When it is the middle of May, at about the same time when gear heads are getting set to prepare for the biggest open-wheel event in racing history, another big event happens just one state over. Once the indoor season concludes for the Family Events Promotion Company, their focus switches immediately to their big festivities on the 4-Wheel Jamboree tour.
The attention for the next few weeks may be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the jamboree in itself is celebrating it’s own major milestone.
This season is the 35th time the jamborees have hosted events, and ever since they began being held back in 1981, the monster trucks have been involved. To start the 2016 season, once again the venue would be the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, OH, which has hosted the jamboree in Ohio since the 1993 season. The fans in the Buckeye State were ready to witness some intense action in the infield, as the 3-day weekend was already getting off to a roaring start.
Overcast skies were not what the people wanted to see when they arrived, but the skies opened up nicely throughout the day which allowed many smiles to come out.
Among the biggest changes for this year was the introduction, and in some cases re-introduction, to some drivers and trucks. Making his debut was Denver Echtenkamp in the Venom Chevrolet, while veteran driver Doug Noelke returned to the jamboree tour for the first time since 2006 in the Tail Gator machine. The Hall Brothers decided to load up the stable this season. Mark Hall is back in the hopes to take back the championship in Raminator, and Mat Dishman was locked in with the Rammunition.
Hall’s brother-in-law, Dale Benear, also was in attendance with the newest look for the HBR stable, the new General Tire-sponsored machine.
But the talk of the pit area was the big rivalry, one that suddenly got an intense jolt of energy in the biggest way possible. The Bigfoot team was ready to go, as Larry Swim took the wheel of the Original Monster Truck. But, he was not in the truck he won the championship with a year ago. When the first quarter action concluded, fellow driver Dan Runte decided to call it a career from full-time driving. That left Swim as the lead man in the Foot stable, and meant that he was going to get an upgrade, both in truck and in design.
The Lucas Oil Bigfoot would return with an entirely-new look, with white and blue as the lead colors, but now accented with black and red highlights. It would also be set up on the beast of a chassis, Bigfoot #21.
However, what got the most attention was the one truck that for many years has been a thorn in the side of the Foot squad. After coming to a draw for a championship in the winter tour, Vinny Venom and the Snake Bite team were ready to go to work to make the jamboree season an enormous success. But to do so, things had to change. Fans noticed during the latter part of the season, team leader Colt Cobra was not around much, missing the final pair of events on the Monster Nationals circuit.
In April, Venom made a trip to Colorado to scout a show that the Foot team was competing at, and then made a stop at the Cobra Creek shop.
What he saw in front of him was anything but weak. Cobra and the crew somehow got the folks at Concussion Motorsports to get him a new chassis, set up longer, and with better handling. But the body that was ran during the winter season was beat down, showing scars of where the skin had been torn off. Not to worry, because Cobra again found a way to get an entirely new body for this truck, but one with much more attitude.
When the body was put on, it was clear that the Snake had a new, more fierce, look, and immediately the fans could tell it was going to be one of the most evil trucks to ever hit the track.
The track this year for the monsters was an ode to the old-school. Nothing fancy, nothing complex. It was a tribute to the old Penda Points Series from the 1990’s as it was a classic, straight-line course with a roller start and full-throttle to the finish.
Freestyle, however, was a bit different. There was the normal turn 1 van stack as many had become accustomed to, but outside of that, things looked different.
In turn 2, a dual-car jammer was set in place for some wheelies, then another van stack was set up in between turns 3 and 4, with the landing coming right towards the frontstretch. But the big addition was right in the center, an enormous bus stack, similar to the stacks that were seen in the mid-2000’s. It meant when the trucks got to show off, there were going to be plenty of photo opportunities for the fans.
Friday’s festivities began at 6 p.m. with the random draw happening hours before to determine who would luck out with the first-round bye. In this case, it was Noelke getting the free pass.
In reality, no one was getting a free pass in racing, because the first race literally was a teammate battle when Hall and Dishman took to the line. But, Dishman got the needed jump and was able to hold on for the initial victory, putting his teammate on the sidelines after just one round.
The Ram Rebel would make it all the way to the finals, as would Swim in his quest to defend the 2015 championship he won at the wheel of Bigfoot #18. He held on when the lights went green, and let the Ford Raptor fly. It was enough to take home the opening championship in the Monster Truck Thunder Drags.
When freestyle came about, the first day was about getting a feel for the track, but it didn’t come without a bit of cost.
The main casualties came with Noelke and Dishman. On a hit across the van stack, the Tail Gator would suffer a huge lawn dart effect as the rear tires caught the top of the bus, and it sent the Super Gator into the ground extremely hard on the nose. The landing suddenly stopped the run because Noelke’s truck would lose the front drive, and forced him to the pit area behind the track.
Dishman, on the other hand, experienced something he’s seen a lot of in the last year. On a hit at the same stack, the right-rear tire suddenly locked up, signaling a possible broken planetary.
The truck that would be declared the winner, despite some fans deciding it wasn’t the right one, was Hall in the Raminator. His run had big air over each stack, multiple donuts, and he also would even bring a wheelstand into the mix. Quite the run to start the weekend, but it was only the first show. Things would only pick up from here on.
- Round 1: Rammunition def. Raminator; Snake Bite def. The General; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Venom; Tail Gator BYE RUN.
- Semi-Finals: Rammunition def. Snake Bite; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Tail Gator.
- Finals: Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Rammunition
- Freestyle: Mark Hall, Raminator
The Lima 4-Wheel Jamboree continues on Friday with two monster events, but each one would have it’s own unique aspect.
The 1:30 p.m. performance would take place with both racing and freestyle. Come 6:30 p.m., because of time and to keep from running deep into the night, it would be a show where it’s only freestyle for the fans.
Visit 4WheelJamboree.com for more information, including the schedule of events, and all the other activites that the O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree will have in store.
- Larry Swim-Lucas Oil Bigfoot, 160 (points)
- Mat Dishman-Rammunition, 120
- Doug Noelke-Tail Gator, 80
- Vinny Venom-Snake Bite, 80
- Mark Hall-Raminator, 40
- Dale Benear-The General, 40
- Denver Echtenkamp-Venom, 40