The pinnacle of any season of any kind is the championship weekend. It’s the World Series in baseball, the Stanley Cup in hockey, and the Super Bowl in football. Every sport when it’s time to determine a champion ensures they are ready to go full tilt every single time the stage is theirs.
That goes true even for those that make a living on the dirt, and in the mud.
After last hosting an event back in early July, Family Events got their own homecoming beginning on Friday night. Already located in Indianapolis, it was only a short drive to make it to the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and the fans decided to come out literally by the truck load. For the first time in many years, the Indy weekend for the jamboree could be described with just two words: NO RAIN.
The last couple seasons that has been hard to avoid as the weather in Indiana at this time of year is often hard to predict. But, this season it has been a blessing. After having all the rain seemingly in Lima, then some heat build up in Bloomsburg, the perfect balance came for the season finale.
What Family Events also had building up in their Monster Truck Thunder Drags is a title hunt that looked as though in one sense was going to be a run away, but soon became a fight to the end.
Entering Indy, Larry Swim had a hold on the points lead with the Lucas Oil Bigfoot, but with Vinny Venom and his Snake Bite slithering in and taking the last win in Bloomsburg, a single round separated the two rivals.
At the same time, this year’s Indy jamboree was an enormous opportunity for two new drivers to debut with Family Events. With Zane Rettew and his Stinger team booked for another event, another duo was added to the big jamboree, and it is a team that over the last few seasons has become a big hit among the fans, but also fierce competition.
In fact, both Swim and Venom were extremely familiar with how tough these two run.
Making the debut run in Indy first was a man to “Get A Load” of how much support he’s received since the truck was unveiled, Jerry Beck and his 2013 Ram Dump Truck that he named Dirt Crew. His teammate, who ironically is campaigning a record-setting chassis, is “Big Air” Aaron Cain and his monster ATV, Quad Chaos.
The pressure was on, but all six trucks were set to go with a beautiful sun setting in the background. The track crew brought in some very tacky dirt, and they needed to make sure it would hold up. The main reason, the track is not built on the typical fairground infield that Lima and Bloomsburg are blessed with.
Beginning in 2008, the infield of the “Hoosier Mile” went from being all dirt, to actually having half being paved. The asphalt surface may be harder, but it also gives teams a chance to get some sliding on when freestyle takes place.
However, up first was taking to the Penda-style track that Family Events has been known for. The lone change for this year’s course is the officials elected to have the dirt extend back so the drivers aren’t sliding on the asphalt right on the starting line. It seemed to be something that was discussed a lot in the pit area, and was praised since it meant the drivers were going to have immediate grip, and only have to worry about the asphalt in no-man’s land and after the finish line.
But right away, the story went from the start, to the finish.
After spending all winter battling for the Toughest Monster Truck championship, Swim and Cain met in the first round, and in a stunning upset, Cain put the popular Ford Raptor down for the count with a first-round upset, sending the enormous crowd into a stunning silence. With Venom making it into the semi-finals, all things pointed to the possibility of a new leader in the standings.
But, Swim found his second chance, as he made it into the semi-finals thanks to being the fast loser.
His reward…a rematch with Cain. This time, however, Swim got the far lane instead of the near lane, and the two trucks still kept it close between the lines for their second go at the track. However, Swim gained a measure of revenge as he took Cain down to make it to his fifth final round of the year.
On the opposite side, Venom marched his way to the finals, ready to at least make the standings interesting should he win.
Swim had a slight advantage on the line, but Venom was on kill and his Raptor Reptile found the momentum between the hills to make it to the finish line and knock out Swim for the second consecutive final. His win, which meant a 40-point addition to his season total, meant that he and Swim were tied for the lead, with Swim’s only advantage being his opening-round win in Lima.
One event in, and it already was shaping up to be a nail, or in the case of the Snake, a fang-biter right to the very end.
