The final three months of the year for the teams that make their living with a vehicle weighing the equivalent of a pair of pickups means very little shows and very few broken parts.
Machines are in the team garages, often on jack stands, while parts get removed and looked over to see if they are good enough to use again. New pieces get replaced, freshened up, or repaired, knowing that the new year is quickly approaching. Once January rolls around, the teams load up the haulers for a lot of action, because the weekly grind of the monster truck industry sees its peak business occur between the months of January and April.
Teams that do their business alongside the Monster Truck Racing Association not only do all the repair work needed for the upcoming season, but also know that by the time the new year begins, they could be looking at new rules and requirements when competing.
The one organization that takes the MTRA requirements very seriously is Family Events. For nearly three decades, the promotion company has worked alongside the MTRA to make sure the best show is put in front of the fans, but also the safest show possible to ensure no one is hurt.
With that, the folks at Family Events are preparing to forge ahead, ready to start their indoor season when the Monster Truck Nationals head back into competition, ready to hit the concrete, and even the dirt, and determine their newest champions.
The headlining team, as has been for many years, once again is the Bigfoot group. Last season, the outright dominance that team driver Darron Schnell showcased the entire year could not be matched. The last time an MTRA-certified driver had a round-win streak go into double digits was years prior when Dan Runte, then-Bigfoot driver and current Bigfoot Vice President of Operations, opened the 1996 Penda Points season winning the first nine events, a streak that went 37 races over the course of four different venues.
Schnell had the same luck to start his season, despite having a tough battle alongside Doug Noelke in Tail Gator, on multiple occasions. But, the streak was overpowering, and not one driver had anything to match.
By the same token, Noelke had one of the best seasons he’s ever experienced with the Monster Nationals, at least when it come to showing off.
The Super Gator more than doubled the rest of the field in freestyle victories, sliding the green and yellow beast across every floor that he could, and never looked back. The fans certainly had a chance to chomp down a lot over the course of 2017, but it could be more of a challenge to meet that feat next year.
The 2018 schedule for the Monster Nationals is a lot different, in many different aspects. Over the course of three months, nine total shows will be happening to determine the 2018 champions of racing and freestyle, along with wheelies, donuts and long jump.
What is different, however, is the slate of events. Only four venues will be taking part in the season, but all have shown to bring in a lot of fans over the years. The 2018 season will kick off on the final weekend of January in Madison, Wisconsin, in a return to the Alliant Energy Center. It’s always an emotional weekend in Wisconsin due to the fact it’s now been 10 years since the man behind the Monster Nationals for many years, George Eisenhart, passed away in an unfortunate accident during the show.
Every year the trucks return to honor Eisenhart, and thrill the crowd, which is what he always ensured happened.
That same weekend, a first for the Monster Nationals, another field of strong, and dominant, trucks will be competing at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, right in the shadow of Chicago. Normally this event is held in March, but the early season opening created a unique opportunity to showcase different trucks in two different cities, all at once.
A month-long break follows before the trucks get to sling a bit of indoor dirt at what over the last few seasons has become “Big Air Weekend.” Next season certainly looks to be no different when the DuQuoin State Fair in DuQuoin, Illinois, gets the dirt and the grandstands packed full for a three-event weekend that has sold out every event the last three years.
A combination of the previous two lineups will ensure the six-truck field will have some of the toughest, and strongest, machines to compete, and leave everything on the track.
Following that show, it is an extremely long layoff for the competition. First quarter action usually ends in March, and the focus turns to the outdoor season. Not for the Monster Nationals, they still have one event remaining, and it takes place at a venue that surprisingly was not on the 2017 slate. But, it was a show that the year prior had to open up more seating because of the demand for tickets.
Just like the 2016 season, the new year will conclude on the campus of Penn State University, with a one-night extravaganza at the Bryce Jordan Center on April 28.
One of the other changes is that Bonnier Corporation is joining forces with another promotion, WHR Motorsports, to oversee the Monster Nationals. WHR has put on many events for the big beasts, but also hosts events such as motocross, flat track motorcycle racing, freestyle motocross, and the unique Supermoto that combines aspects of dirt bike racing with the flat track action of street bikes.
For anyone thinking this may hinder the show, think again. The Monster Nationals still are committed to everything they have done over the years when it comes to safety. The competing trucks will still be adhering to MTRA safety specifications, and the focus will be putting on a safe, and exciting, show for every fan in attendance.
This year’s main highlight will be the competition between Bigfoot and Raminator, who after not competing at all last season on the tour will make a major return to the indoor circuit. Tail Gator is back for a pair of events this season, but so too is the reigning 2017 4-Wheel Jamboree racing and freestyle champion, Snake Bite. This time, however, it is Andy Anaconda at the wheel as Vinny Venom has decided it’s time to let the young man take the wheel while he oversees the operation back at the Colorado shop.
Another return this year to the tour is a big-hitting team out of the Bluegrass State. Derick Anson is ready to bring the new look Heavy Hitter Chevrolet to competition. Along with his machine, he is bringing along one of the most unique trucks to hit the circuit, debuting last January.
The team truck to the Heavy Hitter is the unique old-school Chevrolet square body, Basher. It’s most unique aspect isn’t the body, but the chassis. The unique look of the truck is set off with a chassis that was aged to add a rusted-out effect, but still be strong enough to take the hardest punishment.
Along with the multi-truck operations, a few single-show trucks will be seen. Madison, Wisconsin, will get a pair with the Midnight Rider, and the wild-looking Willy’s that is known as War Wizard.
Fans at the Sears Centre Arena will get the unique opportunity to see the only Volkswagen monster truck in competition, one that is honoring a very funny comedian. It’s the Fluffy machine, a classic VW Bus, that has a classic red and white look that matches one of the VW’s in the collection of the “Fluffy” man himself, Gabriel Iglesias.
Finally, at the final show of the year, the Nittany Lion faithful will get to see a driver who’s been longing to get a big opportunity outside of another promoter for the winter season. Brandon Derrow, after having a successful debut with the Monster Nationals last year at the summer show in Springfield, Illinois, will make his indoor debut with the same show at Penn State University. Already he has said he’s looking forward to the new venue and hopes to impress a lot of people with the opportunity.
The full 2018 indoor schedule for the Monster Nationals is listed below, complete with show times, and lineup of trucks.
Get your tickets by going to MonsterTruckNationals.com, and get ready for the “Battle of Supremacy.”
2018 Schedule of Events
January 26-28: Madison, Wisconsin-Alliant Energy Center
TRUCK LINEUP: Bigfoot, Snake Bite, Tail Gator, Midnight Rider, War Wizard
- January 26 and 27: 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Pit Party, 7:30 p.m. showtime
- January 28: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pit Party, 1:00 p.m. showtime
January 26-27: Hoffman Estates, Illinois-Sears Centre Arena
TRUCK LINEUP: Bigfoot, Raminator, Heavy Hitter, Basher, Fluffy
- January 26 and 27: 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Pit Party, 7:30 p.m. showtime
February 23-24: DuQuoin, Illinois-DuQuoin State Fair
TRUCK LINEUP: Bigfoot, Raminator, Heavy Hitter, Basher, Snake Bite, Tail Gator
- February 23: 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Pit Party, 7:30 p.m. showtime
- February 24 (Two Shows): 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pit Party, 1:00 p.m. showtime; 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Pit Party, 7:30 p.m. showtime
April 28: State College, Pennsylvania-Bryce Jordan Center
TRUCK LINEUP: Bigfoot, Raminator, Heavy Hitter, Basher, Bad News Travels Fast
- April 28: 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Pit Party, 6:30 p.m. showtime