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Monster Jam World Finals XVII: The Field, The Track, and Those To Watch

It is that time of year again. Las Vegas is calling, and the World Finals awaits.

It has all been leading up to this moment.  Weekly events across the country, multiple drivers, and multiple opportunities to showcase skills, talent, and desire.  But for one weekend out of the year, the leading promoter of monster trucks only has one event.  But at that event, it brings in the most trucks, the most drivers, and puts together two of the most challenging tracks seen all season.

Taking place at Sam Boyd Stadium, in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip, it is the World Finals.  Since 2000, this event has become the marque event for Monster Jam.  It began with 16 trucks and soon expanded to show the multiple team vehicles on display just at the pit party.

This event went from being a one-day affair, expanded to a two-day event, and has now become a three-day experience that takes days to prepare for.  As we speak, the track crew for Monster Jam has descended on the stadium, beginning to bring in the dirt to lay down on the ground of the stadium, and using blueprints will put together the fastest, and most challenging race course ever devised for competition.

And yet after all the qualifying, and all the racing, that same track crew in less than 24 hours will change over that fast race course into the most technical, intense, and spectacular freestyle track ever devised all season.

Already locked into the main event are 31 of the toughest drivers in the country.  Then, in addition, another 16 will compete in the Young Guns Shootout, with the winner becoming the final competitor in the big field.  Along with those 47 trucks and drivers, over 30 more are coming out just to be on display for the three pit parties all weekend.  It is the biggest monster truck gathering in the country with nearly 80 machines set up outside the stadium.

It is the big event of the first quarter of action.  Let us look first at the announced 31 competitors and their trucks that are going to be competing in World Finals XVII from March 17-19:

  • Todd Leduc:  Metal Mulisha (2014 Freestyle Champion, 2015 Racing Champion)
  • Dennis Anderson:  Grave Digger Chrome (2000 Freestyle Champion, 3-time Racing Champion)
  • Ryan Anderson:  Son-Uva Digger
  • Cam McQueen:  Northern Nightmare (2012 Freestyle Champion)
  • Donald Epidendio:  Titan
  • Candice Jolly:  Monster Mutt Dalmatian
  • Marc McDonald:  El Toro Loco Black
  • George Balhan:  Mohawk Warrior
  • Lee O’Donnell:  VP Oil Mad Scientist
  • Scott Buetow:  Team Hot Wheels
  • Jimmy Creten:  Bounty Hunter (2005 Freestyle Champion)
  • Charlie Pauken:  Monster Mutt (2010 Freestyle Champion)
  • DRIVER UNKNOWN:  Doom’s Day
  • Chad Tingler:  Alien Invasion
  • Neil Elliott:  FS1 Cleatus (2015 FS1 Series Champion)
  • Nicole Johnson:  Scooby Doo
  • BJ Johnson:  Gas Monkey Garage
  • Michael Vaters Jr:  Overkill Evolution (2015 Freestyle Champion)
  • Jim Koehler:  Avenger (2-Time Freestyle Champion)
  • Adam Anderson:  Grave Digger (2008 Freestyle Champion, 2-time Racing Champion, 2016 FS1 Series Champion)
  • Morgan Kane:  Grave Digger Orange (2016 More Monster Jam West Champion)
  • Cole Venard:  Grave Digger Purple (2016 More Monster Jam East Champion)
  • Tom Meents:  Max-D Grey (5-Time Racing Champion, 5-Time Freestyle Champion)
  • Linsey Weenk:  Lucas Oil Crusader
  • Damon Bradshaw:  Monster Energy (2009 Freestyle Champion)
  • Dustin Brown:  Monster Mutt Junkyard Dog
  • Chad Fortune:  Soldier Fortune
  • Bari Musawwir:  Zombie (2012 Young Guns Shootout Champion)
  • Colton Meents Eichelberger:  Max-D Gold
  • Coty Saucier:  Monster Energy Pickup (2015 Young Guns Shootout Champion)
  • Brianna Mahon:  Madusa

There you have it, 31 drivers and 31 unique trucks.  It is another season where the team aspect of the World Finals takes the lead once again.  In the main field alone, there are four Grave Digger drivers, two Max-D competitors, Team Monster Energy, and even three Monster Mutts.  But each team has it’s own unique aspect to bring to the main event.

With all the talk of the team trucks in the World Finals, all are still hoping to dethrone Todd Leduc in Metal Mulisha.
With all the talk of the team trucks in the World Finals, all are still hoping to dethrone Todd Leduc in Metal Mulisha.

Team Grave Digger combined has seven championships between them, ten if you include the winners of the More Monster Jam Tour over the last two seasons.  That means there are multiple chances to get this team to victory.  The Anderson team of Adam and Dennis, for the first time, are driving the same name truck in this event.  The potential to see a Grave Digger vs. Grave Digger matchup could happen.  But, if there were a favorite among this field of Digger drivers, it is not the elder Anderson.

Instead, it’s his son.  The truck Adam is running this season is the same truck he’s been running for the last three years, but the previous two seasons it ran as “The Legend” and wore the original design Digger body that was blue and silver.  This year, the truck was reworked and made green, with the Digger body added.

It set forth a season that was an absolute dominating campaign for him and his team.  The FS1 tour this season was all about the Digger team, and trying to hold them back.  But, Adam would not only dominate, he would lock up the title one week early.  In doing so, he would push the truck beyond anything he did before.  He pushed it so hard that in St. Louis, he trashed the truck.  The entire front half of the chassis became twisted, with the cage even caving in.  A backup truck was brought in for him to drive the following week, and he still went out and threw down on the field.

If there ever was a favorite to win this year’s event, it is this year’s FS1 champion.

