All summer and into the fall, all that many people wanted to do is simply get out. Being forced to stay home, then potentially finally seeing a way to get out, only to see it ripped away, has taken away many vacation opportunities for so many folks. Amusement parks either limited capacity, or never opened, while beaches had to space out those on the sand and in the water.
No place has this been more hurt than motorsports, who absolutely live off performing in front of crowds.
From drag racing to sprint cars, NASCAR and motocross, all had to perform without fans, but still have a virtual audience. But for monster trucks, their livelihood is on the crowds, since soaring through the air and crushing cars seems meaningless when there’s no one screaming for more action in the seats.
Bonnier Corporation took a chance, with restrictions, and put on the 4-Wheel Jamboree at Bloomsburg, and despite fewer attendees mainly due to the uncertainty of whether the event would happen, it had a large draw, and according to news reports no spike in virus infections.
That said, the Bloomsburg event and the event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, are two completely different animals. The big event in Indianapolis is an enormous draw for folks across the east and midwest. Even folks from the southern area of the country make the trip out to the fairgrounds. The venue has so much space for show trucks, competition area, and room to put on a show that it is expected in Indianapolis. But, in order to do that, all individuals entering the grounds each day had to be temperature checked, and once cleared had to wear a mask at all times.
Surprisingly, all were following, although for security it was a challenge to keep it enforced, but they were doing all they could, and the fans were obliging.
The competition in the infield again ranged from the tough trucks to the bogs, a burnout contest, and even the return of the mega trucks that included once again the Anderson Boys of North Carolina, with Weston Anderson bringing Bog Hog and his dad, the legendary Dennis Anderson, bringing King Sling. But, unlike in Bloomsburg, there was no hired gun stepping into the seat of the mean green slinging machine. Dennis himself, after not being behind the wheel of King Sling in nearly 18 months, dusted off the firesuit and helmet, ready to challenge a field of 10 other mega machines ready to do battle on the J-hook and the double mud bog.
Lastly, the monsters truck field came out for not just a chance to freestyle, but this time also took on the J-Hook track for a chance to race their way in a round-robin style effort. The RAM team of Mark Hall and Kurt Kraehmer both came out ready to go in the Raminator and General Tire machines, while Joey Sylvester stood across the roadway with his retro Bad Habit sitting and looking evil.
Joining the ranks at Indy for the first time in over 20 years was the strongest arms in the monster truck business, as the Samson Chevrolet rolled in with Rick Steffens at the wheel, while team owner and creator Dan Patrick stood alongside to watch.
Finally, the latest additions to the field for the jamboree came in the form of construction and an ATV. Jerry Beck rolled in with his Dirt Crew dump truck, and his team truck in Quad Chaos, with longtime crew chief Michael Hicks at the wheel substituting in for other team driver Bailey Shea.
All the fans that were ready to go on Friday, and the entire weekend, were welcomed with the best weather they could ever ask for at the fall jamboree. Mid-60’s for temperatures, a crisp breeze in the air, certainly made it feel and look like fall, and it was clear considering the amount of long sleeve shirts and jeans the crowd had on that the crisp air had arrived. They all rolled in ready to go for the Friday night action, as the crowd filled in ready for some monster and mega truck action.
For both competitions, the bracket style idea was a bit different. Instead of six trucks reducing to one in a round-by-round aspect, Friday was the first round of timed racing. On Saturday, the second round would see the trucks swap lanes and run again, and the faster time taken from both runs to determine what two trucks would compete in the finals.
Clearly, or at least in some aspects, it seemed Sylvester was at a disadvantage. He turned his sharp-cut Yokohama tires in reverse due to the fact the main competition area for Indianapolis is asphalt, with dirt on top. But, the actual racing was 100% on dirt, so it seemed Sylvester would not get the bite on the surface. That changed considering the dirt for Indianapolis was tough, not to mention full of rocks.
Sylvester had the quicker run between he and Hicks, but the real surprise came two rounds later when Kraehmer cut an exceptional light and pass over Beck. The tight corner by Kraehmer and quick acceleration surprised everyone, including Kraehmer himself.
