Home / Events / Asphalt and Lengthy Track Prove Challenging for Outlaw Drags in Indy

Asphalt and Lengthy Track Prove Challenging for Outlaw Drags in Indy

The Outlaws got to experience a wicked track in Indy, one that claimed victims all weekend. PHOTO CREDIT-Jeff Luckey

Back in July, the partnership between the 4-Wheel Jamboree and the Outlaw Monster Truck Drags proved that with the right combination, what was the draw for several years can be once again.  The infield had a bigger layout, more obstacles, and more action led to bigger crowds, bigger excitement, and more anticipation.

When the weekend concluded, albeit because of severe weather moving into the area, the talk of the infield show was abundant, as many felt it was the best show experience in several years, even dating back to the mid-2010’s.

It also meant that the second jamboree had to be bigger, more entertaining, but also a bigger challenge.

Come mid-September, the jamboree descended on it’s home turf, invading the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the second jamboree weekend of the year, and the second of three rounds of Outlaw Monster Truck Drags in their quest for a championship.

The immediate discussion entering the weekend was the track design.  With Bloomsburg, the limitation was the availability in the infield, as at the end of 2020 the fairgrounds would remove the main stage and install a dirt track on the inside of what is the horse track.  So, the track design had to compensate for the change, and it did result in a very challenging and methodical oval-style layout, with different starting and finishing markers.

For Indianapolis, the limitation was the room on the inside of the famed “Hoosier Mile” while also finding grip on both the dirt, and the asphalt.  With the infield being used as a parking lot for most of the year, the building and design of the track did leave one advantage, as the lines of the parking spots could represent the starting line and finish line.  The layout and setup began on Wednesday, and by the time Friday came about, a track that the jamboree fans had never seen was suddenly a reality.

Using the length of the lot, the straight-line course would include five different jumps.  The immediate hill was going over a concrete barrier, followed by a traditional jump over a car.  Then, the challenge, as trucks would have to clear a 75-foot double right in front of the grandstands.  After landing, drivers had to keep in control and navigate over an elevated van ramp, and finished the course with an elevated “jammer” to the finish line.

The entire course covered 660-feet, the longest track ever put together for the Indy infield.

The same lineup that was in Bloomsburg had to tackle this intense track beginning on Friday.  Immediately, the double created problems for some drivers.  The first two to qualify, Austin Tweedy in Monster Patrol and Preston Perez in Toxic, both cleared the long jump, with Perez eventually holding on for the top qualifying spot.  But, the man who actually designed and built the track, Joey Sylvester in Bad Habit, showed what can happen if one doesn’t clear.  His rear tires caught the end of the second jump, causing the 2022 Jeep Gladiator to pop up and miss the next jump, resulting in a time penalty.

It didn’t get any better as Logan Tweedy experienced the same fate in Bear Foot, nose diving off the hill.  Colton Kiser managed to keep in check with his bad bounce in American Scout, but it was his teammate that suffered the worst luck of anyone.

Dalton Van Skyock took to the left lane in the Stomper Chevy, and took the first two hills with ease.  He then planted the power to clear the double, but the rear end caught the lip of the second jump, launching the truck into a nose dive and hooking hard right.  Syock tried to get into the gas, but by the time he did the left-rear tire landed and caused the truck to take a violent tumble on the nose, side, and back, going across the fourth jump on only the rear tires before landing on the left side.

His crew immediately began motoring to the track to see if he was alright, which included Richie Kiser, Colton’s father, and Mark Entwistle, his crew chief.  Syock was able to be pulled from the truck, but the roll was violent enough that he was put in the ambulance for observation.

The team then had the truck on the hook, being pulled to the cold pits to immediately begin repairs.  A broken steering ram, tie rod, wheel restraint system along with some repairs to the roll cage, were among the things that needed to be fixed on this night.

After Tommy Varilone finished his qualifying run in Rampage, a conservative but strong run considering what he just witnessed, everyone moved into the two-wheel skills competition, with some trying for a wheelie, and others drifting across the infield like a sprint car.  Sylvester utilized his experience in dirt racing, both off-road and sprint cars, to send the Gladiator across the infield.

But, it was Varilone that ultimately got the victory with a very successful popper into moonwalk combo, one he was able to ride out for half the track to the delight of the crowd, and the judges.

As an added bonus, a truck that was on display outside the track was given a chance to show off for the crowd as an encore.  Brandon Overmyer would bring out his classic-designed Dodge Power Wagon, American Outlaw, and put on a freestyle for the Indy faithful.  His run was blowing smoke, but in a good way, as he is now the only competing monster truck to be powered by a diesel engine, a 1200-horsepower Cummins.

The crowd went home on Friday night both excited with what was to come, but also concerned with the condition of the Stomper machine.

