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New Partnership Kicks off Double-Event Weekend for Monster Nationals

Schnell took the Bigfoot Raptor to a racing and freestyle victory on Saturday night.

A fresh season on the arena tour for the Monster Nationals seemed to be long overdue, especially since for 2018 it was a later start than what it was a year ago.  But, the new season for the tour has brought about some changes, but ones that are subtle, and won’t effect the performance the fans see.

For the new year, the folks at Bonnier Corporation, who oversee both the Monster Nationals and the 4-Wheel Jamboree, came to an agreement with WHR Motorsports, who handle flat track and arenacross events on the west coast, to oversee operation this season of the Monster Nationals, with an option after this year to take over fully.  Fans thinking the show would be different instead can see that it is in good hands.  Lead official for WHR is Lee Collins, who is a familiar face with Bonnier Corporation as he has been an official during the summer season on the jamborees and is well respected across many platforms in motorsports.

It almost is a lateral move because Collins has officiated these events before, and knows how to give the fans exactly what they want.

His first task, overseeing one of the two events happening on the weekend.

Yes, that is right.  The 2018 season for the Monster Nationals kicked off with two weekends of action in two different cities.  Collins made the trip from out west to Madison, Wisconsin, and the Alliant Energy Center, a venue that is always tough to visit since the sudden passing of former lead official on the Monster Nationals, George Eisenhart, a decade ago.  But, continuing to come back to the venue is a way to let his memory live on, and say the drivers, and officials, never will forget his memory.

The field for Wisconsin was loaded with a strong fleet.  After having hauler trouble getting to the venue, the War Wizard Willy’s was ready to rock.  Tom Herzog, after spending the first few weeks behind the wheel of Master Of Disaster for Monster Jam, returned to his own truck, Midnight Rider, to compete.  Familiar face to the Monster Nationals, last year’s freestyle champion, Doug Noelke brought out the Tail Gator to chomp down on the opposition.

Fans were excited to see Snake Bite back in attendance, but now it was the rookie Kris Kopperhead putting on the mask and ready to strike fear in his foes.

Lastly, making a debut with the tour but in a very familiar name, was Bigfoot and Rodney Tweedy.  Originally, it was Larry Swim who was going to bring the original monster out to run, but a rough weekend the previous event saw a lot of damage to the front end on Bigfoot #21.  Wanting to ensure repairs were done right, his team stayed back at the Missouri shop.  Tweedy did have the weekend off, but was asked to fill in.  More than capable of filling those shoes, he brought out the oldest competing Bigfoot, #14, and was ready to rock the house on Friday night.

With fresh obstacles set to be demolished, the wheelie contest began the evening.  Each truck with a hit a piece on the car stacks looked to see how much they could get the crowd to roar it’s approval.  The entire field went full-tilt from the start, but it was rookie RJ Turner’s wild Willy’s that got the biggest reaction, giving him the opening victory on the night.

In order to set the field for racing, the positions are determined by qualifying.  It’s a straight shot over the stacks, with the fastest driver getting the bye run in the opening round.  The rookie driver in the snake found a way to get to the top of the charts, giving him the easy path into the semi-finals.

The next competition for the field was one that meant letting the trucks scream loud, and lay down a little rubber and some smoke.  It was time to get the donut contest roaring, with the fans once again determining the winner.

Last year’s champion in this category decided to show exactly why he was the best at doing so.  Noelke let his Super Gator roar once he found the grip on the concrete, and then played a bit of Frisbee with his steering wheel, a signature move by the veteran driver.  That style was enough to give the crowd a roar that no one can deny, giving Noelke his first victory on the season.

Prior to intermission, the first round of racing and the semi-finals were ran to give the crowd a sense of what was to come after the mid-show break.  The final round on this night was a competition between the two creatures, Tail Gator and Snake Bite.

The Snake was back at it, and rookie Kris Kopperhead already stuck his fangs in the opposition.
The Snake was back at it, and rookie Kris Kopperhead already stuck his fangs in the opposition.