But when the mega trucks rolled out, everyone was waiting to see how Anderson would do the first time back at the wheel in Sling. It turns out, there was no clear answer. After cutting the corner in his timed pass, the 1941 Willy’s winged roadster suddenly lost fire and was crawling across the line, rolling to a stop at the end of the track.
Anderson came on the stage to explain what happened, and early diagnosis was in his and the crew’s eyes was the mag on top of the ignition suddenly failed and would not let the truck restart. But, Anderson was not going to let it get him down, because he explained to the crowd that if the mag was not the issue, he would work all night alongside the team and put in a fresh engine to put on a show the next day. At least for Friday, “One Run Anderson” made a return.
Meanwhile, as the fans witnessed some tough trucks take on an hourglass track, and the megas hit a double hill-in-hole mud bog, they all were preparing for what was closing the night out in monster freestyle.
Hicks finally got a chance to perform in a truck he’s wrenched on for a while, and made a commendable effort. Kraehmer tried to back up a strong race performance, but suddenly on one hit his one tire on the General Tire Rebel slowly but surely lost air pressure, meaning a promising run suddenly came to a close, and also meant the team had to roll out a spare from one of the trailers.
Steffens made a clean, yet powerful pass, while Hall flexed the HEMI power in strong fashion to the delight of the RAM-heavy crowd.
What seemed like a strong run for Beck suddenly came to a close, not without big efforts, as the rear steering would not return to center after the second hit. Beck wasn’t giving in, but eventually found himself at a point where it was best to save equipment, and headed to the pits.
Then Sylvester rolled out with a refreshed motor, zoomie-style headers, and roared to life before the crowd, as he hit every obstacle and then some on the track, including a sky-high hit cross-ways on the table top. There was little question that the 1979 Ford was the one that the fans, and the judges, wanted to be victorious on this night, and that is exactly what he delivered.
As the night came to a close, the trucks rolled to the pits, and the work began to get ready for the next day. Anderson’s team had towed the Sling hours prior, and by the time the monsters hit the pit area to get ready for the next day.
Saturday’s temperatures mirrored Friday, but the crowds were a lot different, as truck after truck rolled through the gate to show off their unique ride in hopes of taking home an award. Fan after fan got a temperature screening and a wristband to show that they had it done, and the cruise lane soon became double wide with both patrons and vehicles.
In the pits, all teams were at one point hard at work, but by the time gates opened everyone was relaxed. Sylvester had his new ride truck, Mayhem, ready to go once again with his fiancé, Gabby Stubbs, doing driving duties with crew chief Kyle Kunkle watching on with a radio in case the truck had issues. At the same time, the Hall Brothers had both trucks ready to go.
Kraehmer’s left-rear tire still sat in the pits by one 0f the team haulers, General Tire logos worn down from running flat, and unable to be utilized. Luckily, in each hauler just in case it’s needed, the team had a double-sided rim and tire ready to go. Double-sided since the rim was fitted with the ability to mounted on either side of the truck to keep the tread facing forward.
As for Anderson, his truck was ready to go as it sat back on display by the main stage, as it turned out the only issue was the mag on the distributor, meaning the team did not have a late night to get things fixed and ready to go for another day of action.
What made this day different compared to a day ago was the monsters and the mega trucks were going to run their second round of time trials, and that meant the final round was on tap to determine the racing champion of Indy.
The trucks would swap lanes compared to a day ago, and after the first round it was a surprising Kraehmer at the top spot, with Sylvester trailing. Kraehmer once again laid down an excellent pass in the opposite lane, cutting the tightest corner of anyone in the field, cruising to another victory over the Dirt Crew machine.
In the end, Kraehmer held the fastest time of all the trucks, giving him the lane choice in the final round against Sylvester, who barely had a faster run than the Raminator, to make the final.
At the same time, eyes were back on the King Sling group, as Anderson had yet to make a competitive pass on the J-Hook track, and had yet to get back in the bog.
