Home / Monster Trucks / Family Events / Windy City Plays Host to Finale of Monster Nationals Winter Season

Windy City Plays Host to Finale of Monster Nationals Winter Season

Doug Noelke wrapped up a few championships at the Monster Nationals winter finale.

Having time away from the track is always key for many teams on the Monster Nationals.  Considering how every show the drivers put the trucks through their paces harder, faster, and into more challenging situations, having time off from that competition is not only needed, but welcomed.

The last time the tour saw action, it was on the dirt in DuQuoin, Illinois, where ultimately many of the 2017 championships seemed to be crowned.

However, the season has not finished just yet.  The event in DuQuoin occurred just over a month ago, meaning in order to get ready for the finale for the season, over 30 days was the time frame to get ready for one final weekend of action.

That final stop was at a town that last November saw the biggest victory it ever experienced.  It was bigger than Mike Ditka leading the Bears to a Super Bowl, and even bigger than Michael Jordan taking home six NBA titles to the Bulls.  When that final out occurred in Game 7 of the World Series, the curse in Chicago came to an end, as the Cubs finally won their World Series.

Located just outside of the Windy City is Hoffman Estates, and the Sears Centre Arena, which this year was the venue to host the championship weekend on the Monster Nationals Tour.

The five trucks that made it to this show, they were the same ones that competed in the first show of the season.  Points leader in racing, Darron Schnell, had his Bigfoot Raptor ready to roar, while Doug Noelke brought his Tail Gator machine out hoping to close out a spectacular season.

The Predator custom panther was represented, but although the chassis was the same one that has ran all season, lead driver Allen Pezo took the wheel this weekend.  Dale Benear returned to the wheel one more time of the Hotsy Ram, hoping to finish out strong after a difficult season at the wheel.  The final truck made his return to the paved surface, Denver Echternkamp and Venom.  His season now has even more positive energy because not only was he back on the indoor circuit, but he and wife, Angie, were celebrating the news that they are expecting a new baby later this year.

Fans came out in masses, ready to see the action on a Saturday night, a rather unique setup this weekend for the Monster Nationals when it comes to a two-show weekend.  But, the cars were set up, the track was tacky, and the teams were set ready to roar in front of the Illinois faithful.

Up first to start the night, the wheelie contest.

Every truck had their two hits rock right to the roof of the arena, but on this night, the wheelie winner was also declared the wheelie champion.  Schnell’s patriotic Bigfoot machine launched to the roof both times, and the fans roared their approval, giving him his tenth wheelie victory of the season, more than any other driver, and officially locking up the first championship on the night.

He then decided to show how fast the #19 chassis was by putting his machine at the top of the speed charts, taking top qualifying honors and the free pass into the second round of action.

The second contest of the night was also the loudest, because it meant full throttle rotations, and keeping the truck under control.  The donut contest has always been a favorite among drivers, and for one driver in particular, he made a habit this year of taking that crown in the fans.

Noelke has wowed every crowd with his signature donuts, and Saturday night was no exception.  His Super Gator screamed the tires, giving him his sixth donut win of the year, ensuring he took home the 2017 championship in that category.

Once the noise and smoke settled, it was time to go full throttle, but for distance this time.  The long jump contest seems to go in many directions as far as who could potentially win it.  This year it hasn’t been about how much power a truck has, but instead how to control the power to get more distance than height.

This time, the one that reached the sky also reached far, as Schnell once again took home the long jump victory, sailing Bigfoot like an arc through the air and landing beyond the competitors.  It was only his third long jump win this season, but one that on this instance was well-earned.

Following intermission, the focus then came on the big trophies to hand out on this night.  Racing and freestyle remained, but the main thing in racing was figuring out a way to beat the patriotic Ford.

All season long, Schnell has lost all but a few races on the season, giving a lead that ensured he was going to be champion before even entering the arena this weekend.  But, it wasn’t about winning a championship this time.  As the saying goes, what only matters is “what have you done recently?”

This night saw another Gator vs. Foot final, but this was when the surprise of the entire night came down.

It wasn’t the Foot that made it to the line first.  Somehow, Noelke found the grip, and the reaction to get off the line, and to the finish before the Foot.  Noelke was happy to finally take a win over the Foot, and he made it clear that his task now was to sweep the big part of the show, doubling up and winning freestyle as well.

Freestyle itself tore up a lot of equipment.  Echternkamp and Schnell each broke a sway bar, which could be seen via the trucks leaning heavily to one side when cornering.  Benear had a problem in racing when he broke a locker, but still made an effort to finish the night before going into repairs that night.  The Predator machine lost the rear wheel drive early in the run, but somehow Pezo put forth the effort to complete the run.

However, the night belonged to the creature from the swamp.  Noelke powered through his run with massive air, sliding the Gator across the floor, nailing a set of cyclones with the steering wheel hanging outside the window…then being tossed to the floor.  He finished the run steering the truck with the shaft itself, parking the truck right next to the folding seats of the arena, staring right up at the crowd.

Game…set…match.  The Gator was the victor to close out the first night of action in the Windy City.


  • Wheelie Competition:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Fast Qualifier:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Donut Contest:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Long Jump:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Racing Finals:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator, def. Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Freestyle:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator


A lot of repairs were necessary heading into the final show of not just the weekend, but also the season.  The RAM team wrapped up repairs on the locker in the rear gear, ensuring he was getting the traction of the HEMI to the floor of the Sears Centre Arena, while both Bigfoot and Venom got their respective trucks sitting level thanks to a brand new pair of sway bars.