Kopperhead was looking a little rough, but only because the green and black body that his truck was running was used the previous weekend on the second Snake Bite.  Kopperhead rolled the red body one week ago in New Mexico, and with that body being replaced, all that remained was the second look.

But, fiberglass aside, the truck was ready to make some noise, and pulled to the line ready to take on the swamp creature.  When the lights went green, each truck lifted the nose and hammered the stacks with everything they had.  Once the two vehicles came to a stop, it was the battered Snake that was victorious, as Kopperhead achieved his first win on the 2018 season.

However, in order to double up on the night, he had to be the final truck to exit the pits and put on a show.  It was time to freestyle, and every truck wanted to close out the show in an exciting and triumphant way.

No one expected tonight’s winner to be one of the first to go out.  Original driver Randy More has been known to get wild in his War Wizard, and Turner had a reputation to uphold.  On this occasion he had the motor tuned up right, and his SIR tires gripping the concrete well, giving him a lot of grip to get some speed.  It was he that got the best reaction on this night, giving him the final win of the evening, and sending the fans home thrilled at the start of a new season.

FRIDAY RESULTS:  Madison, Wisconsin

  • Wheelie Contest:  RJ Turner, War Wizard
  • Fast Qualifier:  Kris Kopperhead, Snake Bite
  • Donut Contest:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Racing Finals:  Kris Kopperhead, Snake Bite, def. Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Freestyle: RJ Turner, War Wizard

 

While Madison had the crowd rocking, another town had their own Monster Nationals event set to take shape.  The Chicago area is usually host to the promotion in late March, but for the new year, they got an early dose of action to get their monster fix.

The lineup brought to the Windy City was nothing short of some of the toughest machines ever built.  Not originally scheduled to be at the show, but at the last minute was given the opportunity, was Ryan Rice in the Incinerator Chevrolet.  Coming from Kentucky was the two-truck operation from Heavy Hitting Motorsports.  Derick Anson was ready to roar in his Heavy Hitter, while he brought out as well his old-school designed Basher square body Chevrolet.

The original monster as well made a showing in Illinois, but it was defending series champion Darron Schnell making his appearance.  Lastly, returning to the driver’s seat for the first time in a little while, representing the Raminator colors, was Geremie Dishman, the 2006 4-Wheel Jamboree racing champion and brother to Rammunition driver, Mat Dishman.

Paul Monroe, safety and technical director at Bonnier Corporation, was overseeing this particular show, and he, like the entire crowd, were ready to give a show no one would forget.

The wheelie contest got things started quickly, as each truck decided to go hammer down at the hit of the throttle.  Anson seemed to be one that wanted to make an impact right away on the first night, as each of his wheelie attempts had him nearly clear the entire car stacks, which got the crowd into it, and gave him the opening victory in the Windy City.

Qualifying was tight among the five beasts, but Schnell seemed to find the grip on the line and paced the field to the top of the board, giving him the easy pass in the first round.

Schnell seemed to enjoy being at the top of the charts, and it helped him immensely in the donut contest.  Bigfoot #19 has always been able to throw in some intense donuts, and this night was no exception.  The smoke was flying from Schnell, and the fans were showing their approval by giving him the victory.

Derick Anson had a strong opening night in Hoffman Estates, taking a pair of wins.  Photo by Danny Maass of Maas Media.
Derick Anson had a strong opening night in Hoffman Estates, taking a pair of wins. Photo by Danny Maass of Maas Media.

Following intermission, Schnell made it to the finals in racing, taking on a familiar foe in Anson.  But, unlike a season ago, Schnell seemed to not find the grip when needed.  Schnell went through seven events a season ago without losing one single round of racing.  This time, his streak never got off and running, as on this night it was Anson taking the opening victory.

That victory was huge because it gave him the final position in freestyle, meaning he was going to watch the previous four drivers go and try to close the show with another victory.

