When the 2019 season came to a close on the jamboree tour, everyone was wondering exactly what Bonnier Corporation had planned as the new decade was nearing. The season saw many changes over the several months that saw Lima, Bloomsburg, and Indianapolis host events. Some things looked promising, while others were a struggle.
At the same time, no one could have predicted the unprecedented change that the entire nation faced when the COVID-19 pandemic was officially announced. What was a great start to an entire monster truck season suddenly came to a sudden halt. Trucks were in trailers, stadiums were empty, and shows canceled.
As the nation came to grips with a new way of living, even if it was temporary, the wonder of whether the roar and power of the monsters would return kept lingering.
Bonnier Corporation was not going to yield, especially since their season does not begin till mid-June. At the same time, the company itself has gone under an entire overhaul. New personnel are in place from the previous season, including a new sanctioning body. WHR Motorsports oversaw the infield competition for the monsters, tough trucks, and mud bogs. But, just recently, Bonnier Corporation announced that it would be USAC overseeing the infield action beginning in 2020. Having experience on dirt and with off-road competition, this is an entire new venture for USAC.
In doing so, they are incorporating some new things for the infield, including new layouts. The first show alone has a layout that has never been seen at any jamboree. Along with that, not only will there be the usual mud pit, off-road course for the tough trucks, but now there will also be a mega truck course for teams to run.
The monster truck racing competition will run the same course as the mega trucks, but also has a lot more options in the infield for their freestyle competition.
As always, the hope is to have a tough field of drivers that will not only race one another hard, but fair, and also put on a show for the crowd when it came time to turn loose in freestyle. Many of these drivers have not even been in their trucks since early March when the show slate across the country came to a halt. Drivers are eager to get back behind the wheel, not just for the sake of the fans, but also for themselves since they have to knock a little rust off.
The pandemic has made it a rough few months for the country, and having some type of normalcy could be something everyone could use right now.
So who is going to be hitting the track, and tearing up dirt, when the season officially kicks off? Here is the 2020 lineup for the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags:
One of the major staples of these shows has been some HEMI power, and this year is no exception. Last year, Mat Dishman poured on the power when he put the Raminator body on his chassis and let loose on the field. In doing so, he appeared in all but two final rounds all season, winning five of those appearances.
It was one of the most dominating seasons of any Ram truck in recent memory, and he did so after declaring that he was stepping aside from the full-time grind of monster truck action. He left on a positive note, and even comes by the shop to do some vinyl work for the team.
This year, Mark Hall is bringing his chassis to compete against a strong field of competitors, and is doing so with an entire new Ram body. As has been tradition with the Hall Brothers, when the real-life trucks get an upgrade in looks, the monster version soon follows. This year, the team trucks are stocked up with the new 2020 design Rams, and being the leader of the pack for the Hall Brothers, Hall’s truck is standing proud with the new 2020 Power Wagon stance.
Whether he can, or will, equal the success of his then-teammate, will be to be determined. However, the HEMI power will be tough to beat, something many a competitor has discovered over the years.
Carrying the title sponsor of the Monster Truck Thunder Drags is a challenge for anyone, but to be called upon to do so as a rookie driver adds that much more pressure.
In 2018, that was what Kurt Kraehmer was tabbed to do when he took over as the lead man in the General Tire monster truck. Although nervous, he felt confident. Three years later, he’s shown he can handle the responsibility of carrying such an important name, while also promoting a popular brand of tire. Kraehmer has become a competitor that when one lines up against in racing, they have to be extremely alert as he’s very quick on the lights.
His freestyle performances have gotten stronger as his experience grew, including many opportunities last season that saw him drag the wheelie bar across the gravel and point the nose of the truck to the sky. Although one of those wheelies resulted in a rollover, one that initially scared Kraehmer’s wife, Davi, but he recovered and came back soon after to perform a full freestyle as if nothing had occurred.
