When the winter tour for Family Events drew to a close, champions were crowned, and the remaining junk vehicles were hauled to the salvage yard to be recycled. At the same time, the entire organization went from focusing on crowning champions to preparing for their bread and butter tour.
The 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals has brought together 4×4 enthusiasts for going on 36 years. Whether it’s showing off customized additions to one’s daily driver, hitting the mud pit, or seeing how a participant’s truck handles on the hills, there’s always something for the fans to enjoy or be involved with.
But, for those 36 years, the part that always draws in the fans is when the vehicles on 66-inch tires come to the track.
Ever since Bob Chandler first brought Bigfoot to one of these events, it has grown to endless proportion. Each year presents new challenges, and new course designs, and often some new faces to compete on the tour, which means the veterans need to get work even harder to show that the old guard can still run with the new crop of drivers.
After waiting for agreements to be finalized, Family Events has their 2017 lineup of trucks that will compete for the racing and freestyle championships over the course of three events.
Here’s your competing drivers, and the venues they will compete at, in the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags:
It’s only fitting that the two-time defending racing champion of the Thunder Drags makes a return to go for a hat trick. Larry Swim won his first championship with Family Events in 2015, holding off the likes of the Hall Brothers and teammate Dan Runte. That title came when he piloted Bigfoot #18.
Last year, beginning in May, Swim became the lead driver for the Original Monster Truck team when Runte decided to hang up his helmet from full-time duty. Runte is now the Vice President of Operations for Bigfoot, taking over for the also retired Jim Kramer.
Swim took over the wild Bigfoot #21, and quickly showed that his all-out skills as a driver were being matched with the intense handling of his new chassis.
Swim not only won the championship, but at one point looked as though he could earn the title before the final event. But a late charge by Mat Dishman brought it down to one race to determine the champion, and Swim was able to pour on the Ford power in order to clinch back-to-back titles.
Swim is back after a strong showing in the Toughest Monster Truck Tour, finishing a respectable third in the overall standings. But, considering how much this truck enjoys going outdoors, “Lead Foot Larry” will likely live up to his nickname.
It was this time one year ago, the team based in Cobra Creek, Colorado, decided to unleash a new type of poison in the monster truck world. After a strong indoor season, then-rookie driver Vinny Venom made a trip to the Colorado shop to see what team owner, former driver, and uncle of Venom, Colt Cobra, had in store for the jamboree season.
Deciding they needed something meaner, leaner, and more evil for the summer tour, Cobra somehow worked a deal with Concussion Motorsports and from the ground up, built an entirely new Snake Bite, with a raptor attitude.
That new truck, and the ability of Venom at the wheel, showed how much the original “character” truck wanted to still beat the Bigfoot team. In doing so, it went beyond anything even Venom could experience, as in late August, he took the wildest ride of his young career in Wildwood, New Jersey, tumbling the new Snake like a cheerleader on the Jersey sand. The roll cage was bent, suspension broken, and overall the truck was in dire need of repairs.
For the final show in Indianapolis, Venom brought out the old truck, and even with older equipment, performed as if it was the new piece, locking down the 2017 freestyle championship.
Venom has his truck back, and fresh off his first championship on the Toughest Monster Truck Tour, he’s ready to take the Snake outside for a change. Plus, Venom may shed some skin from his usual red and yellow look, possibly going with the second team look, a lethal black and green design that was done by Michael Arndt, and debuted by rookie driver, Andy Anaconda.
What is clear, for the jamborees in 2017, the fans will certainly be using the hashtag #FearTheFangs.
While one reptile resides where it’s dry, this one seems to prefer the swamp land with the occasional run onto the dirt.
Making his return to the 4-Wheel Jamboree again this year is Noelke, fresh off a trifecta of championships on the Monster Nationals Tour, taking home the donut, long jump and freestyle championships this season.
But this Missouri-native certainly loves letting the gator loose when there’s a lot more room to roam. But Noelke does still ensure this beast will bite down, and clamp on, not releasing it’s grip until it is sure the performance is over.
Now, with a point to prove, Noelke is ready to put this amphibious reptile to work, and make the fans clamp down every chance they can.
One can’t have the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags without having a truck sponsored by General Tire. The new look of this machine one year ago was a hit with the entire fan base. The black and red design, with a few white highlights, and a menacing creature on the side certainly grabbed attention from everyone, including representatives of General Tire itself.
This year, the title sponsor is returning, but is going to a different team, and a different driver.
Teaming with General Tire this year is the team truck to Noelke’s Tail Gator. In fact, this truck happens to be Noelke’s old chassis, and has competed as either Big Dawg or Smashosaurus on many occasions.