Not this time.  It was the lone RAM in the field making the crowd roar it’s approval.  Even though he doesn’t drive as often as in years past, when Dishman gets asked to put on the helmet and control one of the Hall Brothers Racing machines, he makes sure it runs well.  Dishman strapped into the #11 Hall Brothers chassis, the same one that Mike Miller piloted last year, and made the HEMI scream.

The fans were so into it, especially since Illinois is the home state for Hall Brothers Racing, and it was enough that Dishman was given the victory on this night, closing out another successful evening of competition.

FRIDAY RESULTS:  Hoffman Estates, Illinois

  • Wheelie Contest:  Derick Anson, Heavy Hitter
  • Fast Qualifier:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Donut Contest:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Racing Finals: Derick Anson, Heavy Hitter, def. Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Freestyle:  Geremie Dishman, Raminator

 

Heading into the second pair of shows, some repairs needed worked on as Anson had front-end repairs in the suspension and the drive line after going big in freestyle, but having to quit early.  Up in Madison, the Snake was getting it’s body fixed and ready for the new day of events.

The Madison crowd came in for the second show, seeing a fresh set of obstacles all the way around the floor, they packed into their seats for what was to be another intense evening of action.

It all seemed to go well right away for Turner as he put the Willy’s on the wheelie bar on both hits, and the crowd went insane.  No other truck could match the effort, and it was he that got the victory to start the night.

The field for the second night of racing was then set, with Noelke in the Gator taking top honors to get the easy pass into the second round, and was looking to get the most of the effort in the next competition.  Noelke was ready to scream the truck in donuts, but this time his effort wasn’t enough.  Once again, it was the young rookie that pushed the Willy’s to a smoke show.  Turner found tough competition from a surprising foe, Herzog in Midnight Rider.

The crowd had a cheer off, but it was Turner getting the nod once again.

Following intermission, the racing portion of the night got intense between all the competitors.  With Turner rolling, the focus was trying to keep him from a sweep opportunity.  Unfortunately for Turner, that chance ended as he was knocked out in the first round.  What the fans got on this night was the big rivalry coming to a reality.  Tweedy lined up his Bigfoot machine alongside Kopperhead in his Snake.

Off the line they were even, but Kopperhead launched to the roof, while Tweedy kept it lower, and straighter.  It was he that accomplished the feat of taking down the Snake, and earning his first win on the weekend in the big blue Ford.

With freestyle left to go, it was all about letting the fans enjoy the performance, while trying to win them over.

If going early is a benefit, then Turner seemed to enjoy it, as he went out in the first half of the field with fresher obstacles and no restraints.  The young rookie kept the momentum the entire run, and the crowd could tell this young man had something special, pulling off a hat trick of victories to close out the Saturday night performance.

SATURDAY RESULTS:  Madison, Wisconsin

  • Wheelie Contest:  RJ Turner, War Wizard
  • Fast Qualifier:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Donut Contest:  RJ Turner, War Wizard
  • Racing Finals:  Rodney Tweedy, Bigfoot, def. Kris Kopperhead, Snake Bite
  • Freestyle:  RJ Turner, War Wizard

 

Over in Hoffman Estates, repairs from the previous night were all complete, and fans were ready for another exciting night on the sticky concrete.  It was also a bittersweet night for one individual.

Longtime Bonnier Corporation and Family Events member Paul Monroe, who for years was lead track official and in 2015 was promoted to safety and technical director, announced to his crew that after the performance on Saturday night, he was walking away from the Monster Nationals and pursuing new opportunities closer to home so that he can be close to his wife, kids, and the grand kids.  That isn’t to say he may show up at a show every now and then, but according to Monroe himself, he was ready for less travel, and more time at home.

So, the field of trucks wanted to give him a performance to remember, and one the fans could talk about for the next year until the trucks return.

Up first was the wheelie contest, and if there was any doubt who was the one to beat, it was the truck carrying the Firestone colors.

