At every 4-Wheel Jamboree event, the day with the most activities, the largest schedule, and the biggest crowds is always the Saturday program. Gates open one hour earlier than they do on Friday, which means the fans begin filling the walkways rather quickly.
When the skies are shining bright, it brings them out even more, as they have a reason to get out, enjoy the sunshine, and be among family, friends, and individuals that may share similar interests in the 4×4 industry.
But, the one thing that every fan that walks into the gate looks forward to is when the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags fire up to compete in the infield. They look forward to doing so on Saturdays because that means not just one event on the docket, but it means two. It also means two chances for teams to possibly break parts, meaning late nights to get things set for the final show.
Even one show was a challenge at this year’s Bloomsburg 4-Wheel Jamboree. At the conclusion of Friday’s show, the Hall Brothers team had to do some repairs to the back of the lead truck, Mark Hall’s Raminator. His broken axle didn’t hinder his performance in freestyle, but not being able to put the power to both rear tires would not do in racing. Meanwhile, the Vaters Motorsports camp had to go full-tilt on repairs to Overkill Evolution.
Michael Vaters Jr. won his opening round of racing, but pulled into the big garage area outside the track area. The result of his landing past the finish line shattered the rear end in the Ford Super Duty, and it was everyone lending a hand to get things fixed.
Even the HBR camp, and Bigfoot, pitched in with equipment to get the popular machine in running order for Saturday.
They did just that after being up until just past 1 a.m. but it also meant that when the trucks rolled out for the early program, every driver was in attendance ready to chase after the second win of the weekend.
The guy everyone was chasing to start the Saturday slate was Christian Norman, as he worked his way into victory lane for the first time behind the wheel of the Lucas Oil Bigfoot on Friday night, and he was craving another taste of triumph. He worked his way through the first round by taking out Vaters Jr, while Hall dispatched Mike Vaters in the Black Stallion. The feel-good run of the first round was when Kurt Kraehmer achieved his first victory of his career in the General Tire sponsored Ram 1500, taking down Tim Mente in Storm Damage.
But, Vaters Jr. was the one coming back as the fast loser, and he was on it for the semi-finals, redeeming himself as he defeated Norman to enter the finals.
Ironically the man he was facing in the finals was the man he defeated in the Saturday finals at Lima, Hall. The Raminator did not get past the Overkill Evolution beast in both final round appearances in Lima, so Hall was looking to get that monkey off his back, and also get his first jamboree win in almost three years.
Both trucks launched off the line hard, just as everyone was doing on the hard-packed dirt. Each not giving an inch. Hall poured on the HEMI power, while Vaters Jr. hammered down on his Roush-Yates powerplant. At the finish, it was literally so close, no one could call it. Even officials had trouble calling it. They had to rely on photos from the photographers and the video from the 4-Wheel Jamboree camera to officially call a winner.
With the difference being almost the depth of the emblem on the front of the truck, Vaters Jr. somehow pulled out the victory from the losers bracket, and erased the calamity of the previous night.
However, the fans wanted more, and they got it when freestyle time had arrived. Norman provided the early highlights with some high-flying, and even chassis-twisting hits, but the #18 chassis from the Bigfoot team absorbed every hit, every landing, and every hit of the throttle with ease.
Hall was next-to-last to perform, and followed up his runner-up finish with a really strong run that included a short wheelie, and two strong sets of donuts. Unfortunately the run ended early when the RII kill switch came loose on the back of the truck, but still he got a roar from the crowd.
But no roar was louder than after Vaters Jr. came to the track. After giving a slow moving wave to the fans on the backstretch, he turned toward the inside pod in turn 2, and hammered the short side, clearing the stack with so much ease, the underside of the tires was level with the lower canopy on the stage area.
He wasn’t done yet, as he powered to the racing lanes, hitting the backside nearly full-tilt, grabbing so much air the fans at the top of the open bleachers were looking at the driveshafts.
Every hit was on the loud pedal, and at one point he caught one of the corner tires that was in the tough truck course, but rather than take it easy, he ran over it and bicycled the truck for nearly 60 feet, and the EcoWork tires bit in the dirt without the truck going on it’s side. He continued for another pair of hits on the pod, clearing it with so much ease, and finally sliding to a stop right in front of the stands. The homeowners that erected makeshift bleachers on the backstretch behind the fence could hear the roar of the crowd all the way across the track, clearly knowing he had completed the afternoon double down.
