The sunset skies gave way to a morning bliss for everyone that attended the first day of the A&A Auto Stores 4-Wheel Jamboree in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The temperatures were comfortable, and the action was intense, meaning that everyone was yearning for more.
As is typical with the summer event at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, the second day has the most action, meaning a crowd was going to fill in big when the action started.
Before any action started, one team was still doing work on one of the monsters.
In his first race at Bloomsburg since 2016, Dave Radzierez brought out his new-look Xtreme Diesel and was the first to hit the track. In doing so, he hit so hard that parts decided to make an exit. At night’s end, Radzierez and his crew chief/main woman, Michelle Simpson, had to tear apart the front end of his Ram Heavy Duty. As he’s discovered with his new setup, the center section of his axle housing, right where the power from the driveshaft meets the locker, broke once again, and it meant tearing down the hubs, planetaries, and also taking the driveshaft out in order to take apart the gears.
Not only did they and their crew have to have that replaced, but also discovered the transmission was having issues, meaning another new part going in, and the common-rail Cummins engine also was sounding a bit off. All this had to be done before a 1 p.m. showtime, meaning it was going to be a tight window in order to make it.
Team Evo was hard at it into the night as Mikey Vaters Jr. broke part of the planetary in Overkill Evolution, but by Saturday morning the team had everything buttoned up and ready to roll. Everyone else was locked and loaded, including the Bigfoot team as Christian Norman was ready to go 2-for-2 in racing in his Lucas Oil “Wildfoot.”
By the time the afternoon show rolled out, and the massive crowd filed in, Radzierez and team were still in the pits, meaning they were not going to make the call for racing, but they were going to try and make it out in time for the best trick competition and freestyle.
Racing on the Penda-style track proved difficult on Friday, and it was no different on Saturday afternoon as the ramps were still as steep, but had less of a kicker at the peak. By then, teams were adapting better, and with everyone in their seats ready to hear almost 10,000 horsepower come to life, racing was on in the hot, summer sun.
Norman had a quick pass into the second round after Kurt Kraehmer in the General Tire machine had a rough hit over the first hill. He would move on to face Vaters Jr. after he drew the number for the bye-run with Radzierez sidelined. Meanwhile, Mat Dishman was trying to inch his way back into victory lane in Raminator, and started with a win over the Black Stallion and Mike Vaters Sr.
The semi-finals began with an all-Ford battle that lived up to all the hype.
The Ford Raptor of Norman squared off with the Super Duty of Vaters Jr, and both were in it right to the last jump, hitting even and at practically the same speed. Neither driver knew who won it, whether it was Bigfoot or Evo, and officials waited a few minutes to hear the official call. In the end, it was Vaters Jr. getting credited for the win. It was so close, fans on the front stretch felt the nose of Overkill Evolution hit the finish first, but those on the backstretch felt it was the opposite way. In any instance, the official win went to Vaters Jr, and another trip to the finals.
Dishman then made his way to the finals after defeating his teammate, meaning it was coming down to the same final that closed out Lima last month.
But in this instance, a bit of a slip by the Ram led the way for Vaters Jr. to cruise to the finish line and take home his first racing win on the season, and also meant he was heading to the final spot in freestyle.
- Round 1: Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. General Tire; Overkill Evolution BYE RUN; Raminator def. Black Stallion.
- Semi-Finals: Overkill Evolution def. Lucas Oil Bigfoot; Raminator def. General Tire (FL).
- Finals: Overkill Evolution def. Raminator.
As the tough trucks made their qualifying rounds, the black and yellow Ram of Radzierez rolled into the pit area, and seemed as though they would make freestyle, as officials decided due to time constraints that the best trick competition would be omitted for the afternoon. For Radzierez, it didn’t make a difference, as he began rolling quietly from his pit, and about 12 feet later stopped, with no sign of the engine firing. All that effort, for nothing.
Following the event, Radzierez was disgusted, but also knew what the issue was.
“We did all that work, worked that hard, and the starter went,” he said. The focus now was trying to find a starter for his truck prior to show time later on, which was seeming easier said than done.
As the field made their runs for the Bloomsburg faithful, it was seeming as though it was coming down to a battle between Norman’s big-air assault and Dishman’s wheelie-dragging ride. But, Vaters Jr. rolled from the pit and crawled up onto the big double hill that was diagonal across the frontstretch, but the nose facing the crowd. With a burp of the throttle, he popped the rear of the truck in the air, and suddenly held the truck for a period of time on the nose, creeping across the gravel before finally electing to pull the truck back on all fours before heading out for a run that was kicking up dust like a tornado.
