The fourth installment in my Horsepower Rewind series is again heading back to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. But, I’m doing so in a way before I got into this business, and was just going as a fan to enjoy my time away from work. This time, however, it is not about the competition, or a moment on the track. Instead, it was what was outside the infield that took the headlines.
For those that know my usual summer vacation, the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds has been almost a second home for three days in July. During this time frame, the summer heat seems to really kick in, and the humidity turns up higher, sometimes getting the better of many in attendance.
That being said, not every weekend was always so warm, and filled with sunshine and happiness.
This week’s Horsepower Rewind takes me back to 2009, a weekend where the lineup saw trucks come from the south and west come compete on the three-jump race course.
After an overcast evening that first day, the second day was looking…decent. Overcast skies may have welcomed the fans for a majority of the day, but as the afternoon progressed, things were not looking as though they would remain that way. The Hall Brothers team decided to play it safe, as they had their then-newer truck cover by their semi to put the trucks under a makeshift roof. Dan Runte, along with the rest of the Bigfoot crew, ran the first day and the afternoon performance, without the tonneau cover over the back of the truck to protect the engine. But, even the top team thus far through the weekend had a feeling things were not going to stay calm.
Never before were these precautions more accurate.
As the afternoon went on, the skies remained overcast, but got darker, and darker. By the time the scheduled 6 p.m. racing performance was ready to go, there was a pucker of rain. Suddenly, the emcee of the event got on the microphone and told the fairground goers to seek shelter as a heavy thunderstorm was approaching. Fair staff even opened the underside of the grandstands to hold enough fans, and also keep them from being on the metal seats.
Me, I rushed underneath the souvenir tent, watching across the walkway at the Hall Brothers souvenir hauler to see how much rain was falling.
At that point, Niagara Falls decided to make it’s move from being in New York to Pennsylvania.
The sound of the rain on the roof was intense, everyone huddled up away from the concrete, just waiting for the rain to finally subside. After what seemed like an eternity, which in reality was a good 20 minutes of rain and thunder, the storm passed, and slowly people began making their way back out to the walkways to see what all was damaged, or lost.
Enough rain fell to nearly bury part of the tires on the haulers, a good 2-3 inches.
The track crew did not have hardly any time to get the track prepared, so rather than do two events to close out Saturday, it was decided to combine the programs and start the action at shortly after 7:30 p.m. But, that even was not without some intense moments.
Racing certainly was a slick, and tough, bracket as Scott Hartsock proved in the opening race as he took the victory, but finished with plowing through a small river that developed. That river was there to help drain some of the water that had fell to a drain by the stage, but the amount of water that fell certainly was more than what the drain was capable of.
Still, the racing program continued, but off in the distance, some could see not just ominous skies, but also some ominous weather. Even though it was not in the direction of the fairgrounds, videos later surfaced that a small tornado had developed, meaning that even more heavy rain was on the way.
As the night concluded with Bill Payne upsetting the field in a racing victory, it was decided only a few trucks would do freestyle for the night.
Up first was Chris Bergeron in the General Tire sponsored machine, and it was clear in order to freestyle on this night, especially with buffed tires, it was about keeping the rubber spinning. Bergeron did that well, and decided at the end of the run, cut it loose.
He ripped the wheel hard to the right, and spun into a set of cyclones that went on for over 30 seconds, burping the throttle to settle the truck down and then continue to spin the tires.
Runte then came out in Bigfoot to put on a run, which for him was an advantage as he bolted on his then-year old deep cleat Firestones on the back of the Ford Super Duty to get traction in the mud and wet grass. But, as he was running, the skies began opening up again. Off the lights you could see the rain beginning to pick up more, and more. Runte’s run was strong, and with only one other truck left to perform, it was either get the run in fast, or call it a night.
Luckily, Jim Koehler decided to make it a strong run on the night in the rain since it was what the fans anticipated from him.
His run was strong, and as he slid into the big puddle near turn three, the fireworks went off in the skies. But, hardly anyone was looking up. Instead, they were running like they were in the Boston Marathon to the parking lot, as the skies suddenly opened up a second time and poured on the entire fairgrounds. The rush was on to get to the parking lot, out of the weather, and to the hotel.
It certainly made for a wild finish to the night, but it was only day two. Day three had it’s on unique twist.
After all that rain on Saturday night, Sunday morning had a much different look. As I woke up at my hotel in Danville, just eight miles from the fairgrounds, the skies were blue. Not one cloud was even remotely trying to show in the sky. The temperatures were comfortable, and no rain was slated to show up at any point.
As I walked through the fairgrounds, sure the signs of the rain were still there, with mud in the parking lot and damp spots on the asphalt in the cruise lanes.
I had the opportunity to go around the infield just prior to the mud drags, and surprisingly the track itself was not in bad condition, but there was a much-noted spot in the infield that could not vanish from the rain the night before. This would be the first moment that “Lake Bloomsburg” made it’s appearance. But, unlike a couple years ago, there was no flock of geese that decided to fly in and make it home.
At the end of Sunday’s performance, Koehler decided to not only win freestyle, but went out with a pair of splashes. After seeing Runte drive through the pond to “clean” the Bigfoot truck so the crew didn’t have to, Koehler decided to blast through the pond to the delight of the crowd. However, he was not done yet.
By this point in his career, especially when in Las Vegas, Koehler’s signature was taking a dip in the water obstacle even after a rough run.
It wasn’t the World Finals, and it certainly wasn’t Las Vegas, but Koehler stepped onto the hood of his Avenger Bel-Air, and at that point took a dive into the pond, to the delight of the crowd.
Since then, Bloomsburg has seen a couple really rough thunderstorms come through on occasion for the jamboree weekend, but nothing has really compared to running to escape some rain, another run through the rain to get to the parking lot, and the sight of seeing a small tornado off in the distance.