For anyone that owns a four-wheel drive vehicle and lives in the northeast of the country, no venue has more to offer for the 4×4 enthusiast than the Bloomsburg 4-Wheel Jamboree. A midway full of factory-direct offers, proving grounds to drive across, thousands of show trucks, and multiple competitions make up the biggest show Pennsylvania sees every year.
The second day of the weekend draws in the most fans, especially since a lot of the judging of the show trucks take place on this occasion. More fans also means a bigger draw for the monster truck teams. A bigger crowd also means more possible chances of breakage, but also more chances for thrills.
It was no exception with the 2017 edition of the General Tire Thunder Drags, as the six-truck field was ready to do battle.
The track conditions were a little different for the afternoon show as compared to Friday evening. Although the sun was shining, there was a lot of moisture in the dirt, meaning every truck was going to grip the line very easily and put the power to the ground. Fans knew heading into Saturday, the original jamboree rivalry took center stage with Larry Swim in Bigfoot and Vinny Venom in Snake Bite doing battle just like in the old days of the Penda Points Series.
Swim achieved his sixth win at the fairgrounds Friday night, extending his rounds of wins to 12 consecutive, and his success at Bloomsburg has been undeniable. Since the 2015 season, the Lucas Oil sponsored Bigfoot machine has missed only one final round. In those six final round appearances since, Swim’s been perfect.
Wanting to keep the streak alive, Swim took out Dale Gerding in the General Tire Ford in the first round, then took out the Pennsylvania-native Zane Rettew in Stinger to make the finals.
Venom wasn’t going quitely in the black and green snake, taking out JR Seasock in Master of Disaster and Doug Noelke in Tail Gator to set up a repeat of the previous night’s final. Swim opted for the same lane he had the night prior, hoping to get a better launch into the hole and off the roller. More importantly was getting the best reaction time. Venom was looking stronger than ever knowing his own chassis was upgraded and fixed in time for Bloomsburg.
Neither driver left anything on the table when the light went green, but Swim poured it on with the Ford power, skying the Raptor across the final jump with a good half-truck advantage to take the victory. The streak of victories now stands at five consecutive races at the Pennsylvania infield, begging the question if anyone had the ability to get past this phenomenal driver and his equipment.
No team was thinking about the points at the moment, because the focus quickly turned to freestyle.
Rettew certainly decided to put the crowd on it’s ear in his Raptor. On one of the first hits during the run, taking aim at the van stack in the second corner, the nose went skyward and upon landing, the right-rear tire snapped from the axle like a twig on a dry tree. The tire rolled to a stop, while Rettew climbed out to wave to the fans. The Family Events track crew decided to leave his truck in the infield as it was out of the way of any obstacles, and with only two trucks left to run, it was easier to wait till the show was over to move the wounded truck to the pits.
Next-to-last to run was Venom, and his run was off to a great start, until one hit on the elevated van stack by the main stage.
On landing, the rear drive shaft snapped right at the yoke. As he was pulling the truck to the pits, the sound of the rattling shaft was easily recognizable.
But, the one man that decided to double up on his luck was the man who won racing. Swim pulled out every single trick he could for his freestyle, with the lone exception being a cyclone. Swim then pulled a pair of wheelstands down the frontstretch, including one that buried the wheelie bar into the gravel that made up the horse racing track. With every hit, Swim gained more confidence, and it was more than enough for the crowd to decide he was the one to win the afternoon freestyle, sweeping the first show in it’s entirety.
- Round 1: Tail Gator def. Stinger; Snake Bite def. Master of Disaster; Bigfoot def. General Tire
- Semi-Finals: Snake Bite def. Tail Gator; Bigfoot def. Stinger
- Finals: Bigfoot def. Snake Bite
A lot of repairs were in store between the afternoon and evening performances. Noelke and his team went to work repairing a broken axle during the afternoon, pulling off the track into the hauler area for the extensive work. Rettew and his team worked double to fix some steering issues with Master of Disaster, and also put the entire rear knuckle back together on his Stinger ride.
Venom and his team went hard to work to fix his broken drive shaft, actually calling on some extra help from the Bigfoot crew to get things back in order. As much as Venom and his team want to beat the Bigfoot crew, they don’t want to be beaten while sitting in the pits..
At the same time, while the teams made all the repairs, no one anticipated a little track change.
During the late afternoon, the skies suddenly decided to open up a bit during the mud bog, dumping rain on the entire infield. It wasn’t the long, heavy, and ugly rain that was seen two months ago in Lima, Ohio, but it changed track conditions immensely. The mud that was forming meant instead of grip, there would be a lot of slipping and sliding.
When the 8:30 time slot finally arrived, it was not about racing, but putting on a finale of freestyle for every fan that waited out the minor rain shower to see every truck perform to celebrate the summer season.
Things started strong with Seasock, putting on an extremely respectable performance, one that his father, two-time Monster Jam racing champion John Seasock, got to witness first-hand. Gerding then handed in a respectable performance of his own with the General Tire representatives looking on.
But, Rettew then pulled his Raptor to the track, and suddenly the home state crowd stood at attention.
With every single hit, every single slide, and every single soar into the air, the fans were eating it up. Rettew is known for going all-out with every performance, sometimes tearing up equipment in order to do so. During the winter, he recorded 19 rollovers in a matter of three months.
There was no roll on this night, but rather his truck pulling to a halt in front of the stage, and not moving. With everything he put the truck through, the transmission finally decided it had enough. Rettew climbed out, stood on the roof and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Noelke suddenly had the duty of trying to follow the performance, and despite a stellar run, it wasn’t enough.
Venom rolled the snake out for his opportunity. The Raptor Snake drifted around part of the first turn, skied off every hillside, but it still was not enough to take out Rettew, who stayed on the stage watching the remaining performances from a spectator perspective.
Out last was Swim, and he again put on a stellar performance, even without being able to pull the wheelstands like he did in the afternoon.
When he finally made a parade lap around in front of the stands, the entire pits of monsters saw their cab lights come on thanks to the RII system. With Swim leading the way, he hit the van stack in front of the crowd. Gerding then followed, and Seasock, then Noelke. When Venom made his hit on the stack, the lights on the grandstand and back straightaway went dark, and the night sky got lit up with a firework show lasting nearly 15 minutes. A spectacular end to a successful day of festivities.
One final event remains for the Bloomsburg weekend, coming Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Many questions remain, as someone will leave Pennsylvania with the points lead, someone is taking the final “let it loose” freestyle win of the weekend, as with the final show there’s nothing left but to leave it all on the track.
More importantly, will the rubber match happen between Venom and Swim? It all comes down to one last showdown.
POINT STANDINGS (4 of 8 Events)
Event Wins in Brackets
- Bigfoot 560 
- Snake Bite 480
- Tail Gator 360 
- Stinger 80
- Master of Disaster 200
- General Tire 200
- Bigfoot – 3
- Snake Bite – 1
- Stinger – 1