As night turned into day, the crew was still working at it.  It was becoming clear that the extent of the repairs would keep Stomper out for the Saturday event, at least when it came to racing.  But, not wanting to go into the competition being one truck short, Outlaw officials decided to call in a substitute.  After a solid performance the night prior, Overmyer was given the chance to actually compete alongside the Outlaws for the Saturday racing slate.

Tommy Varilone in Rampage kept pace with Joey Sylvester in Bad Habit in the first round of racing. PHOTO CREDIT-Jeff Luckey

Saturday’s racing began with a near upset, as Varilone faced off with Sylvester, and had him off the line, and over the big double, which was cut down slightly to avoid another catastrophe.  Varilone held the lead over the fourth jump, but slid slightly right on the landing.  Sylvester was able to keep his truck straight, powering past to move into the semi-finals.

Rodney Tweedy, who had a comfortable qualifying run in USA-1, would move on easily after Kiser missed the fourth jump, opting to pull into the pits to save equipment.

Overmyer would go into racing against Bear Foot, and would put on a good showing, keeping pace with the black bear.  Had it not been for a hard landing on the nose, he would have pulled off the upset, but it was Tweedy moving forward.

Perez would have a bye-run in the opening round, as he was originally slated to go against Monster Patrol, but Austin’s truck was having issues even moving out from the Thunder Alley area into the pits.  The winged Chevy would not fire and missed the call to the line, moving the green and black Super Duty into the semi-finals.

The semi-finals themselves would be the only other rounds to be ran on the Saturday slate, and it was a battle to the end.

Starting things off would be a father-vs-son showdown as Rodney would face Logan, and neither would give an inch despite being in the family.  On this night, with the sun setting in the background, the “Hot Rod” of the Triple B Motorsports team would make his way to the finals in a legendary name that had not been at the Indiana State Fairgrounds since the 1993.

The opposing side had a battle of the top two trucks from qualifying, Perez and Sylvester.  It was Sylvester getting the jump off the line, holding a one-truck lead over the double.  Perez continued to pull up, but crossed up on the next-to-last jump, as the grandstand lane again bit another.

Sylvester powered to victory, marking his spot in the finals once more.

Freestyle would be a tough battle, with Overmyer again having a strong showing in the twilight skies.  Kiser than had his best freestyle of his jamboree career.  His showing last year at both Bloomsburg and Indy were excellent, but his run on Saturday had momentum, bit hits, and a couple wheelstands that got the crowd roared up.  No breakage meant the truck was heading back to the pits in one piece, ready for another day of competition.

Varilone put on a solid performance in the purple and green Rampage.  Both Logan and Rodney proved that the legendary names in the jamboree were still tough contenders.

Sylvester then came out ready to show that even on concrete, he was going to put on a show for the crowd, and did just that.  A four-minute performance that saw him attack every hill, every car, and sky the truck at every opportunity.  He would drift his orange and purple machine, eventually parking it in front of the stands, taking in the applause of all.

Perez then followed it up with his own freestyle, but early on would not have any luck as his rear steer locked just two hits in.  Try as he might, the breakage was tough to overcome, as he was constantly turning left, including doing donuts, which was not enough to top what Sylvester had done.

What fans then got was the ultimate surprise to finish the evening.  After having multiple crews come over to lend a hand, stepping in to give relief to the team doing repairs, a yellow Chevrolet, minus many body panels, rolled from the pits to the stands.

Somehow, the Stomper Chevrolet, after having a rollover similar to what former Stomper driver Mike Whitt experienced in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1988, Syock came out to put on a freestyle for the fans.

It was solid, with a pair of wheelstands down the track, and hitting mostly all obstacles, the crowd applauded the young driver and the crew for being able to make it back out on the track just to even perform in any aspect.

As Sunday rolled around, some fans were making their way home as not as much activity was on the docket, but many stuck around to see how the Outlaws would conclude the weekend.

Sunday’s skies were overcast, but there was no chance of seeing a rain drop hit the ground.  An afternoon matinee would mean the field of trucks would return to the infield, as the slate would include the final round of racing, along with the entire field of trucks coming out one final time to freestyle.  This time, however, it would be in pairs, to give twice the action.

Rolling out first, the final exhibition freestyle by Overmyer, and he made sure to not go too intense, but impressed the crowd.  The quiet whine of the turbo chargers and the black smoke in the sky made a strong showing for the American Outlaw, closing out his surprising weekend with the Outlaws in a strong showing.

It was then time for the finals.  Rodney was given the right lane, the same lane that was trouble the prior night, while Sylvester had the lane that was most successful.

Both came off the line nearly dead even, and stayed the same heading into the second jump.

