The months of November and December are some of the calm months when it comes to motorsports. Many of the racing seasons have come to a close, and teams are looking ahead to the new year, with new opportunities.
For those piloting the 11,000-pound monster trucks, the season has been over mostly since September. The final three months of the year become tear down time to replace any parts that may need fixed. Many teams upgrade to the new pieces to make them stronger, or to fix a weak link that often comes from the heavy action. But one major aspect of these months is that all the repairs can be done at team headquarters, where the surroundings are familiar and access to all replacement parts are readily available.
Getting every part of these trucks fixed now is critical, as beginning with the first weekend of January, it’s a week-in and week-out grind to thrill the fans in arenas all across the country.
The folks at the Monster Nationals know this extremely well, and have spent these months getting prepared to put on another trilling show for the fans.
In 2016, the “Fight to the Finish” tour saw four drivers claim championships at the season’s end, with thousands of fans thrilled at the action that was witnessed. So how are the folks at the Family Events Promotion Company going to top what they put on this past season?
The first thing they did was pick a name that took a theme from what was a highly contested election among the American people to decide the next President of the United States. So, in keeping with that ideology, the Monster Nationals decided to emphasize that this industry began in America, and has grown in vast ways in the last 41 years. The 2017 tour for the Monster Nationals has been deemed the “Nothing More American” Tour.
In order to make that theme stand proud, the line-up of trucks and drivers had to include many of the most popular and most powerful machines in the country.
No truck screams popularity than the one that began this phenomenon in 1975, Bigfoot.
Last year, it was Darron Schnell at the wheel of the famed beast, and his #19 chassis was locked in the entire season. Each performance better than the last, and not once did he fail to thrill the crowd with his driving ability. It was a credit to his ability and the incredible craftsmanship back at the Pacific, Missouri, shop that allowed him to compete at such a high level. It was enough to bring back both the wheelie championship and also the major racing championship.
Although it is unclear at the moment who will be at the wheel of Bigfoot on the 2017 tour, Schnell has proven he can win at the highest level, and is more than able to defend his championship. The #19 chassis is entering it’s fifth season of competition, and it simply keeps getting better with each event.
Schnell is ready to go for the new year, but lurking to get that racing championship back is a team that is celebrating a milestone in 2017.
Next year will mark 30 years since Hall Brothers Racing first got into the monster industry. It was a leaf-spring machine named Big Boss that Mark Hall piloted back then. A few years later, he and brother, Tim, hit the big time with the tubular chassis that was named Executioner. That name made both brothers famous, and expanded the team to a two-truck operation.
However, it was 2002 when the entire HBR operation got the biggest boost it ever experienced. It was the corporate backing of Daimler-Chrysler that took the two-truck operation to the next level. With HEMI power in between the frame rails, the Raminator and Rammunition hit the track, and it has been nothing but dominance since.
For the last 14 years, the combination of the HEMI and RAM Trucks backing has seen multiple championships, many awards, and an expansion in the team from two trucks to now a four-truck operation.
Hall himself is coming off a Monster Nationals season that saw the Raminator take both the long jump title and the freestyle championship.
However, next year, it will not be Hall on tour.
But, that doesn’t mean the Hall Brothers are not bringing a tough competitor. Hall’s brother-in-law, Dale Benear, has been given the nod to compete for the championship on the indoor tour. His chassis, which he competed with last season as Rammunition and then as General Tire during the 4-Wheel Jamboree season, will be given the fourth body that HBR runs, as their other major sponsor, Hotsy Pressure Systems, will be bolted on. The bright red and yellow RAM Heavy Duty will not be hard to miss, and Benear will make sure that the HBR power and glory is held high.
The third champion to join the Monster Nationals once again in 2017 was one that spun to victory nearly every event, simply because doing donuts is what this truck does best when on asphalt.
Back once again is the Super Gator of Doug Noelke, as out of the swamp is coming Tail Gator. Noelke spent all of last year spinning donuts to the championship, with each victory coming thanks in part to his unique talent of doing the donuts without the steering wheel even in the truck.
Noelke then had a strong showing in the 4-Wheel Jamboree tour, and now is ready to get back in the seat indoors, and make the Gator scream loud with the 572 cu. in. Ford power, meaning the fans will be ready to chomp when he’s on the floor.
Along with the returning champions, there will be some new and familiar faces coming on tour.
Up first, making his winter debut on the Monster Nationals tour, is Denver Echternkamp and the Venom Chevrolet. It was last February that this rookie made his debut with the bright white, green and purple machine, and has since seemed to have worked out all the bugs in the truck. His season ended with a victory in the last freestyle event on the jamboree tour, and also a strong showing at his own hometown event in Illinois.
Now, for the first time, Echternkamp heads indoors for a full season, which gives him another opportunity to shake down the new truck and see how it handles in a smaller arena.
The final truck that will be in competition isn’t an unfamiliar name, nor an unfamiliar driver. But, it has been a while since this combo has been on tour with Family Events on a full-time basis. However, it is a truck that has been around for a long while, and is credited of being the next “concept” body to compete.
Joining the “Nothing More American” tour in 2017 is Hall of Fame driver Allen Pezo, and his black panther known as Predator.
Pezo has been a big innovator in the industry, and his four-truck operation has been top notch for many seasons. The proof of how strong his trucks are came earlier this year when Pezo was trying to become the first truck to set the world record for speed by hitting 100 MPH. Unfortunately, that record fell short, as the 99.1 MPH mark set by Hall in late 2014 still stands. However, Pezo’s truck was set up exactly right to handle that kind of abuse.
The Predator machine that Pezo competes in has a very low center of gravity, an aggressive stance that keeps the truck level under heavy acceleration, and is the only truck in competition that runs just a single nitrogen shock on each corner.
This machine could be the one sleeper in the field that quite possibly could steal away a little thunder from the Foot and HBR teams, and even surprise Noelke in a few donut contest since the Predator has cut some very excellent cyclones on both pavement and on dirt.
Fans have been longing to see who was coming out to the Monster Nationals next season after the success of the 2016 tour. Now, they want to know where to see these beasts.
The 2017 tour hits five cities beginning in January, all of which were stops last season that saw big crowds, big action, and sometimes big breakage. Here’s where fans can see the Monster Nationals next season:
- January 13-14: Tyson Events Center-Sioux City, Iowa (3 Shows)
- January 27-29: Alliant Energy Center-Madison, Wisconsin (3 Shows)
- February 17-18: Corbin Arena-Corbin, Kentucky (2 Shows)
- February 24-25: Southern Illinois Center-DuQuoin, Illinois (3 Shows)
- March 25-26: Sears Centre Arena-Hoffman Estates, Illinois (2 Shows)
Tickets are now available for all shows, and included in each ticket is the free pit party for fans to get autographs from the drivers, pictures of the machines, and a chance to walk the track to see the obstacles themselves that all the trucks will demolish when the competition begins.
For all the event information and all the specifics of each show, visit MonsterTruckNationals.com.