New to the jamborees is Dale Gerding, but he’s certainly familiar with this chassis. Now, he’s got the task of carrying on the name that the likes of Chris Bergeron, Steve Koehler, Joe Nichter and Dale Benear have campaigned over the years.
Can he handle the pressure is the question.
This year’s lineup of jamboree participants will see some fresh faces on the tour, with some teams only able to make a pair of shows rather than the entire season.
Starting off that lineup is a popular driver not just because of his truck design, but also his hard-charging attitude behind the wheel. Pennsylvania native Zane Rettew is bringing his wild F150 Scorpion, the Stinger. A truck that he pushed extremely hard all season on one of the arena tours for Monster Jam, he often went beyond what the truck could handle. That was certainly clear considering he was going through bodies like chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday.
But, all that hard work paid dividends.
Rettew was invited for the first time to the Monster Jam World Finals, competing in the Double Down Showdown, and also seeing crew chief Buddy Young taking home the award for Technician of the Year.
Certainly working on Rettew’s machine is a tough task, but it has been shown this truck can handle both the indoor circuit, as well as letting the scorpion stretch it’s legs and tail outside. Young certainly understands being able to keep the truck running for multiple performances over one weekend, and the jamboree is no exception.
Rettew will only be at two of the three events this year, but he will certainly make sure to sting the competition while he’s there.
It’s always a great feeling when a classic name from monster truck’s past is brought back to live again.
At the beginning of last season, Rettew built his new Stinger truck and decided to expand his operation to be a two-truck team, along with on occasion bringing out the classic Car Killer monster tank that he restored in 2015. His old Stinger chassis, it set idle for a lot of 2016, but was getting reorganized with new parts, a fresh coat of paint on the chassis, but also a new identity.
All the teasers showed a new look that had hints of red and black. It wasn’t until the Monster Jam kickoff announcement that Rettew unveiled an entirely new truck that was competing out of his camp, and with a new driver.
It is Paul Strong getting the nod to driver the reincarnated Master of Disaster, first made famous by Doug Spanier of Minnesota back in the mid 1980’s.
Strong had an excellent season with Monster Jam, his first indoor tour since taking over the truck, and is now looking ahead to taking on his biggest tour yet.
Hopefully he avoids disaster, but when the truck is named Master of Disaster, it could be an omen of what is coming.
2014 RAM Dump Truck
One aspect of every monster truck show, no matter who the promoter may be, is the track crew. All the hauling of dirt and junk vehicles, then massaging the dirt into hills and obstacles that can withstand the abuse of many hits from 11,000-pound vehicles, makes them true unsung heroes of the monster truck industry.
It was time to honor those hard working folks, and a few years ago, a man named Jerry Beck took a chance on a unique design idea based on his time in construction.
So, with an already built truck, he started from scratch, and when done, it became a truck honoring the hard working individuals that not only build these tracks, but also on the construction sites across the country. It became the first monster dump truck, and it appropriately was deemed Dirt Crew.
This RAM dump truck has quickly become a hit with fans no matter what age. Kids enjoy seeing the heavy equipment, while adults can relate to the hard working individuals that pave roads, or lay water lines, and even build structures.
Beck is bringing the dump truck to one jamboree this season, the big one at Indianapolis. It is the one opportunity that fans can see the heavy load get airborne to take a look at the dump bed cover. Beck will definitely ensure his fans will “Get a Load of This” in Indy.
The final truck that will make a lone appearance during the 4-Wheel Jamboree season combines both monster truck fans, and off-road fanatics. With one of the most unique bodies and designs ever created, making his jamboree debut is “Big Air” Aaron Cain, and his monster ATV named Quad Chaos.
Ever since Cain bought this truck from Joey Sylvester in 2014, he made an impression with his unique design, but also his driving ability.
Considering how the jamboree now utilizes the Side X Side Shootout as part of it’s show, this beast is a perfect fit for competition.
One thing Cain may need to be careful of is the fact Indianapolis competes on asphalt, which historically has been hard on the trucks since there’s little give in a paved surface. Just ask Benear, who took a violent roll at the final show last year and destroyed the General Tire body.
But, Cain won’t let that slow him down, as for the four shows he’ll run, he will lay everything on the line and show when the opportunity comes, he’s willing to turn this monster ATV loose.
Get your tickets now as the season is just over a month away from kicking off, as the 4-Wheel Jamboree will continue to “Let Freedom Roar” when Family Events goes outdoors. Visit 4WheelJamboree.com for the event details on the three jamborees.
- LIMA, OHIO: O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Spring Nationals, May 19-21
- BLOOMSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA: A&A Auto Stores 4-Wheel Jamboree Summer Nationals, July 7-9
- INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA: O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Fall Nationals, September 15-17