Having some time off from competition seems to give the teams competing on the Monster Nationals a chance to not just get to the shop to install new components and diagnose issues. It also is a chance for teams to gather and possibly get a new strategy in getting on the winning track.
With the previous show happening over three weeks ago, four of the teams on tour had a lot of time to get their machines ready at full potential.
With that came a trip to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, the home to one of motorsports most famous names from the early years of indoor shows, Allen Gaines. Although this trip did not include a drive through his tobacco farm with a chance to see a few of his infamous pulling trucks, it was going to be a trip that many fans were looking forward to.
Coming into the building were Dale Benear, who put on the Hotsy body once again following a few weeks on a different tour where he campaigned the Raminator. Rookie Dalton Van Skyock produced the Monster Nationals resident panther, the Predator. Doug Noelke came out with his Ford-powered Tail Gator, but the driver everyone was looking to finally take down was Darron Schnell in his patriotic Bigfoot Raptor.
The first pit party in the Corbin Arena drew a phenomenal crowd, and with all fresh cars on the track, the crowd knew the event was going to be a throwdown for everyone involved.
To kick off the night, just like every event, was the wheelie contest. Although Schnell seemed to have this part of the show way under control, the Gator was not going away quietly on this night. The Super Gator stood right on the tail on both hits of the car stack, and the crowd responded with big noise, giving Noelke the first win of the season.
Some of the drivers were having a little trouble getting traction in the wheelie contest. The concrete surface of the Corbin Arena seemed to be rather slick to start the night, and drivers were having difficulty getting a launch. The launch became critical, as was reaction time, for qualifying as with four trucks, having lane choice would be critical. Also, with an even amount of trucks, each driver had two passes on the track, as after the first round there would be a third-place race.
In what seemed to be a surprise, it was the young rookie, Van Skyock, placing the Predator at the top of the board. The rookie is driving a chassis out of the Alan Pezo team that is over 20 years old, but is still getting the job done when called upon.
Skyock decided to show off how good the truck could handle in the next contest, as it was time to roar the engines as loud as possible in the donut contest. Van Skyock decided to put his own unique twist on his run. The slick floor allowed him to set the truck, and suddenly his hands came off the wheel, and out the windows came some stuffed toy panthers. It had to be one of the more unique runs seen on the season, and it certainly got the crowd roaring.
But, it wasn’t the winner.
Somehow, Noelke, even without tossing his steering wheel out the window, made the Gator scream on the track with a fast set of donuts that put him back in the winner’s circle.
The fans got a rest to deciding a champion as up next was going for distance, as in launching these 10,000-pound beasts as far as the arena could hold.
Every truck took an opportunity to line up, and back up in order to get as much distance as possible, but Schnell finally found the combination to get himself in the winner’s circle, landing the red, white and blue Raptor beyond any marker left on the track to secure his first win of the night.
But, the bulls eye now went directly onto the back of Schnell, because when it came to racing, Schnell had not done anything wrong on the season. Through six events, the Bigfoot Ford stood in victory circle all six times, building up a major points lead to start the season, one that seemed like could only grow, and lock him in as the racing champion before the end of the season.
Not wanting to take chances, Schnell made sure he made it to the finals, knocking out Benear in the first round. Van Skyock shocked everyone in attendance as he pulled his own upset by taking down Noelke, putting him in a position to be an unlikely man to take down the streak of Bigfoot.
It was Ford vs. Hemi, and both drivers were ready for what was to come.
At the light, it was clear that the only way Schnell was going down was for someone to beat him on the light, because he launched right off the light and made it to the finish once again, securing his seventh victory of the season, padding his points lead to 475 points over his closest competition. The streak remained intact.
Closing out the night was the one aspect fans love to see, because the drivers get to let loose. All the frustration of having a rough night, or wanting to cap off an incredible ride, came down to freestyle. And every truck on the first night decided to throw down with every hit, every slide, and every cross-thread.
But, no driver had a run to match what the resident reptile put on. Noelke again put on a clinic, and afterwards had the fans chomping down as he bit into the competition with his sixth freestyle victory on the season. This Gator was biting hard, and already was hungry for more considering there was one show left in the weekend.
- Wheelie Competition: Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
- Fast Qualifier: Dalton Van Skyock, Predator
- Donut Contest: Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
- Long Jump: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
- Racing Finals: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot, def. Dalton Van Skyock, Predator
- Freestyle: Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
Heading into Saturday, teams were already making adjustments into the final event of the weekend. Some had to do so just to pass the MTRA inspection that is done before every show. Reason being, Van Skyock in his performance the night before actually cracked the chassis. Officials would not let him perform until the truck was fixed, which meant calling in the local towing company to bring out their portable welder to fix the frame in order to compete.
Officials kept an eye on the progress, and thanks to some tedious but effective welding, the Predator was cleared to compete for the final show of the weekend.
