June 11, 2006
The Extreme Monster Truck Nationals series does not visit the Chicagoland area very often and the only tour stop within any feasible range was once again a trip west to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. The 2005 event featuring King Krunch, Bounty Hunter, Iron Outlaw and El Matador was my first trip to the venue and I left surprised, entertained, and ready for more! Unfortunately, just like last year, I was only able to attend 1 of the 2 shows. I picked a great night in '05, but this year, well...you be the judge...
The entire weekend was rainy and cold in the midwest area and I made the 2 1/2 hour journey a little leery as to what the conditions would be upon arrival. Turns out I didn't have to worry much about the weather, it was more the aftermath of the first show!
A muddy NAPA Equalizer was getting wrenched on from damages suffered during a rollover the previous night. One of the track crewmen had video of the wreck and it was a sideways hit on the pyramid that tossed the truck over. A little welding and a little tuning and Equalizer would be ready for the Sunday event.
**NOTE: Mike Hawkins' Napa-bodied Equalizer has ZERO relation to the Napa Monster Truck owned by Rick Busca involved in the Dekalb, Illinois Napa store incident in August, 2007. Hawkins' Napa sponsored body was removed in the fourth-quarter of 2006.**
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Isaiah Morales' Hot Tamale. Morales suffered extensive rear end damage after a long Freestyle Friday night. It was not a huge jump that caused all the damage, rather the truck simply gave way after repeated beatings over the course of the past weekends. Mike Hawkins and Morales continued to work on the truck all the way up to and through most of the pit party, but Hot Tamale would not be fired up and was left to chill on the sidelines.
Paul Strong's Martial Law truck was thankfully in one piece, but was battling fuel delivery problems at the end of night 1 and they still were not sorted out. It would be a constant fight throughout the day. Kevin Poore's Project X was banged up after the first night as well, but Poore worked through the pit party and would have the truck ready in time for introductions.
Eric Meagher, giving Dave Harkey a weekend off, was behind the wheel of Bigfoot #14 and was 100% ready to go for Sunday.
Each truck got a shot at both lanes of cars and it was Martial Law who kicked things off with a decent hit on the near set, but the engine problems were evident right away. Poore followed next in Project X and nailed a fantastic pogo into the third car and bounced off the set and back onto all four tires.
Mike Hawkins tried to top Poore with an awesome vertical hit of his own, but don't think it was quite enough to knock Project X from the top spot. Eric Meagher did not get a good launch in Bigfoot and after the first round, Project X was the clear leader.
Here's where the trouble starts...
Paul Strong's second attempt was again not up to par due to the mechanical bugs and he would spend time working on the fuel mixture immediately after the Wheelie Contest. Poore's second hit was even worse. The truck crab-walked up to the cars, popped in the air and then dropped to a dead stop on the cars. It took a couple minutes to re-fire and make it off the track under power. Equalizer continued to run strong, however, and had another solid wheelie.
...and here's where the trouble really get's out of control...
Meagher was the last truck to go and was about to make a jump no one would soon, or perhaps, ever forget! Meagher sped towards the far set, burped the throttle right before the cars, shifted into 3rd gear right before impact, and LAUNCHED Bigfoot #14 completely vertical across the four cars, spiked the rear end frame-first into the unforgiving ground, and rode out the wheel stand as the truck wobbled back and forth on the back tires before finally falling back down on all fours!! Absolutely INSANE! The incredible hit did a jaw-dropping amount of damage, however. The frame-first hit ripped the complete wheelie bar, tubing, engine fan, batteries, wiring, and bed panels completely off the truck!! The parts were left jammed into the ground right where the truck first slammed into the dirt upon landing!
It was painfully obvious that an already hurt field of trucks just broke it's strongest leg. The extreme damage to Bigfoot left it crippled immediately and with Hot Tamale already out, Martial Law and Project X having problems, Equalizer was (so far) the one truck left in decent shape!
When asked about the jump, Meagher stated he felt 2nd gear slipping when approaching the cars, so he threw it into 3rd and that was the result. A result of which you rarely see a Bigfoot truck, let alone any truck, with an entire chunk of the frame torn off from a jump. Just amazing. Without question, Bigfoot wins the Wheelie Contest after the phenomenal and equally brutal jump.
Racing Round 1
After the carnage left in the wake of Bigfoot was cleaned up, racing was set to begin, but without much of lineup left, it wasn't going to last long, nor be much of a contest.
Equalizer vs. Martial Law: Hawkins showed he was still in top shape and made quick work of Strong's truck which was still in need of some help.
Project X BYE Run: Kevin Poore lumbered Project X across the far set of cars unopposed due to Bigfoot and Hot Tamale's absence. The simple pass was not without incident, though. Project X's front axle housing was trashed and hanging by a thread. With not much life left in it, Poore passed up the Finals and would save the remains of the truck for Freestyle.