At the same time, there could be some surprises from this year’s field.  Some of the later additions to the qualified drivers shocked some fans, but not when looking at statistics.  The one that could surprise anyone is actually driving a name that she campaigned at this event a year ago.  Last year, it was a prior event for the normal driver that called for the change.  This year, unfortunately, it is due to an injury.

However, do not count out Brianna Mahon, who spent her season as part of the More Monster Jam East tour, and shocked everyone at winning multiple events, and showing her improvement in skills from a year ago.  Fans have quickly caught on to her ability at the wheel.  She is easy on the eyes, which makes the male fans rather excited, but then when combined with her talent in driving, she has shown she deserves a shot at the main event.

Mahon is driving Madusa once again this year.  A season ago, Madusa was honored to become a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, however the induction was the same weekend as Las Vegas.  It was Madusa herself that decided on who to put behind the wheel of her namesake truck, and Mahon got the nod.

This year, Madusa has been sidelined with an injury that occurred earlier in the season, and has been out of the seat since.  Doctors have not cleared her to drive, and that meant she once again had the honor of choosing Mahon to take the seat.

Mahon will be driving the same red, white and blue truck that she piloted a year ago, and could be one of the ultimate sleeper picks to win either competition this year.

There are multiple veterans in this field, some making a return to this event for the second time, and some making their debuts.  There may be some favorites, and some that may not get as much look as they deserve.  Guys like Ryan Anderson, who nearly claimed both titles a year ago, are returning this season for another shot at the title.  Jim Koehler is one of two drivers that has competed at every World Finals since it began, and he wants another title.  No one is even talking about the guy who has won the most titles at this show, that being Tom Meents.  It is a wide open field that could bring about either a repeating champion, or a new face in the crowd.

But, that’s only 31 drivers.  The final spot in the field will be determined on St. Patrick’s Day, in the fifth edition of the Young Guns Shootout.  There are some returning faces to this field as well, but for this year there are many new drivers getting their first crack at the Vegas track.  It could be the ultimate showcase at the youth in the sport, and where it is going.

Let’s look at the 16-driver field for this year’s Shootout, with the winner going to the big dance.

  • Scott Liddycoat:  Dragon
  • Tony Ochs:  Soldier Fortune Black Ops
  • Rosalee Ramer:  Wild Flower
  • Eric Swanson:  Obsessed
  • Steven Thompson:  Hurricane Force
  • Buddy Tompkins:  Razin Kane
  • Ryan Disharoon:  Saigon Shaker
  • Becky McDonough:  El Toro Loco Yellow
  • Jared Eichelberger:  Max-D Yellow
  • Travis Groth:  New Earth Authority
  • Steven Simms:  Pirate’s Curse
  • Bailey Shea:  Scooby Doo
  • Tyler Groth:  Zombie Yellow
  • Kayla Blood:  El Toro Loco Orange
  • Cynthia Gauthier:  Monster Mutt Dalmatian
  • Tyler Menninga:  Blue Thunder

Of this year’s field in the Shootout, nine of them are getting their rookie stripes in Las Vegas.  But of those nine, each have been showing they are capable of being the one to upset the field.  And each did it on their own terms.

Look at young Rosalee Ramer, who is in her first season behind the wheel with Monster Jam.  Because of her age, she was unable to do so for a couple years.  But, with that came experience and desire, and when the promoter came to the west coast, she was showcasing that this young lady could handle the big lights.  She could quite honestly shock the entire field.

Young Ryan Disharoon could surprise everyone if he wins the Shootout on Thursday.
Young Ryan Disharoon could surprise everyone if he wins the Shootout on Thursday.

Then there’s Ryan Disharoon, who handles one of the most popular trucks in the country because of the unique look, and what it means.  The Saigon Shaker when it hit the track just for practice runs last year, was among the fastest to record a time.

Along with the rookies, a few are returning for another crack at the big show.  Cynthia Gauthier is back in the second Dalmatian truck, and has broke through the glass ceiling this year with a win on the east coast tour.  She is more than ready to take the Shootout championship.  Plus, she has someone with experience on this track to lean on to give her advice.  That being her boyfriend, and someone who took on a substitute role in three different trucks this year, former Bad Habit driver and 2013 Young Guns Shootout champion Joe Sylvester.

It is a wide open field to determine the final driver for the big show, and there is so much more to make this an experience.

All the activities start on Thursday as part of the Double Down Experience.  Fans get early access to the drivers, exclusive merchandise, and get to actually go on the track to see what it looks like before anyone else.  There’s exclusive interviews for those at the show, and even a barbecue that is fully catered to give fans a free meal to satisfy their hunger after all the walking they will do all afternoon.  That day the field of trucks will qualify for their position in the racing bracket, and determine the Young Guns Shootout champion.

The next day, it is all about going round-by-round to see who will become the 2016 racing champion.  Todd Leduc has the target on his back after winning the title a year ago, a weekend where he nearly became the first driver to win the pole position in the field, win racing and also win freestyle at the World Finals in the same show.

Once the festivities are done on Friday, the track crew will begin the process in changing over the racing track into the most difficult freestyle course ever made.  Not one fan will see the look of the floor until that day, and all 32 trucks will take to Sam Boyd Stadium in hopes of showing the judges what they can do on such a big stage.

To not be outdone, there is likely going to be another intense encore to close out the big show.  Two years ago, it was a Doom’s Day showcase to end Las Vegas, and last season when the lights dimmed and the red hues took to the track, it was the Zombie Apocalypse.

What will it be for 2016?

Visit MonsterJam.com to get all the information on the World Finals, including the pit party map of where the field of trucks will be located (the competing trucks), and the schedule of events for each day.

About Dustin Parks

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