There is a saying that goes “Things only get better with age.” It was 35 years ago, in 1981, when the 4×4 scene got an opportunity to show off what can be done to a vehicle that is more made for being on dirt instead of being a show piece. So many enthusiasts gathered in Indianapolis, and held what was being deemed a jamboree.
At the time, one publication that was on the supermarket shelves that was doing relatively well was Petersen’s 4-Wheel Off-Road monthly.
The event was then termed the 4-Wheel Jamboree.
Since then, the magazine has since taken a form both in print and online, but the name itself has stuck, and it has grown ever since. It went from being one event, to a few, and became a weekend gathering at many different points over the spring, summer, and into the fall season. Thousands upon thousands of trucks, and millions upon millions of fans, have made these shows what they have become.
This weekend, the 4-Wheel Jamboree celebration has come full circle. The Indiana State Fairgrounds were prepared to welcome the biggest crowd they had ever seen to honor 35 years of the jamboree, and the fans that made the trip from the east coast and even midwest would not be disappointed.
At least they weren’t disappointed in the turnout. Many fans knew that this weekend was also the finale of the Monster Truck Thunder Drags, and the seven trucks that made the trip were all ready for battle. Six of them were looking up at Larry Swim in the Lucas Oil Bigfoot, who padded a 200-point gap following his sweep in Bloomsburg.
At the same time, another full-circle celebration was the Snake Bite camp. It was at this event last year when Colt Cobra shocked the entire world when he slithered out of Cobra Creek, Colorado, and revealed the newest edition of the famed truck to celebrate 25 years of action.
During the jamboree season, his new protege, Vinny Venom, has campaigned the newest installment of the Snake, a Raptor on a new chassis. However, that truck didn’t make the trip.
Just a few weeks ago, Venom was doing battle on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, and the Raptor Snake had one of the most violent incidents in recent memory during competition. In a semi-final race against Brandon Budd in the Red Solo Truck, the two drivers collided mid-air, with each taking a violent tumble. Venom landed on his wheels, and despite the Bigfoot camp being their arch enemy, the Foot crew ran out to the truck to check on him, and Budd.
The Concussion chassis took a beating, so bad that the truck was shipped to Dale Inman and the Concussion Motorsports shop to have some repairs done. The entire roll cage and support bars were cut out, and a newer, more sturdy and safe, roll cage was welded into place.
After being shipped back to the Colorado shop, things went downhill. Not only did the truck need chassis repairs, but every time Venom, Cobra and the Snake pit crew tried to put new parts on, more items were found broken. Not to mention wiring needed redone after having to remove all components prior to the cage being cut out. Try as they might, the Snake crew felt the truck wasn’t ready to be back on track.
However, they were not going to miss Indianapolis. Sitting in another part of the shop was the truck Venom drove during the winter Monster Nationals season, just sitting there relaxing. The body was beaten, but it still ran strong. So, “Ole Faithful” was loaded into the hauler and off to the big event the team went.
Fans were getting ready for the afternoon show, but then everything suddenly came to a halt.
Naturally in Indianapolis, weather can be as unpredictable as a Colts game inside Lucas Oil Stadium. This time of year, Indiana has seen it’s share of rain. This year, a cold front came right into the fairgrounds during the early afternoon, pouring down rain like Niagara Falls. Fans took cover under tents, in buildings, while teams rushed to cover the bodies of their trucks to keep the electronics from getting soaked.
After the rain finally passed, everyone was wondering if anything would happen with the show slated for 6 p.m.
Clouds were lingering, but the sun was showing through, so the Family Events crew, led by Paul Monroe, declared the event would happen as scheduled. The straight-line course that has been used this season would be much more slick than anticipated, especially considering the fact that the dirt jumps were built on the asphalt infield.
But, it didn’t seem to bother anyone, as the crowd was ready to see the action.
Right away things went into a gasp because Swim would be taken out in the first round by Mat Dishman in the Rammunition. That meant Swim would only earn 40 points for the night, and he would have to see how much Dishman would cut into his lead.
That lead dwindled quickly as Dishman made it to the finals after beating teammate Mark Hall in the Raminator, denying him yet another overall win at the jamborees this season (Hall would be 0-for-7 after Friday’s action).
Meanwhile, Venom took the older Snake to the finals after a bye-run in the first round, then taking out the third Hall Brothers Racing truck in the fleet, Dale Benear in the General Tire machine.
Off the line in the finals, the trucks were even. But Venom took a slightly bad hop over the hill and had to wait to pour on the power in the Super Duty Snake just for a moment. That was enough to give Dishman a bit of a lead, and the HEMI would roar over the final hill, giving him the opening weekend victory at the big event. That victory not only would be his first since the final race in Lima, but also paid big in the standings.
His win cut the lead Swim had in the standings from 200 points down to 80, while Venom jumped up into third, just 160 points out. No one was willing to concede the title just yet, so Swim now will have to fight harder to score back-to-back championships.
- Round 1: Benear, General Tire, def. Noelke, Tail Gator; Dishman, Rammunition, def. Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot; Hall, Raminator, BYE RUN (Echternkamp, Venom, RII troubles); Venom, Snake Bite, BYE RUN.
- Semi-Finals: Dishman, Rammunition, def. Hall, Raminator; Venom, Snake Bite, def. Benear, General Tire.
- Finals: Dishman, Rammunition, def. Venom, Snake Bite.
When it came time to freestyle, officials originally were not going to have the teams run because of time and track conditions following the rain. But, because the tough trucks were not running their qualifying session, the officials decided to turn the beasts loose for the fans that decided to wait out the entire afternoon of Mother Nature’s tears.
In doing so, the man that has been roaring the most this season decided to show the old truck still could play with the big guns.
Venom would let the Snake do a lot of talking, flying over the big hill to start the run, then turning the red beast into a late model thanks to him flat-tracking around the first and second corner of the Hoosier Mile. Venom would attack the bus stack, something Indianapolis has not seen in over a decade and a half, and hit three slap wheelies, one of which tore the tailgate right off the truck.
Fans made it clear, and even Monroe himself could see it, that Venom was here to make a statement, and finish what the Snake Bite team began last year. He would be declared the freestyle champion on this night.
That win would be his fifth freestyle win on the year. Four others have achieved a freestyle win this season, but nothing compared to Venom. Because of that big of a gap, Venom has officially clinched the 2016 Monster Truck Thunder Drags freestyle championship. That is one title down, one more remaining for the most sly team to ever hit the track.
After all the rain that fell on Friday, fans are hoping that the schedule for Saturday is a bit easier on their plans. However, Mother Nature seems to always linger when Indy takes to the track, and rain is slated at times for Saturday. For the monsters, that could be huge, because two shows are planned for the day. At 12:30 p.m. it is a full docket with both a racing bracket plus freestyle, then at 6:30 p.m. it is the freestyle extravaganza.
With only two points events remaining, time is running out on the year, and this could be one of the biggest and most highly-contested championship battles in recent years.
Gates open at 9 a.m. on Saturday for day two at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Check 4WheelJamboree.com for a full schedule of events for the day.
(After Race 7 of 9)
- Larry Swim-Lucas Oil Bigfoot, 760 (points)
- Mat Dishman-Rammunition, 680
- Vinny Venom-Snake Bite, 600
- Mark Hall-Raminator, 600
- Dale Benear-The General, 440
- Doug Noelke-Tail Gator, 400
- Denver Echtenkamp-Venom, 360
- Dave Radzierez-XDP, 200