Track crews at the same time were getting the fresh metal in the arena to get the track prepared for the second show.
All the while the Bigfoot team was riding momentum to the fullest. Schnell was ready to put on a clinic in front of the Kentucky crowd, and it all started with the wheelie contest.
Schnell’s chassis is set up so well, it seems almost effortless to get the Bigfoot beast to stand on the wheelie bar. He did just that on both hits of the cars, and took home his sixth wheelie victory of the season.
He followed that up with another fast qualifying effort, giving him lane choice in the racing bracket.
But, when it came time to light the tires for the donut contest, it was a truck, and a team, that had not won any competitions this season on the tour. With only one Hall Brothers truck on the tour, Benear had a lot of pressure in living up to the team that holds the Guinness World Record for speed in a monster truck. In fact, the chassis Benear drives is the same one that Mark Hall piloted to accomplish that goal.
After seven shows of going winless, Benear screamed his Michelin tires on the slick floor of the Corbin Arena to the delight of the crowd, giving him the first win for the Hotsy Ram Heavy Duty on the year.
The HBR trucks are known for their power, especially when it came to soaring through the air when the long jump contest comes up. But, Schnell already knew his sweep for the night was gone, so he figured he would at least soar his way to victory. The #19 chassis glided like a plane, landed far beyond the markers of previous trucks, and gave him his second victory on the night.
However, the claim to fame on the season for Schnell has been racing. Heading into the final event of the weekend, Schnell achieved seven consecutive racing wins. More importantly, he has gone 17 rounds without a loss. That turned into 18 as he took his fast qualifying spot and moved into the final round.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Van Skyock made it back to the finals after making it in the night before. He again had the pressure of trying to take down the Original Monster Truck, and ending a win streak that had the entire crowd, officiating crew, and fellow competitors talking.
Both trucks were ready, the fans waited. At the green light, both trucks launched hard. When the two beasts crossed the finish line, no one knew what to expect.
When the call came down, Schnell’s streak…ended.
No one thought that the rookie on the tour, with the oldest truck on the tour, would be the one to put the first loss on the Bigfoot Raptor on the season. Yet somehow, the Predator was the one to end Schnell’s streak at 18 consecutive wins, and seven consecutive event trophies. No one in the crowd could believe it, but what a moment for the young man to actually take down the truck that started the entire phenomenon.
Now with freestyle upcoming, Schnell knew he had nothing to lose at this point. It’s the first time he wasn’t going to be the final truck on the track, as the racing results would determine the order of freestyle. Schnell went out third, instead of fourth, and threw it down.
There was no doubt on this night that the patriotic Ford was taking home one big trophy, as his run closed out the night in Kentucky with yet another victory.
- Wheelie Competition: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
- Fast Qualifier: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
- Donut Contest: Dale Benear, Hotsy
- Long Jump: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
- Racing Finals: Dalton Van Skyock, Predator, def. Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
- Freestyle: Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
There is very little time to recover for the next event, as the Monster Nationals head north next weekend for a twist on their indoor season.
Up next is a two-day visit to DuQuoin, Illinois to the Southern Illinois Center, which is located at the DuQuoin State Fair. What makes this event different than every other show on the season is that it’s held indoors, but it’s held on a track that normally sees rodeos, calf roping, and barrel racing. The surface is not concrete for this show, but instead it’s on dirt. That means a much larger floor, a longer track, and more obstacles for the competing trucks to hit.
Not only that, but it’s the largest field for the entire indoor season as the Monster Nationals have six trucks coming to compete. Bigfoot, Hotsy, Tail Gator and Predator all are making the trip out. In addition, Denver Echternkamp is back on the indoor tour, returning to the same venue that he debuted the Venom Chevrolet last season.
Plus, as a bonus, Mac Plecker will be bringing out the Ballistic Ford F150 trophy truck for his first, and only, event on the tour.
It is a three-show weekend in Illinois, with one event this Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. The next day is a double-header of shows with a matinee at 1 p.m. and an evening performance again at 7:30 p.m. All shows include a free pit party two hours before the show, and judging by how a year ago every show was sold out, it is ensured to be one insane weekend on the dirt.
Visit MonsterTruckNationals.com for the event information, as well as the ticket link to make sure you are there to “Let Freedom Roar.”
Racing Points: 25 for competition, 50 for runner-up, 100 for victory
- Bigfoot (6)
- Heavy Hitter (1)
- Tail Gator (1)
- Tail Gator (5)
- Bigfoot (1)
- Predator (1)
- Hotsy (1)
- Tail Gator (2)
- Heavy Hitter (2)
- Bigfoot (2)
- Venom (1)
- Bigfoot 750
- Tail Gator 300
- Predator 300
- Hotsy 250
- Heavy Hitter 150
- Venom 75
- Tail Gator (6)
- Bigfoot (2)