It was 1993 when the spring 4-Wheel Jamboree was moved from the Columbus area of Ohio out to the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima. That weekend of action ended with rain hitting the area, and causing track officials to make some adjustments to the infield.
Fast forward 24 years, the same venue, and Mother Nature decided to show her ugly head once again.
Friday and Saturday’s festivities at the fairgrounds were brutal for everyone. Fans didn’t want to get soaked in the downpours, so they huddled under grandstands or in their vehicles, waiting for clearing. Track crews had to shuttle from a muddy quagmire that was the infield to find shelter, some of which was nothing more than a hard-top roof on a side-X-side. The drivers in the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags had the option of staying in their beasts, but with possible lightning in the area, safety crews shuttled them to the wooden pavilion to keep them away from becoming lighting rods.
After the rain finally cleared on Saturday night, the monsters took to the infield to show off for everyone that braved the weather.
So did the final day of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree finally have some positive skies…not initially.
Overnight another strong band of storms hit the infield. According to safety coordinator and lead track official, Paul Monroe, another two inches fell in the late hours of the night. The hill-in-a-hole mud bogs turned into a pool, and even finding footing on the grassy infield was a task harder than hitting Mega Millions.
Yet, there was some hope, and a lot of positive outlooks for the remainder of the day. With only a minor spattering of rain drops in the afternoon, the rest of the day had overcast skies, with some peaks of sun poking out.
Despite the weather actually holding out, the infield looked more like a big layer of milk chocolate. Mud at every corner, meaning the monster teams after spending all night power washing their machines will do so once more after the final performance.
Still, the crowd came out for the action, and the six beasts were ready to crown the second winner of the weekend.
Saturday night winner, Larry Swim, advanced his Lucas Oil Bigfoot through the first round easily when he found some traction with his Firestone cleats to knock out Paul Strong in Master of Disaster, who was running the BKT tires he campaigned all winter. Doug Noelke seemed to be right at home in his Tail Gator, since gators usually live in swamp conditions, and powered past Vinny Venom in Snake Bite.
The upset of the day went to Zane Rettew, who managed to get past Dale Gerding in General Tire, who missed the second jump after sliding sideways between the ramps.
Venom managed to work his way back into the semi-finals thanks to being the fastest loser, and made it to the finals after taking the sting out of Rettew. But, the big story was the other race in the round, as Noelke managed to catch Swim a bit asleep at the lights, and powered his 575 cu-in. Ford to victory. Last season, Swim took home an impressive five of nine events on the year to win his championship, clearly showing he was the leader of the class when it came to the summer tour.
Noelke showed that he too can race hard, and defeat the best in the business in order to get his first summer championship with Family Events.
That set up a rematch of the first round, and Venom was looking for vengeance.
But, it was Noelke with the lane choice, and he put the snake in the right lane, the same lane he had not run all afternoon. That proved to be the best move, because in a battle between a creature that lives in a swamp, and a reptile that slithers through woods, it was the Gator taking the victory, and letting the fans do the “gator chomp” to show appreciation. It was Noelke’s first win since his return to the jamboree series last season, and moves him to within one round of the Bigfoot machine. Although early in the year, this potentially could be the battle to determine the champion.
- Round 1: Bigfoot def. Master of Disaster, Tail Gator def. Snake Bite, Stinger def. General Tire
- Semi-Finals: Tail Gator def. Bigfoot, Snake Bite (Fast Loser) def. Stinger
- Final: Tail Gator def. Snake Bite
Every truck was coated in mud by the end of racing, some more than others. But, considering there is at minimum one week till any of these trucks have to be competing again, each one got to play a little bit in the dirty stuff for freestyle. Track crews moved the remaining van and car that spent most of Saturday parked next to a power pole onto the front stretch area, making a big pyramid to let the trucks sky it out to the turn three infield.
What really surprised many of the fans was that the drivers were able to pull a wheelie when hitting an obstacle just right. Considering the difficult conditions, Strong showed he could lift the nose up after getting over the big car-loader tire pyramid in the third turn.
But it was Swim who decided to wow the crowd the most. Ever since Bigfoot #21 was built, it’s shown to be a great freestyle truck, with one small difference. Compared to the older chassis, and even it’s #18 and #19 brothers, this truck has a challenge of pulling wheelstands because of it’s suspension setup and engine placement.
Yet, once Swim took the wheel, he found the sweet spot, and for the first time since last year in Bloomsburg, he took on the blaster car set up at the exit of the fourth turn, hammered it hard enough to get air but let the front tires get a rebound, and stood the “beast” tha t they have nicknamed 21 right on the wheelie bar.
The fans ate it up, and Swim from that point on was tearing up the infield. With mud coating everything except the outside of the semi that Swim hauls the truck to and from every show, he brought the crowd to it’s feet, and pulled into the pits knowing he put up the run to beat.
Rettew never could match the momentum, despite a wheelie of his own. Venom pulled his own slap wheelie, the first one from a cross-thread on the double van stack in the second corner, and a muddy donut in front of the crowd.
Even Noelke’s run in the most awful of conditions, with every bit of the track covered in the brown slop, no one could match the air, the momentum, and the “wow factor” of Swim, giving him the freestyle victory and closing out Lima for yet another season.
It will take a while for all these trucks to dry out, especially after meeting the power washer for the second time in as many days, but with a lot longer spray time. Luckily, the next time this field of trucks must take to the track, it is highly likely it will be a lot dryer, and with a lot more room to play. It will be just over a month and a half before the jamboree tour picks back up, but they do so at one of their favorite venues.
For the 30th time, Family Events will make the trip east into Pennsylvania, arriving at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds for the A&A Auto Stores 4-Wheel Jamboree Summer Nationals, running from July 7-9.
Fans that want to get their tickets for the biggest 4×4 show on the east coast can get their tickets now at 4WheelJamboree.com, and those wanting to participate in any of the events over the course of the weekend can sign up to do so at the same site.
POINT STANDINGS (2 of 8 Events)
Event Wins in Brackets
- Bigfoot 240 
- Snake Bite 240
- Tail Gator 200 
- Stinger 160
- Master of Disaster 120
- General Tire 80
- Snake Bite – 1
- Bigfoot – 1
Special Thanks to:
- Paul & Michael Harry-TheMonsterBlog.com
- Emily Boden and Leah Burdette-Family Events Media Relations
- Jeff Luckey-Luckey Photography
- Doc Riley-Family Events emcee
- Doug, Brenda, “Pops” Noelke-Big Dawg 4×4
- Zane Rettew, Paul Strong, Buddy Young, JR Seasock-Rettew Motorsports
- Larry Swim, Penny Chandler Lopez-Bigfoot 4×4
- Vinny Venom, Andy Anaconda-Snake Bite Racing
- Paul Monroe, Lee Collins-Family Events Safety Director and Lead Official
- Tim Spurlock-New Paris Pro 4×4