Schnell on each hit on the cars stood the Raptor on the wheelie bar, which considering the car stacks now included a pair of SUV’s, was rather easy on this particular night.  Schnell won the crowd cheer off and took his first win on the evening, possibly predicting what could come later on.

Qualifying was close among all the trucks, but this time it was Anson who put the Heavy Hitter Chevrolet at the top of the charts, and he was looking for more in the next competition.

Anson looked to scream the big Chevrolet in the donut contest, but the truck found a patch of concrete that hooked the rear tire, and onto it’s side the truck went.  A bit disappointing for the big man, but nothing that would put him out for the rest of the night.

The winner of the donut contest surprised a lot of people, as Rice somehow locked in the Incinerator on the concrete and let the truck scream loud and proud.  The audience liked the performance, and gave him his first ever win with the Monster Nationals.

In what became the wild race of the weekend, Darron Schnell took down Geremie Dishman, who had a rough landing of his own.  Photo by Danny Maass of Maass Media.
In what became the wild race of the weekend, Darron Schnell took down Geremie Dishman, who had a rough landing of his own. Photo by Danny Maass of Maass Media.

Following intermission, the racing bracket was even more intense than the night before, and it came down to a battle between two intense rival teams.  Schnell lined up the Bigfoot Raptor, while Dishman pulled to the line in the Raminator.

This race would ultimately be the highlight of the night for everyone involved.

Both trucks launched hard from the line, but Dishman turned the 2018 Ram Laramie Limited into a Ram rocket when he hit the first car.  The truck flew skyward, while Schnell kept low to the ground.  By staying low, Schnell kept the momentum and earned the victory.  Meanwhile, Dishman came back down hard on the cars and concrete.  The truck hooked hard to the right and went onto it’s side.

It’s not the first roll for the Hall Brothers this season, as they had one the previous weekend in Canada at another event.  But, it’s still a tough phone call to the main office to let the team know they need a new body and maybe some new parts.

The roll ultimately put Dishman on the sidelines for freestyle, but the four remaining trucks looked to put on a show considering this was their final one for the weekend before heading back to the shop and doing more detailed repairs and tuning.

On this night, the man that won was the man who went out last.

In what ultimately would be Monroe’s final freestyle as lead official and safety director, Schnell put on a clinic for everyone to witness.  The Windy City saw a lot of intense freestyles this weekend, but the Bigfoot team capped it off with the best one to achieve a hat trick and close out the night by doubling down after winning the racing program, giving his team a big boost in title defense for 2018.

SATURDAY RESULTS:  Hoffman Estates, Illinois

  • Wheelie Contest:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot
  • Fast Qualifier:  Derick Anson, Heavy Hitter
  • Donut Contest:  Ryan Rice, Incinerator
  • Racing Finals:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot, def. Geremie Dishman, Raminator
  • Freestyle:  Darron Schnell, Bigfoot

 

Although the weekend in Illinois had come to a conclusion, the fans in Wisconsin had one final opportunity to make their way out for action on the concrete.  One advantage for the fans in a sense, although it made for a faster turnaround for the teams, is that the final show was a matinee of sorts with a 3 p.m. start.

Still, the crowd filled in and was ready to see the action one last time.  With it being the final show of the weekend, no truck nor driver was going to lay down for anyone, and there was no reason to hold back in any sense.

That was clear when the wheelie contest took the lead as Tweedy finally was able to get the #14 chassis from the Bigfoot stable to land on the wheelie bar on a pair of occasions across the cars.  This chassis is the oldest competing truck in the Bigfoot fleet but he’s showing that despite the machine being 24 years old, it can still take down some of the biggest names in the business.

The Foot may have started the night with the lead, but in qualifying it was Kopperhead again making his move to the lead and getting another pass into the semi-finals.

