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.
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 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.
On Wednesday, June 24, it was announced that Zane Rettew and the Stinger Unleashed team would not be attending or competing at the 4-Wheel Jamborees for 2020. Rettew will announce his update for the team later on, but stated in part, “We fully stand committed to safety of this industry, for the fans, crew and us drivers. We will not bend or buckle even if it means losing bookings.”
Rettew did not elaborate as he wanted to do so via video when able.
Currently this leaves two open spots in the field for all jamborees. With less than three weeks remaining until the Bloomsburg event, which has safety protocol in place for Covid-19, filling the void will be a challenge.
Check back for updates when available.
MONSTER TRUCKS: In the days since the Rettew team decided to not attend any of the jamborees, the Bonnier Corporation crew announced not just new trucks and drivers, but landed an extreme addition to the overall field.
On Thursday, it was announced that at least for Bloomsburg, a strong tandem would be making a first-time trip to the show. The team trucks of Fast Metal and Bad Company are coming to duel with the monsters. In the cockpit of Bad Company, a sleek and stylish 2017 Chevrolet Silverado Z71, is John Gordon. Although new to the jamboree circuit, he’s proven over the last several years that he is one of the more capable and strongest drivers on the circuit. Gordon himself was one of the chosen drivers to compete last year at the Monster Jam All-Star Challenge, holding his own at the special event.
With how challenging the track is expected to be, both in racing and in freestyle, Gordon is going to be one guy that could surprise many.
However, the other truck in his stable is going to be piloted by someone who not only knows how to win a the top level, but is also one guy that is more known for his work behind the scenes in the pits and in fabrication.
Teamed up with Bad Company is the new Fast Metal machine, a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500, but the man that is going to be at the wheel is former Young Guns Shootout champion, Coty Saucier.
If that name sounds familiar, it should, as he took home that title in 2015 at the wheel of Monster Energy, and just last fall, at the same All-Star Challenge, he would pilot the same machine to victory in the Vegas-style racing event. But as good as he is at the wheel, what he does extremely well is fabrication in the pits, specifically being able to wrench and tune the suspension for many of the trucks that Monster Jam ran during the winter tour.
Unfortunately for Saucier, when the pandemic struck, he was one of those that had to be furloughed, meaning he was not tuning or wrenching on anything except his own daily drivers. But, he’s not physically driven since early March. That said, he is getting behind the wheel of a familiar style chassis, and he can tune the truck to his suiting, which will likely lead to some possible victories over the course of the weekend.
TEAM ANDERSON: Above I mentioned that Gordon will be pulling double duty at certain points over the weekend. In addition to being at the wheel of Bad Company, will be part of the new mega truck competition in the infield, as these trucks are around half the size of the big monsters, but have just as much horsepower, if not more. Gordon’s mega truck, Boss Hog, is gonna be a tough machine to beat as has been seen on television programs and other events where Gordon is not piloting his big machine.
However, the update says “Team Anderson” for a reason. Gordon is part of the mega truck team based out of North Carolina, and when it comes to that state, one name comes to mind…Dennis Anderson. Yes, THAT, Dennis Anderson, who made famous the Grave Digger phenomenon that continues to grow to this day. However, much of Dennis’ driving days are behind him, especially after a serious accident a few years back.
But, one just can’t stay away, especially when it comes to mud and big tires. So, Anderson has spent his time away from the monsters, but went back to the mud. Just last year, he resurrected his latest mega truck that he ran in the last decade before selling it to a private owner. Now, his entirely new, and evil, King Sling is coming to Bloomsburg for competition in racing, bogging, and maybe a little freestyle.
With Dennis not driving, the one taking the wheel is actually family, his youngest son, Weston. Known as “Teeny Man,” this 17-year-old has shown he can not only handle his dad’s truck, but he actually is almost prepared to be at the wheel of the big machine. However, for this event, he’s taking over his dad’s truck that he built, and also had the fans vote on for the debut body color.
As to which color the truck is going to be for the show, purple or green, is uncertain. What is certain…parts of that body may be left laying in the infield at the conclusion of the weekend.
The Bloomsburg Jamboree will have Covid-19 safety measures in place. Fans attending the event will be required to have a mask for entry, and to wear said masks when social distancing cannot occur. However, it is noted that fans ARE NOT required to wear masks the entire time they are at the event. Soap and hand sanitizer will be available to use, and many of the common areas will get more regular cleaning such as the restrooms and the marketplace.
Indoor spaces such as the vendor areas will be monitored to ensure social distancing, and said distancing is asked to be used in the grandstands.
Bonnier Corporation has said the event will go on as scheduled, and with just over two weeks until the big show, it is shaping up to be one of the more wild events fans will see in the last several years.