Spring time often means going to the pool, laying out in the sun, a few trips to the fair or amusement park, and even catching a ball game to let the days go by. Kids are out of school and want to be entertained, and each are a very viable option.
But for some, spring time means getting grime under their fingernails, mainly because they are working on engines that have a lot of power, torque, and are made for abuse. Some spend quality time with a bottle of wax, and maybe some tire shine. Others get on heavy equipment, moving loads of dirt, and for some, they have to strap into enormous machines.
All of the above describe one particular series of events…the 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals.
The 2018 season finally got to begin with a lot of anticipation, and a bit of a longer wait. The season has consistently began at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio. But, normally this happens during the middle of May, one week before Memorial Day. Kids are still in school, but that has not been a problem for Family Events, as the crowds still come out in droves for some 4×4 festivities.
What has been a problem over the years, especially the last few, has been Mother Nature. Three years ago, two days worth of racing action was cancelled, and teams only put on a freestyle show for the fans because of downpours that would make Noah think twice about building the Arc. Last year, Friday’s action was delayed and ultimately suspended until the next day due to the rain. But, even that didn’t help matters because Saturday’s racing program was halted after the semi-final round because the rain poured on like Niagara.
In the hopes of avoiding the constant weather issues, during the off season both the Family Events staff and the board of directors at the Allen County Fairgrounds worked out a compromise, and the O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals got moved from the middle of May to the second weekend of June.
Fans had to wait another month to get their monster truck fix, but when they came in for the first day of the weekend, they were not disappointed. The field of trucks for the new year was stacked with huge names, but the biggest moment was when all the fans witnessed the return of the team that last season was not part of the tour. Everyone was upset that the team based out of Champaign, Illinois, was nowhere to be found. They wrote letters, used Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to voice their displeasure.
It seemed to strike a chord, because this year, the Hall Brothers are back. Not only did they return, they decided to come with guns blazing. Mark Hall made his way back with the world record holding Raminator, while Mat Dishman brought back the radical red Rammunition. Plus, long time crewman Kurt Kraehmer now has become a full-time driver on the team, taking over the chassis that Hall set his world record in years ago, but this time the Ram 1500 body was wrapped in the title sponsor of the Monster Truck Thunder Drags, General Tire, and even had the General Tire red lettered tires as an accent.
The competition welcomed their return, especially their rivals, the Bigfoot operation out of Pacific, Missouri. But, the team that started it all decided to put their name in the hands of a new shoe. Sure, the chassis was familiar, as Bigfoot #18 was competing. But, who was driving was all-new.
Christian Norman got the nod for the jamboree tour this season, and with that he was given a beautiful new Ford Raptor design for the Lucas Oil colors. The Bigfoot painters went with a pearl gold, and it was glistening when the sun hit. The truck seemed to be a hit with the fans, as Norman was signing autographs all afternoon.
To round out the six-truck field, a familiar name, but with a double take. After last competing at jamborees 10 years ago, Mike Vaters returned to the series that helped make him famous, and with him he brought his tough, but eye-catching Safety Kleen Black Stallion, ready to ride into the night.
Joining him as his teammate was blood, literally. The 2015 Monster Jam freestyle champion, and Vaters’ namesake, Mikey Jr, brought in the popular and historically referenced Overkill Evolution, a truck that has a lot of input from former driver turned chassis expert, Marty Garza.
What was a bit different was the infield of the fairgrounds. Sure, the racing track seemed familiar, a 290-foot drag racing design with an opening hill with a finish-line launch jump. But, what was different was the layout for freestyle.
The difference…no metal. Not one car was placed in the infield, nor was a van, nor a bus. It was a shocking change, and many wondered why that was done. No one really had an answer, but this was the hand teams were dealt, and they had to figure out a way to make it work.
Teams rolled out for the first show of the weekend, and they also faced a familiar foe, the mud. Despite the efforts, a quick rain storm hit the fairgrounds right around 2 p.m, four hours before show time. Although things cleared up quickly, the track was a lot different, and teams had to drive a lot more instead of relying solely on horsepower.
However, Dishman needed all the horsepower he could in the first round.
