Summertime often means temperatures go up, days get longer to a certain point, and people are out enjoying the sunshine. On a typical weekend, that is about normal for a family. However, those that would rather kick up some dust, or mud, their summer entails some rather different plans.
Many of those families that are on the eastern part of the country mark one weekend during July to satisfy their craving for some 4×4 action. They come from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and all across Pennsylvania to descend on the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds to join in on the 4-Wheel Jamboree. For 29 years, this event is a marque venture for Family Events, starting back in 1988, and has continued to grow ever since.
Whether the kids are riding in their own wagons with their parents, or at the wheel of their own 4×4, this event draws them in, and no event drew them in more than the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags.
For the 2016 edition, the fairgrounds brought in an elite eight to conquer the infield on the three-jump, straight line course. The Hall Brothers had their trio of drivers, Mat Dishman, Mark Hall and Dale Benear, all locked in to do battle. Doug Noelke was ready to go in his Tail Gator, and Denver Echternkamp had the new Venom machine dialed in.
The rivalry between Bigfoot and Snake Bite renewed at a place where they have a deep history, this time with Larry Swim and Vinny Venom doing the driving.
To round out the field, as was announced earlier in the week, Pennsylvania native Dave Radzierez was brought in to do battle against the alcohol-fueled beasts in his radical, but extremely competitive, XDP Diesel Ford.
Although the afternoon saw some scattered rain take hold of the skies, things cleared up by show time with the infield still holding a lot of moisture. But, the fans got a lot more than they bargained for on this occasion.
Through the first three races in the first round, things were relatively tame. Echternkamp upset Benear, while XDP showed it had a bite of it’s own when taking out the Snake. However, it wasn’t until the final matchup where the fans were gasping and showing disbelief in their eyes and expressions.
The three-jump course was proving to be a bit of a challenge for the teams through the first three runs, but the final race in the opening round went beyond that. Off the initial jump, Noelke and Dishman were close, with the Rammunition of Dishman holding a slight edge. Dishman took the second roller with a bit more throttle than he intended, but held the lead.
All of a sudden, it happened.
Dishman nailed the final jump without even settling the truck down, and the Ram Rebel went skyward like a NASA rocket. He would land past the finish line, but went hard onto the left-rear corner. The impact sheered away the tire, and the hub. Somehow the truck rebounded onto the right side, and the officials let Dishman decide to attempt to drive out of the tough spot. He gripped the Firestone tires to the dirt, but momentum slung the truck over onto it’s side like a raging bull at a rodeo. When it was all said and done, it was one of the more violent rolls the Bloomsburg crowd had seen in the 29-year history of the event.
Yet despite how intense it looked, Dishman got out, and waved to the fans. The safety gear implemented by the MTRA did it’s job, as the only damage was to the truck, not the driver.
A broken spindle, axle assembly, and steering were the major components that were damaged, and the body of the truck was trashed from nose to tailgate. The team, as they had all their drivers in attendance plus their crews, went immediately to work to get the truck repaired for the next day’s action.
All the while, there was still a racing program to continue.
The semi-finals were rather ho-hum, because each match-up turned into a bye-run. Echternkamp had to pull back into the pits because his remote kill switch would not activate when tested, meaning Swim had a free pass to the finals. At the same time, Radzierez got a bye run because with Dishman out, Noelke was to be the opponent. However, the Tail Gator had issues after it’s first-round loss, and wouldn’t make the call to run the finals, meaning the diesel would advance.
In the Ford vs. Cummins final, no one was touching the Bigfoot Raptor, as Swim would take his second win of the 2016 season, and his third victory in Bloomsburg in the last four racing events the show has seen. Quite the accomplishment for the new lead man in the Foot organization.
- Round 1: Echternkamp, Venom, def. Benear, General Tire; Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, def. Hall, Raminator; Radzierez, XDP, def. Venom, Snake Bite; Dishman, Rammunition, def. Noelke, Tail Gator*
- Semi-Finals: Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, bye-run (R.I.I. failure with Echternkamp); XDP, Radzierez, bye-run (*Noelke slated for spot after Dishman wreck, but unable to make the call).
- Finals: Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, def. Radzierez, XDP.
The theme of breakage seemed to continue into the freestyle portion of the show. This year’s obstacles were similar to last season, but with some reworking. In the apex of the first and second turns, a jammer stack was added rather than a concrete barricade. In the second turn area, taking a page out of another promoter, the track crew added in a “hybrid” style dirt hill, complete with different angles and heights.
A van stack on right side of the stage had three massive vans elevated to a base of six-feet of dirt, while in between the racing lanes a smaller van stack was placed. Yet what made this one different, on one side the dirt team dug in a low ditch to lead into the obstacle, similar to what Indianapolis used in 2000 on their racing course.
Yet no matter what the design, the winner on this night was breakage.
Echternkamp had a strong run going, until he lost the front steering. It seemed as though his power steering pump failed for the front because when pulling off the track, he drove in reverse, and the rear steering worked flawlessly. Benear came out second and filled his time, but was not as spectacular as anticipated in the General Tire machine.
Then came the man Dishman calls his boss, Hall and the Raminator. To say he was out for retribution was an understatement, because the Ram Laramie Limited was tearing through the infield more fierce than ever.
Each hit, each donut, and even a trip down the SxS obstacle course on the front stretch, got the crowd roaring. He would go on for nearly four minutes and kept the crowd rocking the entire time.
Not even Noelke, who lost the front end after a strong run, could stop him. Venom brought out the Raptor Snake Bite and looked to be on his way to topping what Hall had done, drifting the new piece like a late model and soaring it like a 727 jet. But one hard side landing from the hybrid hill popped the right-front tire from the rim, and also broke the steering ram, nearly identical to what occurred in Lima a few months back. It was enough to stop him from possibly taking the win away.
Swim then came out and looked to sweep, getting the crowd roaring early by finally, after over a year of being ran by both Swim and the now-retired Dan Runte, the #21 Bigfoot chassis pulled the famed Foot slap-wheelie, and it got the fans going quickly.
Yet just as fast, it was over, because another hit on the hybrid hill then caused Swim’s left-front to pop right off the rim, ending another strong run.
It also gave the opening weekend victory in freestyle to Hall, as now four drivers have one win each on the season.
Two shows are up for Saturday’s action at Bloomsburg. At Noon, it’s racing and freestyle once again for the Pennsylvania faithful. Then at 8 p.m., it is a full freestyle celebration with all eight trucks set to strut their stuff for the fans, culminating with a fireworks show that always delights those that wait out the heat in the fairgrounds.
- Larry Swim-Lucas Oil Bigfoot, 400 (points)
- Mat Dishman-Rammunition, 360
- Vinny Venom-Snake Bite, 320
- Mark Hall-Raminator, 280
- Dale Benear-The General, 280
- Doug Noelke-Tail Gator, 280
- Denver Echtenkamp-Venom, 240
- Dave Radzierez-XDP, 120