But, despite another valiant effort, the donut contest seemed to be hooking up just right for Noelke.  The Gator once more hooked up on the floor, and when he got the tires smoking, the wheel came off to the delight of the fans.  It was now one-all for the top trucks in the building, with intermission allowing the crews a chance to refuel and make adjustments ahead of racing.

It did not seem to effect Tweedy nor Kopperhead, as for the second time in as many days, the two squared off in the championship.  It was just the second time since Kopperhead took over from Vinny Venom to get a crack at the “Blue Junk” as he calls it, and he fell short the night before.

Sunday, it was different.  Kopperhead locked into the track on the line, and he flew across the five cars to take home his second win on the weekend, giving him a massive point lead, and putting the pressure on his rival team.

Another victory to his credit, Kopperhead was ready to close out the night in style to sweep the big trophies as he was set to go last in freestyle.

Turns out, he was going so hard, he did some damage to the front end of the truck, and had to pull into the pits.

The final freestyle of the weekend would be a sweep of another sort.  Newly minted driver Turner, and the well-known War Wizard, was looking to take an entire sweep of freestyle over the weekend.  Each show the youngster was gaining confidence in the truck, and himself, and the fans could see he was becoming better with each show.  By going out early, the fresh cars gave him the biggest air, and the hardest hits.  That performance was enough to give him the biggest sweep of the weekend.  A rookie driver, in his first weekend of competition, got out the broom, and brought another big trophy to Tennessee.

SUNDAY RESULTS:  Madison, Wisconsin

  • Wheelie Contest:  Rodney Tweedy, Bigfoot
  • Fast Qualifier:  Kris Kopperhead, Snake Bite
  • Donut Contest:  Doug Noelke, Tail Gator
  • Racing Finals:  Kris Kopperhead, Snake Bite, def. Rodney Tweedy, Bigfoot
  • Freestyle:  RJ Turner, War Wizard

 

The next weekend for the WHR Motorsports Monster Nationals is not for another month.  But, in the last four years, the show has become one that has constantly sold out every single event.  Bleachers get brought in so fans can get an elevated look, and the track crew has a lot more freedom to let the teams sky it out, and give more challenges to victory.

The Southern Illinois Center, part of the DuQuoin State Fair in DuQuoin, Illinois, opens up the competition arena for the Monster Nationals.  It is the only time all season that the series will get away from the concrete and instead let the dirt fly.

It has been called “Big Air Weekend” because of the big obstacles, the blaster stacks, and jammer hills, and it is always one of the wildest weekends of events all year.

The field of trucks will have a six-pack for this event, and it combines the best of the last weekend into one wild run.  Schnell will bring the Foot, while the Snake Bite operation will be sending their team truck as Kopperhead is heading to Texas.  So who is gonna slither out to pilot this beast?  That remains to be seen.

Anson will bring his duo of trucks in Heavy Hitter and Basher, while Noelke is locking in to let the Gator throw some dirt.  Finally, the Hall Brothers operation has the Raminator ready to roar once again in their home state, with their driver not yet announced.

Get your tickets at MonsterTruckNationals.com, and be ready to see the trucks soar.

 

SEASON STANDINGS

Wheelies

  • War Wizard (2)
  • Heavy Hitter (1)
  • Bigfoot-Schnell (1)
  • Bigfoot-Tweedy (1)

Donuts

  • Tail Gator (2)
  • Bigfoot-Schnell (1)
  • War Wizard (1)
  • Incinerator (1)

Racing (50 points for show, 75 for finals, 100 for victory)

  • Snake Bite 275 (2 wins)
  • Bigfoot-Schnell 175 (1 win)
  • Bigfoot-Tweedy 225 (1 win)
  • Tail Gator 200
  • Heavy Hitter 150 (1 win)
  • Midnight Rider 150
  • Incinerator 150
  • Raminator 125
  • War Wizard 100
  • Basher 100

Freestyle

  • War Wizard (3)
  • Raminator (1)
  • Bigfoot (1)

About Dustin Parks

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