When he returned to run the left lane in his only other time trial run on the weekend, he not only made it to the line first, he set the fastest time of the entire weekend by over six-tenths of a second on the closest competitor. Not to be outdone, his son was just behind him and would put in a time that would mean the father-son duo would meet in the final round.
But, before their final round clash, it was time to determine the fastest monster of the weekend.
With a faster time, Kraehmer elected to go into the left lane so that the side of the truck with the spare tire would cut to the inside, hoping that slight difference may be enough to get him a long-awaited victory on the jamboree tour that he’s come close to getting over the last few seasons.
Kraehmer actually caught Sylvester on the lights, getting out just slightly out of the hole, and made it to the corner first. Sylvester was digging hard and started reeling him in on the straightaway. Kraehmer came to the hill a bit squirrely and had to check up a bit, feeling Sylvester’s Ford was right beside him.
That bobble was enough for the Bad Habit to move past and take the victory. Although he did not get the win, Kraehmer was humble and appreciative as he celebrated a birthday and nearly got a huge victory to his resume.
Meanwhile, while the monsters cooled down, the Andersons came to the line to do some competing for the official J-Hook racing win.
That win came in spectacular fashion, but not as expected.
Both Weston and Dennis came off the line hard, and with the rear steer it was King Sling getting a bit faster corner. Weston hammered the gas to make the corner, but suddenly got up on the right side, and he was in trouble. While dad went to victory, Weston hammered the throttle to get the tractor tires to somehow bite, and the truck was almost on the side. Somehow, the truck gripped and danced back onto the tires to the excitement of everyone in the crowd. Even the older brother, Ryan, and young nephew, Race, were in amazement as the truck came down on all fours, and crossed the line.
Both dad and son celebrated with donuts before coming to the stage to greet the fans as the crews prepared for the mud bog.
That bracket came down to the two Andersons once again, but this time it ended up being the son getting the victory barely over the father thanks to a strong second half of the pit.
At that point, the field of megas rolled into the pit, because the final performance of the evening was all about showing off.
The same way they rolled out on Friday was how they came out Saturday, but each truck stepping up a bit more to show what they can do. From Hicks making the quad get air off the tabletop, to Kraehmer pulling a donut right on the top of the racing plateau, and Steffens pointing the fists to the air.
But, the real fire in freestyle came after Hall put on a dusty donut run.
Beck hammered the racing plateau, clearing with ease, but then ran all the way to the opposite end near the wall barriers to get a run at the square pad near turn four. He then planted on the loud pedal and soared the dump truck to the sky, the front tires getting higher than the power lines that ran above the stage area. He then roared to the opposite square pad and did it a second time, this time launching farther nearly to the actual racing ramp. A couple more hits, and suddenly the right front tire went down and popped off the inner rim.
That did not stop Beck as he hammered a couple more hills and then a dusty cyclone to finish his run, and the crowd exploded with happiness.
Even a powerful and fast run by Sylvester, which included a smoky cyclone on the Yokohama tires, and a twisting hit that looked like a sprint car catching a rut, was not even enough to overtake the flying dump truck to claim the freestyle victory on the night.
To finish out the entire weekend, Sylvester and Beck decided at the end of Sunday festivities, and after doing a quick tire swap, they would roll out to the infield and give the crowd one last encore.
The sun was shining down, the wind was calm, and what the two did on the track was exactly what made them fan favorites, as each skied their machines out, had some dueling donuts, and closed it out by coming to a stop tire-to-tire on the racing hill to salute the crowd that stayed all weekend to see the final performance.
At this point, the jamboree schedule would be over. But, thanks to the pandemic, what was the first event is now the last. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Ohio Nationals that was to take place in early June is now slated to take to the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, OH, on October 23-25.
However, that is only if state regulations will allow the event to take place.
Be sure to watch the 4-Wheel Jamboree pages on Facebook and Instagram in case things change, or they announce additional regulations for virus protocols.
With the restrictions currently in place for Ohio, the Lima 4-Wheel Jamboree has officially been postponed to 2021. All registered participants will be given an option as to what to do as in refund, or carry over to next season.
Any tickets purchased online prior to the first postponement and since will be given a full refund.