nationals this year, it seemed only appropriate to have some chomping occur on the outdoor season as well.
So, for the first time in six years, returning to the 4-Wheel Jamboree tour is Doug Noelke and his Tail Gator Super Duty.
The last time Noelke performed at the jamborees was in September 2010, at Indianapolis. At the time, his truck was still relatively new, and a teammate truck to the one that he previously was the driver of, Big Dawg. But now, having another six years at the wheel, this gator is set to bite down on the field. Don’t be surprised if this machine will do some swamp-dragging, tailgate standing wheelies across the infield.
Sponsor Love: Dale Benear, General Tire
Despite Lucas Oil being the title sponsor of the overall jamboree tour, the Monster Truck Thunder Drags themselves are sponsored by General Tire. Since getting that sponsorship in 2009, there has always been a truck on tour sponsored by General Tire.
For the last couple years, that truck was driven by Steve Koehler, part of Team Scream based out of Michigan.
Koehler, however, will not be at the wheel this year.
There will be a General Tire machine on the track for the 2016 season. But it appears that truck will not be out of the Team Scream camp. So, who is it going to be? Will it be another single-truck operation that landed the sponsorship for the jamboree? Will it be a team truck to another jamboree staple? Who exactly is going to be at the wheel?
Those questions have finally been answered, as the title sponsor of the Thunder Drags is going to be on a new Ram Heavy Duty body. That body will be bolted onto another truck from the Hall Brothers Racing stable. At the wheel, someone who is very familiar with Family Events, especially having been running with them for the entire first quarter.
The Genera Tire machine will be piloted by Dale Benear, who’s spent the winter tour at the wheel mainly of Rammunition. The truck this season is not going to display the patriotic colors that it has seen since 2009. To go along with the Ram team look of colors, the body is going to have the deep Ram Red and black, colors that the Raminator has worn in years past.
The HBR camp was pleased to bring Benear back into the fold this year, giving fans across the country a chance to see the Hemi-powered group at venues normally they wouldn’t be seen at. Now, the Hall Brothers hope his return to the 4-Wheel Jamboree will be one that provides both them and the sponsors a bit of happiness.
There is one certainty with the 4-Wheel Jamboree, and that is that when this tour arrives, the Hall Brothers will not be far behind. The team held the championship in this series for ten straight years, before being dethroned in 2011. They would win the next three, before losing out last year.
So the entire HBR organization is ready to go after this championship once again.
In doing so, there will be a minor change in the driver’s seat. Earlier this year, it was revealed that in the four-truck field of the Hall Brothers that the Rammunition Ram Rebel would be taken over by Dale Benear for the winter tour. Benear himself is no stranger to the Rammunition name; it was the one he piloted when the Hall Brothers first got the Ram sponsorship in 2002.
But when the jamboree tour kicks off, the red Ram will be back in the hands of Mat Dishman, who has consistently been a contender for the championship on the tour. He’s back to make an impact, and considering how he will be at the wheel of the “Rebel” of the HBR group, he is not laying down for anyone.
He’s been the leader at the Hall Brothers for decades, showing exactly what this team is able to do. It’s all horsepower, high octane, and intense action from the minute the loud pedal is pressed.
Mark Hall has been dominant in the jamboree series ever since he gained the Ram sponsorship.
Last year, however, things did not exactly go his way. Hall would go winless through the first four racing programs, not getting his first one until Indianapolis. By then, the title was mostly out of his reach. He also spent a lot of the summer getting used to a new chassis, one with quicker response steering and a different suspension setup. By the time the final show came around, he was comfortable, and ready to dominate. Unfortunately, the championship was not in the cards.
But now, having already seen a lot of success on the indoor series of the Monster Nationals, the new truck is performing at peak condition.
To say this Ram 1500 Limited is ready to take back the title of the outdoor series is a severe understatement. This field needs to be on high alert, cause Hall will take no prisoners.