During intermission, I got to check out the snapped off section of Bigfoot left lying in the pits. It was obvious the section had been welded on a couple times before, and no surprise it gave way after constant abuse.
Larry Quick, driver of Reaper & Pure Vengeance, was only a spectator to begin the day, but jumped to work helping out Paul Strong. After a few minutes of tweaking and tuning, Strong and Quick had the fuel mixture in a better spot and Martial Law was ready for Freestyle.
The "Finals" for racing came down to the only two trucks left in respectable condition.
Equalizer vs. Martial Law: Unfortunately for Paul Strong, the quick fuel fix did not last and the truck bogged again off the line and Hawkins flew to the easy win.
Monster Truck Freestyle
A car-van-car pyramid and the two sets of cars were the only obstacles for the trucks to hit, but at least there were still some trucks left capable of hitting anything!
Project X: Poore wasted no time trying to obliterate the remains of the front end and hit a huge walking wheelie over the pyramid! He spiked the rear tires into the ground, but the truck did not land straight and the rear end kicked to the right with the front going to the left. It violently bounced back the other way and shot the rear tires back up into the air and the finally onto all fours. Amazingly, the front axle was still intact so Poore continued the run and nailed the near set of cars, but the hard landing on the front finally did in Project X. Poore limped the truck off into the pits, or by now, the scrap heap.
Martial Law: Ok, THIS time the fuel problems looked to be fixed! Strong proved it with his biggest launch of the day off the far set, easily clearing all five cars and well beyond the ramp. Strong flew off the cars in every direction, never touching anything beyond the ramps. He aimed for bigger air and lined up the pyramid. He didn't hit the first car square with the front tires and the truck slid off to the left. Strong regained control and cut a quick right turn looking for a donut. The extremely tacky track did not agree with Strong's plans and rocked the truck up on two wheels and in a blink of an eye tossed Martial Law over onto it's roof!
Track crew and Larry Quick were immediately at Strong's side and confirmed he was okay. He did not emerge from the truck right away, which had wife Kaila upset, and rightfully so as this was Paul's first rollover. Strong eventually climbed out the bottom of the cab and waived to the roaring crowd.
Martial Law was up-righted and thankfully the worst damage was only cosmetic. Truck and driver drove off to the pits under their own power.
Equalizer: Only 1 truck left and two questions to answer: Could Mike Hawkin's save this show? Or, more importantly, could Hawkins survive this show? Hawkins started the run with several huge blasts off the crush cars in all directions. His fourth jump, however, answered both questions. No. Upon landing, the impact damaged the rear end and left Equalizer with front wheel drive only! Hawkins pressed forward and attacked the pyramid as best as he could in 2WD. Hawkins used every inch of the track to build speed towards the cars and he continued to put forth a solid effort with a hurt truck. He stopped the truck mid-run and let the crew come out and try and pull a quick fix on the rear end, but it was not to be. Hawkins refused to quit and even tried some reverse donuts! After a few more hits and another reverse donut, Hawkins pulled up to the crowd, waived, and pointed to the truck while shaking his head and shrugged his shoulders. I think the crowd picked up on what was happening and rewarded Hawkins with a good applause for his efforts. But, when it came to the vote, they chose Martial Law as the Freestyle Winner of the 2007 Davenport Carnage Nationals.
Teams began to pick up the pieces from a weekend that left no survivors. The list of casualties:
Hot Tamale-- Major rear suspension and axle damage after day 1 freestyle.
Equalizer-- Rollover at end of day 1, lost rear wheel drive to end day 2.
Martial Law-- Fuel problems during day 1 and day 2, suffers first rollover during day 2 freestyle.
Project X-- Electrical and engine problems after day 1, continued into day 2. Severe front suspension breakage to end day 2.
Bigfoot-- Survived day 1, destroyed everything on the truck from behind the motor during Wheelie Contest on day 2.
An all-around disappointing afternoon of monster trucks that left me wanting my gas money back, but left a much bigger dent in the wallet of these 4 teams. The jump by Eric Meagher was worth the trip alone, but him and everyone else paid a costly price the rest of the day. You win some and you lose some. On this day, I don't know if anyone felt like a winner.
Thanks to Jim Morris, Tony Clark, Paul Strong, and everyone who put forth their best efforts to salvage a day that most of them would like to erase from memory. We all love to see some good monster truck carnage one in awhile, but not in this fashion. Oh well, there is always another event right around the corner, and hopefully one that will go much, much better than this one did.
Thanks for reading!
(This page last updated 11/5/07 and all names/facts/info current as of that day)