Rodney got sideways, getting off the side, allowing Sylvester to get a lead heading into the sky jump.  That lead opened up as he cleared the jump, while USA-1 landed midway down the jump.  By the time “Hot Rod” was at the next-to-last jump, Sylvester was already on the ground, putting the power to the pavement.

There was no question who was taking victory on this weekend, as Sylvester put the Jeep Gladiator in victory lane once more for the Outlaw Drags.  His winning streak continues as, dating back to 2021 when the first Outlaw Drags event happened with fans in attendance, Sylvester has gone 16-0 in racing, beating some of the top names in the business, such as Samson, War Wizard, and Predator.

OUTLAW MONSTER TRUCK DRAGS

  • Round 1:  Bad Habit def. Rampage; USA-1 def. American Scout (DNF); Bear Foot def. American Outlaw; Toxic Bye-Run (Monster Patrol missed call to run).
  • Semi-Finals:  USA-1 def. Bear Foot; Bad Habit def. Toxic
  • Finals:  Bad Habit def. USA-1

To close out the weekend, the eight trucks would go tandem in freestyle to the delight of the crowd.  Kiser and Skyock started things out, and both hit every obstacle, although Kiser did give the crowd an “oh no” moment when he hit the near jammer jump and stood it on the tailgate, almost looking like it was going over.  He managed to bring the machine back down, and both finished the run before heading to the pits.

The father-son tandem was next, but Logan only made a couple hits before making his way to the pits with truck issues.  Still, Rodney would put on a solid performance to the delight of the USA-1 fans.

After having starter issues the day prior, Austin brought out the winged Monster Patrol alongside Varilone, and both would impress in their own ways.  From stereo hits on the hillsides, to a wheelstand by Monster Patrol and the longest moonwalk from Varilone, the crowd was into it.  Austin even decided to kick it old-school by taking Monster Patrol for a run through the mud pit.  At the end, Varilone went for something that Ryan Anderson was more known for, a sidewalk bicycle, but the truck would not hold on the asphalt, tipping over on it’s side for the first Rampage roll of the year.

Still, Austin finished his run, closing it out in an ode to one of the original drivers of Monster Patrol, pulling off a Wing Walk much like Tom Meents did in the 90’s.  With Meents calling it a career in 2024, it was a fitting way to end a Monster Patrol run.

The final tandem to come out was Sylvester and Perez, with each deciding to mirror one another, from opening poppers to running the race lanes, then hitting the jammers, it was a case of “anything you can do, I can do better.”

They both then went their own directions,

The finale of the Outlaw Monster Truck Drags for 2023 will not happen at a jamboree, but will happen at a venue that has hosted the jamboree for several years.  The first weekend of action was in Pennsylvania; the second came in Indiana, and now the third will be in the state sandwiched between the two.  All teams will make the trip to Ohio, descending on the Canfield Fairgrounds in Canfield, Ohio, a site that has seen many intense moments, both exciting, and scary.

It was at this venue when Dan Runte saw his 1996 jamboree win streak come to an end, and also saw him go for a tumble after racing his then-teammate, Eric Meagher, that saw the truck come to a halt near the turn one wall.  It’s at this track where former Executioner driver Steve Macklyn suffer a hit so hard that it caused injury to his head and neck, eventually leading to him borrowing one of the first HANS devices that Runte used weeks earlier in a record-setting jump.

It’s also the event where Penda saw it’s first four-second final, where both Runte and Andy Brass had runs under five seconds, at the time a record for the Penda series.

Once more, the Outlaws will take to the track, this time to find a winner in racing, skills, and freestyle, and will crowd the inaugural overall Outlaw Champion.  The previous two tracks at Canfield saw some intense straight-line racing, over two long, and large, courses.  Will we see the length-long bus jump again?  Will the step-up jump make a return?  Will there be the same three-jump course as we have seen, or will there be more added to make it a bigger challenge?

It all will take place this coming Saturday, September 23.  Just as the prior two years, the Outlaw Drags in Canfield is held in conjunction with the Rooster Rally Car Show benefitting the 4-H club.  Multiple categories, from classic cars to trucks that are sky high or riding low, motorcycles and anything in between will welcome fans.

Fans will get to meet the drivers in Thunder Alley prior to the show, and fans also will enjoy seeing the RC Outlaws come out and perform once more in preparation for the big show later that evening.

The car show opens at 9 a.m. for spectators, with Thunder Alley opening at 1 p.m. to get up close to the trucks and drivers.  Fans wanting a monster truck ride will get their chance as MAYHEM will begin giving rides at the same time.  At 4:30 p.m. Thunder Alley will close as the Outlaws will parade into the infield, and the action will kick off starting at 5 p.m.

Who will be the one to come out as the Outlaw Triple Crown Champion?  It all comes down to Saturday, so get those tickets, pack those stands, and witness the most intense monster truck racing action.

About Dustin Parks

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