When the sun began to rise over the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Saturday, the fans of the monster trucks were in shock of what had come of the day prior. Entering the weekend, Larry Swim had a firm grip on the point standings, holding a 200-point gap on the competition. However, the worst scenario to start the weekend came about.
Swim would fall out in the first round, yielding him only 40 points, while his closest competition Mat Dishman in Rammunition, would go on and win the event, cutting the lead down to just 80 points.
With the eighth round of racing on tap, both trucks were in top form, while both drivers were ready to attack, and make the hunt for the championship even tighter.
Meanwhile, the track crews were out early to do some adjustment to the racing area, both for the monsters and for other competition. During the overnight hours, a major storm passed right through the Indianapolis area, dumping buckets and buckets of water onto the infield. On the backstretch, the mud bog course had a much different view. The Family Events team dug the “hill in a hole” track to be three feet deep overall, with about 18 inches of mud in the first part of the track, while just about two feet of mud was added beyond the hill.
Come Saturday morning, the track for the mud bogs looked more like a pool, as the water was as high as the top of the walls of the pit. As the saying went for many years, “It’s not Indy without a bit of rain.”
Luckily by the time the afternoon program for the Monster Truck Thunder Drags came around, the weather was clear enough to take to the line, despite some water standing on the asphalt. Fans and teams alike were focused on the two trucks leading in the standings, as Dishman would get the bye-run in the first round. At the same time, Swim kept pace by taking down Dale Benear in the General Tire, who would quickly head to the pits after cutting a tire on the final landing.
Sadly for Swim, that luck ran out in the second round when his arch rival, Vinny Venom in his older Snake Bite chassis, would take him down. Meanwhile, Dishman kept his luck going when he took out Mark Hall, his boss, in the Raminator during the other semi-final race. The loss by Hall meant he is winless thus far in 2016 on the jamboree series, and now had one more day to try and get a bracket victory.
With Swim on the trailer, it would mean a rematch from the night before in the finals. The lone difference would be Dishman elected for the inside lane instead of the outside.
Venom had the launch off the line, but his jump over the first roller sent the nose of the Super Duty Snake into the air, and it forced him out of the throttle. That hesitation gave Dishman time to plant the HEMI power, and it sent him to his second consecutive victory on the weekend.
Now, the sweep is in sight, but more importantly than the victory in racing, the point standings suddenly have a dramatic turn.
While some were looking at the racing points there was still a part of the show left to go…freestyle.
The afternoon show saw some breakage by both Doug Noelke in the Tail Gator, who pulled into the pits after one hit, and then Hall experienced the worst luck when his left-front wheel suddenly broke off following his second hit.
Despite the breakage, the Hall Brothers team would smile big. Dishman came out and poured on the HEMI power to the track, skying over the bus stack multiple times, hitting some signature HBR donuts, and hitting a pair of sky wheelies. Not even a run from Venom, who began shedding some body panels, could top it, and for Saturday afternoon…the Rammunition would double down.
- Round 1: Mat Dishman, Rammunition, BYE RUN; Mark Hall, Raminator, BYE RUN; Larry Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot, def. Dale Benear, General Tire; Vinny Venom, Snake Bite, def. Doug Noelke, Tail Gator.
- Semi-Finals: Mat Dishman, Rammunition, def. Mark Hall, Raminator; Vinny Venom, Snake Bite, def. Larry Swim, Lucas Oil Bigfoot.
- Finals: Mat Dishman, Rammunition, def. Vinny Venom, Snake Bite.
In between the two events for the monsters, the main stage held a special presentation for the industry. The founder and President of the International Monster Truck Hall of Fame and Museum, Jeff Cook, was on hand with his new race truck, Hot Rod Harry, along with a few old-school design trucks as part of a way to unveil the newest inductees that would be enshrined this November.
With a list of nearly 30 nominees, and only four being allowed to go in, the voting would be tight to determine the 2016 class. But, in the end, the names that were decided for this year are:
- Bob George-Promoter of the United States Hot Rod Association, credited with being the one to coin the phrase “monster truck”.
- Terry Woodcock-Driver and builder of the Cyclops monster truck, recently rebuilt and now with a new racing chassis in competition.