It was 1991 in Memphis, Tennessee, when the monster truck as we knew it took on a completely different look. From the cab to the tailgate, yes, it had a look of the truck. But when one looked at the nose, it resembled nothing one would see on the road. The flashing eyes, the fangs…what exactly is this machine?
No one knew exactly what this truck was, nor anything about the driver. But what it became was a phenomenon.
It was Snake Bite, a machine that began the trend of “character” trucks in the industry. When Colt Cobra brought out this machine, no one expected it to become as popular as it would be. Over the years, Cobra seemed to slide off into the desert, and no one heard of where he went. Sure, his truck was still out there, but he wasn’t around, and the truck wasn’t seen as much.
Not this year, as it is the 25th anniversary of the Snake, and to honor it, the truck went back to the original red and yellow design that started it all. Along with that, some new venom was added in the form of rookie driver Vinny Venom. Already in the Monster Nationals, he’s taken home top qualifying honors in multiple shows, along with some donuts, wheelies, long jump and finally that major racing victory.
Now, this reincarnation gets the opportunity to showcase his skills on the outdoor circuit. One could even see Cobra himself come out and see how his new driver handles the big stage.
But one thing you can count on is that the fangs are back, and are not one to be messed with.
It’s the original, it is the one that started it, and it is also the biggest rival that the previous truck has on the circuit. One cannot have the 4-Wheel Jamboree without seeing the Bigfoot truck in competition.
One year ago, Larry Swim was at the wheel in just his second full season of being on the jamboree series, but ended the 2015 season as the top truck on the circuit. The #18 chassis fit his style completely, and his no-nonsense driving made it clear that the championship was going to be his.
This year, he returns to the seat in hopes of defending his title. However, there are questions as to possibly what chassis he will be in.
The team’s lead driver, Dan Runte, has called it a career behind the wheel as of the beginning of this month, meaning that there is an opening in the fleet’s #21 truck, the one that Runte has driven since last January. With Runte now through with his driving career, Swim has become the lead driver of the Bigfoot team. However, Swim seems to enjoy being at the wheel of the #18 truck. Both machines are a Concussion Motorsports design, but handle very differently. Runte’s truck has a longer wheelbase, lower center of gravity and also a different suspension setup.
But at the same time, Swim is known for his wheelstands, and he has figured out exactly how to get the right bounce to sent the front axle to point skyward.
Swim getting into a new truck with such short time to get used to the setup and make it fit his style is possible, but it is more likely that he will remain behind the wheel of #18 to defend his title. That means he will pilot a truck that has been at the jamborees since 2012, and has also set a world record. Now, being the lead man at the helm of the most famous name in monster trucks, it adds even more pressure to him to defend his crown.
However, Swim is extremely capable of doing so, and doing so in a big way. He’s not called “Lead-Foot Larry” for no reason.
The line-up for the jamborees is subject to change, both in who is at the wheel and even who else could be coming along for the ride. Drivers will be announced at later dates that are not listed.
Here’s the dates for the 2016 4-Wheel Jamboree Series:
- O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring 4-Wheel Jamboree: Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH. May 20-22.
- A&A Auto Stores Summer 4-Wheel Jamboree: Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA. July 8-10.
- 35th Anniversary O’Reilly Auto Parts Fall 4-Wheel Jamboree: Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, IN. September 16-18.
To get your tickets for any of the shows, to register your truck in the Show-And-Shine along with participating in the NMRO mud bogs & mud drags, stock tough trucks, and burnout contest, visit 4WheelJamboree.com. For the first time, there is also a special UTV class, with two categories, in a side-by-side shootout. The mud bog also has a change this year in that it is a “hill-in-the-hole” track, where there is a huge hill in the center of the pit.
There are seven classes of mud bogs for 2016, including the all-new Class 7 category which is for tractor-tire vehicles. All the rules are listed on the jamboree website.
Get ready for the premier outdoor 4×4 series to have yet another successful year of competition.