- Round 1: General Tire def. Storm Damage; Raminator def. Black Stallion; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. Overkill Evolution
- Semi-Finals: Raminator def. General Tire; Overkill Evolution def. Lucas Oil Bigfoot
- Finals: Overkill Evolution def. Raminator
Bloomsburg is the most unique jamboree when it comes to the two-show format as the time between the finish of show one and the beginning of show two is an extra two hours apart compared to it’s other jamboree counterparts. The reason the second Saturday show begins so late is due to the fact the Saturday night show closed with a fireworks extravaganza.
On this night, the second show began at just about 8:30 p.m. and that was both a blessing, and a downfall. At the same time that the monsters ran, so to was the stock tough trucks. By luck, only one truck was towed away, with the rest completing their runs.
But the skies were becoming dark, and the infield of the fairgrounds had very limited lighting, so in some areas, a view of the track was difficult to see. It was so dark at some points the photographers decided to put down their cameras, except when the lighting was to their liking, and simply enjoy the performances.
Mente, Kraehmer, and Vaters all had solid runs, but then Norman came out and finally was able to do something no truck had been able to do all weekend to that point.
He hammered the backside of the pod on the small hill, and when he landed the rebound was enough to finally get the #18 chassis to stand up on the wheelie bar, and drag it across the dirt. The fans seemed to enjoy seeing the gold Ford Raptor drag the tail, but two trucks remained to run.
Hall came roaring from the pits, turning on the LED light bar on the front to assist in the run. But he suddenly stopped in the corner, as if something broke. But, the truck was still running, and officials didn’t see a reason to shut him off. Every fan, and the officials, waited to see what was taking place. Whatever had caused Hall to suddenly stop dead in his tire tracks was fixed rather quickly, and he then tore back onto the track with authority, sliding the Ram Laramie Limited through the dirt with a great set of donuts, and even came to the front stands to pull a slap wheelie, with the landing after being so hard the front mounts on the hood came loose.
The run came to an end with the crowd happy, especially since Hall and his team were not here a year ago to compete. But, now the anticipation built up, as in the pit area in turn 3, the blue neon lights suddenly came on, and onto the track came Vaters Jr, and he was not wasting any time.
His first hit was on a racing lane, clearing a distance that seemed to be half the length of the track. Vaters Jr. then swung in a loop, almost getting on the side, and went after the pod, but did so with a heavy right foot, and cleared the entire obstacle. The truck seemed to be begging for more punishment, and he delivered. Every move was fast-paced, every hit was both hard, but timed just right.
One of the final hits from Vaters came on the racing lanes, but in a way no one had done yet. He broad-sided the far side of the left lane, but hit the dirt with such speed, he cleared the entire width of the racing surface, landing midway between the tough truck hill, and the dip in the grass that fair officials added earlier in the year to help drain any water that often caused “Lake Bloomsburg” in years past.
The final hit from Vaters saw two things happen. First, he hit so hard that on the landing the left front tire popped, something the team would need to work on for Sunday. Second, his hit saw the officials kill the lights, and the fireworks went skyward for the fans to enjoy. It was a rare hat trick for the monster truck industry, but Vaters Jr. now had a pair of them on the season, and the second freestyle victory came with an added benefit.
One final show remains on the weekend, and should Vaters Jr. claim the final freestyle victory, that would give him six wins on the year. Both Bigfoot and Raminator each have one on the season, meaning one more victory from the Maryland-born driver officially would lock him in as the season champion. It is very rare a driver locks up a title long before the final event, but this is a special driver, with unprecedented talent. It could very well happen.
That final event comes on Sunday at 3 p.m. Be sure to come and see if the Alien Nation has one more reason to celebrate.
40 Points for each round, 40 for victory. Racing wins in brackets, freestyle wins in italics.
- Overkill Evolution – 600  5
- Raminator – 560 1
- Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 480  1
- Rammunition – 320 
- Black Stallion – 280
- General Tire – 280
- Storm Damage – 80