Kraehmer spent the shortened first-quarter schedule with Feld Entertainment, taking home a few skills challenge victories, and that alone showed that in his short time driving, he’s become quite the wheelman.
The General Tire body is going back on his chassis once more this season, and seeing how much he’s progressed will mean this year could be an enormous one for the young driver.
Hoping to bring a little smoke to the show, this time for more than just one, is what many consider the original “Diesel Dave” in the XDP team with Dave Radzierez. After spending a couple years running an alcohol engine in his machine, Radzierez made the swap back to a newer designed, common-rail Cummins powerplant.
This newer engine yielded less smoke, better throttle response, and actually an opportunity to run indoors. But, it also proved to be a hard engine on parts…outside of the engine.
The chassis, driveline, and transfer case among others were being broken left and right, and even Radzierez admitted he was taking away power not for performance, but to try and save parts. It was far too much than even he anticipated. Entering 2020, it appeared Xtreme Diesel was going to be doing a few performances during the winter tour, but then Radzierez got an opportunity he could not pass up in taking the wheel of Bigfoot #21 on the Toughest Monster Truck Tour.
All the while, he knew his truck was looking to potentially get a major upgrade. Radzierez was looking to get a new chassis for the new season, one that could handle the power of the new engine, and all the components it takes to make it run. His current truck has been competing since 2012, and he outright admitted it’s run it’s course. As to what kind of chassis he’s looking into, he wants a more modern one to handle the abuse he knows he will put it through.
If that becomes a reality, without a doubt, the jamborees will certainly get…Xtreme.
It’s been a few years since any truck on the jamboree tour has sported a classic style body, as the last was Tim Mente’s Storm Damage that ran a classic Chevrolet square body. This year, a classic look is coming from one of the newest, and some say most sleek, trucks to come out.
A world-record holder in his own right, it will be the jamboree return of Joe Sylvester in his entirely new Bad Habit Ford “dent side.” The last time Sylvester ran any jamboree event was back in 2007, his second year as a driver, and to say he was a newcomer was an understatement. But since then, he’s set a world record not once, but twice, before taking a break from the sport on a full-time basis in 2014.
During his time away, Sylvester spent a lot of time running late models and sprint cars in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, before finding his own niche, or nest egg, in a sense when he opened up his coffee shop, High Octane Coffee. With three locations in eastern Ohio, he is feeling confident in a stable future. But the itch, and the desire, to be at the wheel never left.
It was 2013 when Sylvester set the world record for the long jump in his prior Bad Habit truck, but this new piece that he debuted last year in Las Vegas is one of the most incredible pieces to come out in recent years. The classic body with the black, orange, and purple accents stands out among many machines, and every bit of the truck has his own touches, from paint to welding, right down to the smallest details.
Sylvester spent a few weekends already at the wheel of his new machine, but the pandemic brought his winter tour to a halt, and also forced his cafes to go from a dine-in option to strictly drive-thru. Yet, he is ready to unleash his Ford on his competitors, while also showing the fans that he is quite the barista.
His return to the jamborees will be a lot different than his first experience. In fact, everyone should be a bit worried. He has a bad habit, and a heavy right foot. Could prove key in close races.
It was 2017 when fans last saw a bit of a sting at the jamborees, as Zane Rettew had his then-Stinger 3.0 in attendance. One year later, that chassis ultimately got a bit of a retirement, when he decided to invest in the parts that he felt would help him compete against the more modern chassis, and more modern competitions.
In the last few years, his field of trucks has expanded from a two-truck operation into a four-truck field of strong equipment.
This year, Rettew invested in an all-new chassis, similar to what Sylvester is running, and has shown to be extremely strong, although not many shows have come for him to compete. The Stinger chassis he ran in 2018, it is now the one his wife drives (more on that in a bit). The chassis he ran last season is becoming a new machine, set to debut later this year. Although he did have to use it as a substitute when he new truck had to go in the engine shop.
