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World Finals XIX: One Last Ride To Vegas Immortality

Who will win racing? Who will win freestyle? Can someone actually pull off the ultimate Double Down?

When it began in 2000, no one expected Monster Jam’s biggest event to expand to it’s global extravaganza that it is today.  A show that started with just 16 trucks has expanded to a field of 47 total competitors between the Double Down Showdown and the main attraction.  It also has at it’s peak, added in a display truck total of nearly 70, meaning on the property of Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas there at it’s highest nearly 115 total monster trucks for fans to see.

It began with a one-day event to showcase the best in the business, then expanded to a two-day experience for fans to see qualifying, and get more perks.  It became so big, officials decided to go even bigger.   The show went to a three-day powerhouse, with two separate tracks for racing and freestyle, changed literally overnight between competitions.

The Monster Jam World Finals has become the big event for the entire season.  Fans from all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and now even Japan and Asia have made the trip to Las Vegas to see their heroes go at it for a pair of championships.

This year’s even is a bit of a bittersweet taste, because when the final run is complete this Saturday night, the World Finals will begin a rotation at different venues starting in 2019.

Every driver is gunning to win either their first championship, or even another onto their long resume.

But, there’s some drivers that could potentially do something that has not been seen in over a decade.  It has not happened since 2002, and has only occurred twice since it’s inception.  Any of 32 drivers can win either the World Racing or World Freestyle championship, but every year this question comes up.  With such a large field of competitors, and two vastly different tracks for each competition, is it possible to see one driver take home the ultimate Double Down trophy?

In order to do so, one driver will have to win both championships, one on Friday and one on Saturday.

Not every driver potentially can do so, because they will need to be able to focus on each task, and not worry about the driver in the other lane, nor the score to beat.  It will take a fearless individual at the wheel to take home both titles in one weekend.

So who exactly could do it?

The challenge to narrow down the potential individuals that could come away with all the hardware is a challenge, but in the spirit of the NCAA tournament, I have tried to narrow it down to a Final Four that could potentially come away with the biggest triumph in Monster Jam.  That being said, here’s the potential four that actually can accomplish the biggest Double Down in the sport:

 

Friday 65TOM MEENTS:  Max-D

If there is one man in this sport that could potentially sweep both championships, it’s the guy who has done so not just once, but twice.  But, the difference is he swept both championships in a field of 16.

In order to do so again, Tom Meents needs to beat a field double that size.  Not only that, but he has a chip on his shoulder.

Last year, he was on his way to another birth in Vegas, but midway through the season he began experiencing back pain.  After consulting with doctors and specialists, it was determined he wasn’t healthy enough to compete for a while, and that included missing the World Finals.  At the time, he was only one of two drivers to have competed in every event in Las Vegas, the other being Jim Koehler in Avenger.

But not being part of the field last year ended that streak, and despite having a record 11 world championships to his credit, he has the biggest chip on his shoulder of everyone.

Meents has the honor of saying that he is the only driver that can say he has swept racing and freestyle.  He did it in 2001 driving Goldberg, and a year later he backed it up with another sweep in Team Meents.  The chassis he ran to achieve those titles ended up winning eight of his 11 championships, driving it for 11 years and to numerous trophies.

Last season he debuted a brand new chassis, but only got to run it for part of the year.  Now, he’s gotten a full season behind the wheel, and he’s enjoyed tuning on it to get it just right for his liking.

Now the pressure is on for him to get back in the saddle and take home potentially two titles.  Meents is ready to get back to Las Vegas, a place where he historically has the best racing record of anyone in competition.  Between 2000 and 2003, he went an amazing 14 races before being defeated in the semi-finals at World Finals IV.  In 2011, he restarted that streak, going 10-1 in the process before losing again in the semi-finals at World Finals XIV.

If there is one man that can take victory home both Friday and Saturday, it is the most successful driver in Monster Jam.  Max-D is coming, and it’s coming for vengeance.

Photo Credit:  Eric Stern
Photo Credit: Eric Stern

RYAN ANDERSON:  Son-Uva Digger

It took him six years to accomplish his goal of getting a championship, but there is no question that the man at the wheel of Son-Uva Digger is the one who can actually do the ultimate Double Down this year.

Ever since he debuted Son-Uva Digger in Las Vegas in 2011, Ryan Anderson has experienced some of the best luck in Sam Boyd Stadium.  Excluding his unfortunate incident in 2012 during the encore freestyle performance, this young man has been the one who has made a lot of gain on the fastest and most challenging track in Monster Jam.

When he accomplished his first goal of winning the racing championship last year, it was the first mountain top he reached.  He beat fellow Digger driver, and currently the man who is dating his sister, Krysten, Tyler Menninga.

He now enters the 2018 event trying to defend a championship that has only been successfully defended on four occasions.  Tom Meents won the racing title between 2000 and 2002, then did it again in 2011 and 2012.  John Seasock achieved back-to-back racing titles in 2007 and 2008, and finally Adam Anderson managed the feat in 2013 and 2014.