Pezo’s team worked hard but got the truck having four-wheel drive once again.  Every truck was ready, as was the track crew.

Cars got moved out, new metal moved in, and the center pyramid got stacked with a fresh van, a few new cars, and some of the crumpled metal elevated the stack to new heights.  It was time for a matinee for the Illinois faithful, and officially crown the 2017 champions.

Immediately in the wheelie contest, things were not as expected.  Sure, Bigfoot and Tail Gator put up a valiant effort, but in this instance, the winner was the other 3D body, as Pezo got the panther to stand up proud for the crowd, earning the first wheelie victory for the team all season long.

However, Schnell wasn’t about to leave Illinois on the final day without winning something.  He put the Foot once again at the top of the board in qualifying, earning an easy pass into the second round of action.

If fans were wanting more unexpected wins, they were in for a treat in the next pair of competitions.

Loud engines and screaming tires meant the donut contest was up next, and the surprise came from who won the event, because normally, this team is extremely strong when it comes to putting the HEMI power to the ground, and bringing tire smoke up in the air.  Benear had not experienced the best season on the Monster Nationals tour, winning only one racing program, and after Sunday’s donut victory, two of those competitions.  But, he can say the last winner when it came to creating smoke, was a Ram Heavy Duty.

The ensuing long jump contest had similar results, because Pezo figured it’s the last show of the season, may as well lay the power down and let the panther fly.  He did so, flying more than any truck on this afternoon.

Now, with intermission complete, it was time to decide the final major champions of the season.

The Bigfoot team was almost unbeatable during the 2017, more than enough to have Darron Schnell earn the championship.
The Bigfoot team was almost unbeatable during the 2017, more than enough to have Darron Schnell earn the championship.

Schnell already had the 2017 title wrapped up tight.  No one could touch how dominant he was all season long.  His winning streak may have ended midway through the year, but overall, the Bigfoot team was untouchable all season long.  It was no exception this final time, as he went back to the finals, this time taking on the truck that ended his victory streak in Kentucky, the Predator.

Both trucks roared off the line, but Schnell kept the truck low, and the power down, taking home one more victory on the season, and closing out his second consecutive championship in racing in perfect fashion.

The final event on the night was freestyle, and every truck was ready to put forth a run that the fans will remember.

Pezo certainly did that, going out next-to-last, and putting on a run that was so hard on the truck, the cradle of the chassis broke, and immediately the Monster Nationals officials hit the R.I.I. to stop the run.  The truck already had some chassis repairs earlier this season, but now it’s a trip to the shop for more extensive repairs in order to be ready for the next show.

But, the final event of the season belonged to another season champion.  Noelke made it a habit of putting on a clinic in freestyle, showing that a gator also enjoys being on pavement just as much as dirt, or being in a swamp.

One final freestyle, one final opportunity to have the fans do a chomp, and it was Noelke giving the crowd a championship performance, sweeping freestyle for the weekend, and officially becoming the 2017 freestyle champion.


  • Wheelie Competition:  Allen Pezo, Predator
  • Fast Qualifier:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Donut Contest:  Dale Benear, Hotsy
  • Long Jump:  Allen Pezo, Predator
  • Racing Finals:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot, def. Allen Pezo, Predator
  • Freestyle:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator


Family Events has ended the 2017 winter tour, but that does not mean the Monster Nationals suddenly goes away just because champions are crowned.

The spring and summer seasons include three events for fans to enjoy.  Champaign, Illinois, will have a taste of the action on April 22 at the State Farm Center.  This year’s champions, Bigfoot and Tail Gator, are coming to play, but also coming in are Dave Radzierez in the Xtreme Diesel.  To complete the four-truck field, the true hometown team is coming, as the Hall Brothers are sending the Raminator to thrill the fans.

On June 10 and 11, the Monster Nationals get a chance to head outdoors to compete at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois, with two shows.  One on a Saturday night, the other a Sunday afternoon.  Finally, Aberdeen, South Dakota, will see a return of the Monster Nationals on July 29 and 30 when they compete at the Brown County Speedway.

Family Events is also getting set for their major summer tour, the 4-Wheel Jamboree, slated to start May 19 in Lima, Ohio.  Although the monster line-up has yet to be revealed, the anticipation is growing with each passing day to see who signed up to compete.

Visit MonsterTruckNationals.com to find out all the latest on when the spring and summer events will “Let Freedom Roar,” and also go to 4WheelJamboree.com to get the latest on the Lima, Bloomsburg, and Indianapolis jamborees.


Final Season Standings
Racing Points:  25 for competition, 50 for runner-up, 100 for victory


  1. Bigfoot (10)
  2. Heavy Hitter (1)
  3. Tail Gator (1)
  4. Predator (1)


  1. Tail Gator (6)
  2. Hotsy (2)
  3. Bigfoot (1)
  4. Predator (1)

Long Jump

  1. Tail Gator (6)
  2. Bigfoot (3)
  3. Heavy Hitter (2)
  4. Venom (1)
  5. Predator (1)


  1. Bigfoot  1075
  2. Tail Gator 625
  3. Hotsy  450
  4. Predator 450
  5. Venom 200
  6. Heavy Hitter 150
  7. Ballistic 75


  1. Tail Gator (9)
  2. Bigfoot (4)

About Dustin Parks

Check Also

Bloomsburg in 2009 was not exactly "Fair Weather Friendly" on the busiest day.

Horsepower Rewind: Looks Like a Storm’s Coming

The fourth installment in my Horsepower Rewind series is again heading back to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.  ...