The new Stinger Unleashed is the sixth truck in the Stinger lineage, and it looks as though this one is going to last a while. Rettew is ready to get back to the jamborees after having a strong showing three years ago, this time with an opportunity in equal equipment to his competitors.
Hopefully no one gets stung in the process.
As mentioned above, Rettew’s team has expanded in vast numbers. His Stinger 2.0 chassis has become Master of Disaster, one that has been used in a steel wall stunt last year. The 3.0 chassis has been sold, and Zane’s old chassis is now becoming the new Bearly Tame truck in the stable.
As for the first Stinger Unleashed, that chassis is still running strong. But now, his “better half” is the one in the seat, with her own identity.
Lindsey Rettew debuted as a driver last winter, and fans even had an opportunity to decide on what her truck was going to be. The fans decided on a very appropriate name, especially for what was coming, Pretty Wicked. The truck had to have some pink in it, and the new wrap certainly had some additions. But, the truck was getting a look all it’s own.
The body went old school, but with a twist. Although the nose replicates the dent-side Fords made famous in the 70’s, the actual body is instead a soft top Bronco. The truck was an immediate hit among adults who love classic trucks, and kids who love bright colors. It’s been seven years since the field of trucks had a female driver, dating back to Michelle Simpson when she drove Chalkboard Chuck.
It is certainly going to make for a “Pretty Wicked” experience this summer.
It is not often that a historic name gets to return to a series that in a sense helped make it’s name. However, for one weekend, that opportunity will take place.
It was 1999 when the Samson name was last at any jamboree, and piloted by now Hall of Fame inductee Dan Patrick. One year later, the name was not seen at many of the jamboree shows, and by 2001, was not on the lineup list anywhere. All the while, Patrick campaigned the same truck that he had been running since the mid-90’s, with it’s powerful engine and still utilizing the rear cantilever suspension that he developed back in his time with Bigfoot when he was involved in developing Bigfoot #8. He ran that chassis through 2008 when he upgraded his own truck to the newer edition PEI chassis at the time.
That truck is still running today, but has seen a couple new shoes at the wheel. After Patrick retired, his daughter, Allison, took over driving duties for a while. But as her career took off elsewhere, it was Rick Steffens taking over the ride, and showing that the Samson arms are still as strong as ever.
He showcased that this winter when he ran the Europe Hot Wheels Tour, as Samson for a few months became the Tiger Shark, and showed even with new skin, the truck was just as strong as ever.
For one jamboree, the Samson machine is getting a chance to showcase the strong arms and power is still there, and could be playing spoiler with a historic name.
The only uncertainty with this season is timing, as all three jamborees are in different states, and each state is trying it’s hardest to reopen it’s economy, and activities for all citizens. The pandemic has shuttered all kinds of entertainment, but the hope remains that all three jamborees will be happening as scheduled. The sanctioning body has stated they will work to ensure all three events take place.
It’s a new era for the jamboree, with a new layout for the infield competitions, and a new crew to oversee the action. The time has come to move away from the pandemic, and get ready for some power.
2020 4-Wheel Jamboree Schedule
- A&A Auto Stores 4-Wheel Jamboree Summer Nationals: July 10-12
- Bloomsburg Fairgrounds-Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
- O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Fall Nationals: September 18-20
- Indiana State Fairgrounds-Indianapolis, Indiana
- O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Ohio Nationals: October 23-25*
- Allen County Fairgrounds-Lima, Ohio
*With the state of Ohio under stay-at-home orders through the end of May due to the pandemic, Bonnier Corporation moved the Ohio 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals from it’s original dates of June 12-14 to late October. This is the second time in the last 15 years a jamboree has been moved from it’s original dates. The previous time was the Bloomsburg jamboree in 2006, as it was moved from its normal July weekend to August due to flooding. All tickets that were sold for the June dates will be honored for the new weekend, and all participant registration will roll over as well.
Fans that are unable to attend the new dates, refunds will be issued.