He would clear the racing tabletops with one hit, and crossed up over the big hill in turn 2, and then decided to go with some “Ryan Anderson craziness” as he termed it by slapping the truck in a drift onto the big obstacles. His last one, ultimately, ended his afternoon as the truck caught the hill at just the right spot, and left the truck perfectly on it’s side of the cab and sidewalls of the right side tires. Vaters waited till the track crew pulled his truck back down before firing back up, and rolling in front of the fans, saluting for a freestyle victory that was clearly deserving.
As the trucks cooled down, the work began, and just as quickly ended for some.
Kraehmer’s freestyle was strong in the afternoon, but part of it came with a broken rear axle. Yet, while he was signing autographs, the crew literally had the truck in the air, with the tire off and were in the process of putting in a new piece. In what seemed like only moments, which actually was about a half-hour repair session, his truck was ready to go for what was to be the big event of the day.
At the same time, Radzierez had the great fortune, something he had not experienced all weekend, of getting some help from a fellow team.
The Bigfoot camp used the same starter as Radzierez, with a slightly different setup because of the alcohol engine vs. the diesel. So, they got the spare they had in the hauler, and the XDP team swapped out some components, and indeed the truck was fixed, and was in fact going to freestyle as part of the “Freestyle Fireworks Finale” on Saturday evening.
Little did the fans know that as the sun set on the horizon, and the lights came on around the speedway, that the track crew and officials had a special night in store for them.
It was 2013 when it was last done by the entire field, and the prior year it was one team that decided to put on a memorable performance, and now, it was returning. Not only were the fans that baked in the sun since 9 a.m. experiencing everything the jamboree had to offer going to see all six trucks freestyle, but they were going to see all six trucks freestyle…two at a time. On tap for the night…tandem performances.
Up first from the pits was Vaters in his Black Stallion, and Radzierez. Vaters seemed to be getting his groove going early, but everyone was watching Radzierez to see if he was going to ride easy, or just put it on kill for the first time since he missed so much of the action. Turns out, we all knew what was coming.
On his third hit, Radzierez skied the Ram and landed on the back side of the double, and heard a rattle. Everyone heard the rattle, as he pulled off while Vaters began making a run that many had not seen from him in years. A solid start to the night, but more repairs were coming. Simpson did a once-over on the truck, and discovered the carrier bearing for the driveshaft had shattered, which meant the rattling was the driveshaft being contained in the safety loops. But, unlike last night, she and the team were waiting until the morning to make the repairs, since it was not a fix that was going to take a lot of time.
Up next to double up was Hall Brothers Racing, as Kraehmer and Dishman hit the track to put on a 4000-horsepower clinic.
Dishman was dragging his wheelie bar, while Kraehmer was taking it easy on the equipment due to visibility problems, and also the new parts on his truck. Both trucks finished with a crossover in front of the stands that finished with both Rams nose-to-nose to greet the fans, and acknowledge their solid performances.
Then, the Ford camp came to play, but in a different fashion.
It was Vaters Jr. coming out first, and again hitting the popper as earlier. But, he couldn’t carry it as long as the truck traveled almost to the fence, and he had to drop the truck back to the tires before going out and blasting the racing lanes. He would cross over both finish line jumps before Norman suddenly roared out of the pits, hammering the racing lanes and carrying a solid wheelie into the infield.
Both Fords would run hard, quick, and in the end, came to park nose to nose after Norman skied over the double, which was the signal to set off the fireworks to the sky for everyone to enjoy.
As to who won, it was safe to say that Norman and Vaters Jr. had the best tandem run of the night, but the real winners were the folks in the stands who waited out a long, hot, day and got an exciting finish to an incredible day.
One final performance remains on the weekend, a 3 p.m. finale of racing, tricks, and freestyle for all six trucks. The final show usually means there’s nothing left to hold back for, and as we’ve seen over the last few years, the unexpected can and will happen, and happen in a big way.
Strap in, as this one is going to be one that not one person should miss for anything.
POINT STANDINGS* (5 of 9 Events)-Wins in Brackets
*Points are unofficial
- Raminator – 720 
- Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 520 
- Overkill Evolution – 520 
- General Tire – 280
- Bad News Travels Fast – 240
- Black Stallion – 240
- Xtreme Diesel – 40
Overkill Evolution – 2
Bad News Travels Fast – 1
General Tire – 1
Overkill Evolution – 5
Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 3