The Digger team is all looking to get back to the top of the mountain, and the one who is leading the charge is the one who isn’t in a truck named “Grave Digger.”  But, Ryan is his own man, and he’s achieved success in a truck that he has tuned up so well for racing, but even more so in freestyle.

This season he’s upped his game with some of the most intense and crazy maneuvers ever seen in the sport.  His bicycle into a moonwalk has yet to be topped, and it’s anticipated that he will pull off those type of moves if he wants to win his first freestyle championship.

Should he combine both his racing skills, and his freestyle capabilities, there is little doubt that the youngest male Anderson in competition will achieve the ultimate Double Down, a first for any Digger driver.

MutantTODD LEDUC:  Mutant Super Soda/Monster Energy

Ever since he officially entered Monster Jam competition, the man at the wheel of Mutant has taken to Las Vegas like a glove.  The young man entered the 2012 event in Sam Boyd Stadium a pure rookie that was occasionally sharing a ride with the lead man of the Metal Mulisha extreme sports camp, Brian Deegan.  But, heading into the show, Deegan was slated to run the main event, but pulled out due to injury.

Todd Leduc went from being in the Double Down Showdown to suddenly carrying the torch in the main event.  What did he do that night…put on the fastest time, topping the charts.

No one expected much from Leduc on that night, but a few years later, he not only put his imprint in Las Vegas, he put the stake in the ground and hammered it deep into the dirt.  On that night in 2014, on the craziest track the Monster Jam officials created, Leduc made an impact, and did so with his right foot.

Flying out of the tunnel, he hammered the first hill he saw, and flew to almost the end of the stadium, but saved the truck, and went on to perform what many have called the greatest freestyle in the history of World Finals.  For years many questioned whether the right driver based on judging was the winner.  This time, in everyone’s eyes, the judges got it right.

One year later, Leduc went on to win his first racing championship, one night after topping the charts in qualifying.  He was just shy of winning freeestyle, almost completing a trifecta of wins on the weekend.

In 2016, he was close to defending that racing title, falling just short to Morgan Kane in Grave Digger.

There has been no driver consistently this fast on this track than Leduc, and he’s out to prove his freestyle in 2014 was not a one-hit wonder, literally.

He’s capable to take home both titles in one weekend based on his background in off-road racing, being able to swing tight in the corner and fish tail hard to keep the tires spinning.  He handles his truck extremely well, and has proven in many stadiums his height he got in Vegas is not just reserved for Sin City.

The Leduc Leap will be coming back, as will his racing tenacity.  Here comes the man with Monster.

It's the final time Sam Boyd Stadium will host the World Finals.  Someone will have bragging rights for years to come.
It’s the final time Sam Boyd Stadium will host the World Finals. Someone will have bragging rights for years to come.

ADAM ANDERSON:  Grave Digger

If there is such a thing as having gambler’s luck in Las Vegas, Adam Anderson certainly has experienced it.  In 2008, he reached the peak of his career, winning his first championship with one intense freestyle that included an over 100-foot leap over three buses.

One year later, his most disastrous night.

In racing he clipped an inner corner and sent the truck sideways in the chicane, hitting the roof of the roll cage on a tree, and spinning out violently in the process.  The tree was split in half, somehow still standing thanks to it’s thick trunk.  Anderson, however, was feeling the effects, and after some convincing from his crew, and his father Dennis, he went to the hospital to be evaluated.

For the next two years, he put up a dud in Las Vegas, feeling as though his time at the venue meant a curse was following him.

Finally, in 2013, he told the curse goodbye when he won his first ever racing championship, clearing his bad luck in Las Vegas seemingly for good.  A year later, with a brand new truck at the time, he backed up his racing championship with a second victory in racing, the third person in history to win back-to-back racing titles.

It was 2016 when Anderson went from being in the blue-and-grey Grave Digger the Legend to being in his father’s namesake truck, the Grave Digger.

It was then that he won his fourth championship, finishing the World Finals with a victory in freestyle in a truck that actually got rebuilt from the roll cage forward just weeks earlier.  He ran the truck as if it was still the same piece, and did so enough to steal away a championship from his dad.

This year he is bringing an all-new Grave Digger 35 to compete, and thus far he’s liking the new truck.  Historically with the Digger team, the first year in Vegas for a new piece is great for the team.  In 2004, his dad won his first ever world title in the then-new Digger 19.  Two years later, with Digger 20, he got a second title.  Adam won his 2014 championship in a new Digger chassis, the same one he took the victory in freestyle with two years later.

He’s on a quest to get his titles back, and he could finally be the one to say he brought home both championships on one weekend.  When the red lights come on, it’s time to hang on a Digger kind of night.

 

Find out if one of these four, or someone else, take home both titles, or if the world racing and freestyle championships once again go to separate drivers, this Friday and Saturday night as the final World Finals in Sam Boyd Stadium takes place.

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