- Jerry Richmond-Former driver of Weapon 1.
- Charlie Pauken-Former driver of Excaliber, currently the driver of Grave Digger XXVII, 2010 World Freestyle champion.
When the 6:30 p.m. show finally arrived, the track was drying out, but still had cloud cover lingering. The weather at that point did not seem to be a factor, but attrition certainly was.
All trucks would only freestyle on this night, but one truck that still wasn’t finding any kind of momentum over the weekend was Denver Echternkamp in the Venom Chevrolet. After experiencing R.I.I. issues on Friday night, Saturday didn’t go any better. The truck would run really high on RPM’s, the safety test would be complete, but on restarting the truck wouldn’t run except for mere moments.
The rest of the field would take to the track, and it became hard to determine a winner. So much so, officials couldn’t decide.
Noelke had fixed his issues from earlier, and with the sun just beginning to set over the horizon, the Super Gator was finding a groove on the pavement. Noelke would nail a pair of donuts, along with some of the best slap wheelies of the entire season.
Later in the night, with darkness just beginning to set in, Venom brought out the Snake once again, and immediately made an impact. The first hit on the side of the roller hill on the race course saw the Snake body fly off like a balloon in the wind. The only parts of the truck to still show that the truck was Snake Bite were the right rear bedside, plus the fangs hanging on the nose of the chassis.
Venom then had a better view, and decided to still make the Snake talk, drifting on the pavement and pulling a stellar slap wheelie right in the center of the track, running over his destroyed body in the process.
Then as darkness was nearly encompassing the infield, Hall would light up the L.E.D. bar at the front of the Ram Laramie Limited and made the truck do a lot of talking. Hall has taken to his new chassis in the last year, and it has shown since it brought about an indoor championship this past winter. He would scream the HEMI engine the entire night, and the Ram fans were extremely pleased, thinking he locked in a victory on the night.
Officials couldn’t come to any agreement on who should take the victory, so in a surprising twist, the decision was to declare all three of them winners on the night.
Venom already had the 2016 freestyle championship in hand when Dishman took the victory in the afternoon, but even so he felt that he should have been given the overall win for the evening show. The sly driver then disappeared into the night, awaiting for his time to reappear.
The season has come down to one last bracket, seven total races, and one final winner. The champion will be crowd on Sunday afternoon, and only two drivers are guaranteed to walk away with it.
On the one side, Dishman has found momentum very late in the season, but has found it at the perfect time. He has the opportunity to snatch the title away from Swim, who is going for back-to-back championships in the Lucas Oil Bigfoot. For either competitor, the championship can be clinched one of two ways.
The first way is the simplest. If by chance, whether it be the random draw for the first round, or based on the way the bracket works to the semi-finals or finals, the head-to-head race would determine the champion. Whomever would cross the line first, they get the race win, and the championship.
Option two for both drivers is to advance one round more than the other. As an example, if Swim makes it to the finals, but Dishman loses in the semi-finals, it would be Swim taking the title. Or as another example, Swim would lose in the first round, but Dishman would win his first-round race or draw the bye, the Hall Brothers would get their title back.
The final option only favors Swim. If both drivers happen to lose in the same round, whether it be the first round or the semi-finals, the Lucas Oil Bigfoot machine would be the champion due to Swim having more victories on the season.
That final race of the weekend, and the entire season, takes place at 3 p.m. The entire schedule of events for Sunday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds is available on 4WheelJamboree.com.
(After Race 8 of 9)
- Larry Swim-Lucas Oil Bigfoot, 840 (points)
- Mat Dishman-Rammunition, 840
- Vinny Venom-Snake Bite, 720
- Mark Hall-Raminator, 680
- Dale Benear-The General, 480
- Doug Noelke-Tail Gator, 440
- Denver Echtenkamp-Venom, 400
- Dave Radzierez-XDP, 200
Larry Swim-Lucas Oil Bigfoot
- Advance one round more than Rammunition.
- Win the side-by-side race should the two face off.
- Advance to same round as Rammunition, excluding finals, and utilize tie-breaker.
- Advance one round more than Bigfoot.
- Win the side-by-side race should the two face off.