- Round 1: Quad Chaos def. Bigfoot; Snake Bite def. General Tire; Tail Gator def. Dirt Crew
- Semi-Finals: Snake Bite def. Tail Gator; Bigfoot def. Quad Chaos
- Finals: Snake Bite def. Bigfoot
After ensuring the track was clear, it was time to let the teams turn lose in freestyle. The lone truck that was unable to make the “show off” time for the fans and the drivers was Doug Noelke. During racing his Tail Gator Ford suffered what appeared to be breakage in the rear of the truck, possibly a rear end gear or an axle.
With it only being the first day, Noelke and his crew elected to sit out and get things prepared for the next day.
That didn’t mean the action on the track wasn’t going to be as intense. Beck showed that the dump truck can enjoy the outdoor venues just as much as the small arenas, as Dirt Crew was sailing over some of the stacks on the track. But his teammate then decided to step things up.
Cain hit the car stack that was made into a makeshift ramp down at the bottom right corner of the track, and when landing the monster quad only stayed on the sidewalls of the right side tires.
Not wanting to give up, Cain hammered the throttle and kept the wheels cut to the right, trying to keep the quad from going over. But, gravity ultimately had a say in what was taking place, and the right handle bar on the roof finally touched pavement. Cain was not hurt, and the truck seemed to have just fiberglass damage. It was worth it, as the crowd roared their approval for the effort.
However, it wasn’t the major highlight.
Finishing second in racing, Swim was not going down that easy without letting the Indiana faithful see what he’s been able to do since taking over the driving duties of the #21 chassis from the Original Monster Truck team.
Each jamboree this season the lead driver of Bigfoot has been able to get the radical and intense truck to finally stand up for a classic Bigfoot slap wheelie, something that had not been done despite a valiant effort from then-driver and now Vice President of Operations, Dan Runte.
However, when Swim took over, he quickly adapted and showed the radical ride can stand on the wheelie bar at any given moment.
Swim not only got the wheelie bar to drag the asphalt once, but did so twice. Yet the second one was the wheelie that the fans were roaring for.
The truck stood straight to the sky and suddenly began rocking back and forth on the rear tires. Swim kept the wheelie going as far as he could, but had to get out of it as the truck was approaching one of the dirt hills in the center of the race course. He landed and the truck still had the look of going over. But the skill of Swim took over, and the truck stayed on all four tires.
Every man, woman and child stood up and screamed seeing Swim pull the save, and he thanked the fans in return for supporting him and the team.
Venom still was left to run, and he was looking to make it a clean sweep.
The problem wasn’t his truck, but instead the track. The Raptor Reptile took to one of the car stacks at the corner of the infield, but when the front tires hit, the car on the back side got flipped over, and in doing so cut the momentum of the Snake short. The cradle of the chassis got hung up on the center van, and despite the effort, the “Black and Green Striking Machine” was stuck on the hill, ending the run before it really started. The short run was enough for officials to go back and say without any doubt the winner on Friday night in freestyle was Bigfoot, his fourth win of the season.
Saturday in Indianapolis will see a pair of shows for the monster fans.
The afternoon performance is slated for 12:30 p.m. and will have both racing and freestyle for the Indiana fans. Then at 6:30, it is a freestyle showdown for the entire crowd to enjoy, as the drivers will not focus on another driver, but instead impressing the crowd.
In between both shows, the International Monster Truck Hall of Fame and Museum will reveal the latest list of four inductees that will be immortalized this November.
Get out to the Indiana State Fairgrounds to experience what the biggest jamboree of the season has to offer for every 4×4 enthusiast.
POINT STANDINGS (6 of 8 Events)
Event Wins in Brackets
- Bigfoot 800 
- Snake Bite 800 
- Tail Gator 480 
- General Tire 320
- Stinger 320
- Master of Disaster 280
- Quad Chaos 80
- Dirt Crew 40
- Bigfoot – 4
- Snake Bite – 2
- Stinger – 1