After seeing Norman and Hall move onto the next round, he lined up against Vaters Jr, and kept pace. Off the final jump, Dishman was slightly askew, but not to an extent to be concerned. He barely lost the round, but things took a drastic turn almost immediately after the truck landed past the finish.
In the center of the track, a hole was dug out as part of the terracross track, and seemed to be far enough away to not be a problem. But, Dishman suddenly found himself in trouble, as he caught the edge of the hole with the right side tires, and immediately found himself kicked up on the left side of the truck. He nailed the throttle with everything he could, and it began to come back down, but the kickback onto the right side tires was even worse. The truck appeared to be going over as the sidewalls of the Firestone tires, but he was not giving up.
With one of the tires suddenly packing some mud at the bead, the truck came back down on the ground, back up on the left side. By this time Dishman was facing back towards the turn 2 area, and was still trying to pull it back. Somehow, the Rammunition truck came back down, and the crowd roared it’s approval.
Dishman later said, “I was so far over I could touch the grass from the seat. Tim (Hall) keyed the radio telling me to keep going, and I was like, ‘I’m trying!’ After the first hit the steering began to go, so the second and third part of the save felt like I had no power steering.”
Immediately, Daniel Agosh, Tim Hall, and the rest of the HBR crew got equipment ready. Not only did they have to clean out the tire bead to add air, but the rear steering was not functioning properly. He wasn’t trying to just make it back for freestyle, but instead was told he was the fast loser. Somehow, he was fast enough to come back and still possibly win the event.
Ironically, the semi finals saw him take on Vaters Jr. once again, but this time he was in the near lane, and he powered his way to victory after the first jump. Meanwhile, Norman took advantage in his race when Hall got sideways on the final jump, making his first final round appearance in his career at the wheel of Bigfoot.
The stage was set, the comeback truck was taking on the original. Dishman was not even considering taking the lane closest to the hole, but knew Norman was fast in that lane as well. Both came to the line, focused on the light. At the hit of the throttle, both stayed even through the first hill. Each then poured on the power, almost being dead even over the second hill. At the finish, with about a tire to spare, Dishman somehow found his way to the top of the mountain. The crowd already was a buzz from the return of the Halls to the jamborees, but after Dishman’s save, return, and triumph, it appeared they had a favorite for the weekend, and Dishman welcomed the excellent start to 2018.
- ROUND 1: Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Black Stallion; Raminator def. General Tire; Overkill Evolution def. Rammunition.
- SEMI FINALS: Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Raminator; Rammunition (Fast Loser Rd. 1) def. Overkill Evolution.
- FINALS: Rammunition def. Lucas Oil Bigfoot.
When it came time for freestyle, the key was using momentum to thrill the crowd due to the lack of automobiles.
That seemed to strike a chord with Hall when he roared out on to the track, as his Hemi was screaming loud when he hit the track. He managed to pull off a pair of donuts on the course, something his teammate Kraehmer wasn’t able to do, and took to the step up jumps with ease.
He immediately made a statement, but suddenly Vaters Jr. roared from the pits, crossing up over the racing lanes, and almost putting the truck on it’s side going for a donut. He was looking to one-up Hall, but suddenly the truck sounded different, almost sputtering.
It turns out, the belt for the fuel pump came off, and the pump wasn’t getting the fuel to the engine. Officials rolled out to originally get Overkill Evolution out of the infield, but they decided against it as the obstacle he was going for was not blocked, and track officials felt the remaining drivers would use the Honor System and not hit him on purpose.
They did just that, as both Norman and Dishman put on stellar runs, with Dishman even pulling a bit of a wheelie on a few occasions. But, it was not enough to double down, but it was enough for the Hall Brothers to sweep the opening jamboree event, and state that fans wanted them back for a reason…to win.
Two shows are on the docket for Saturday’s festivities. The first is set for 1:30 p.m. as both racing and freestyle will take place. Then at 6:30 p.m. it will be a full-on freestyle showcase in the infield. Get those tickets and join in at the 4-Wheel Jamboree, and be sure to stay involved via the jamboree’s social media pages during the entire weekend.
40 Points for each round, 40 for victory. Racing wins in brackets, freestyle wins in italics.
- Rammunition – 160 
- Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 120
- Overkill Evolution – 80
- Raminator – 80 1
- General Tire – 40
- Black Stallion – 40