Once-in-a-Lifetime: Those moments or events that come in a flash and you either see them and experience all they have to offer...or you don't. Simple as that. When the Shafer Motorsports World Finals was first advertised in early 2005, the monster truck world was promised the biggest event ever and first of its kind. Dozens of trucks, open qualifying and real, true racing for a purse. As months wore on, teams threw their names into the mix as possible entrants into the ever growing field.
The event would be held in late November way down in Florida and while I was up in Illinois, this was something too awesome to pass up. After dwelling for weeks on the idea and getting everything in place, I was committed to heading to the Sunshine state for what looked to be my largest monster truck event ever.
Then the pieces began to unravel. Teams baulked at the $500 guaranteed pay for showing up and the low winner's pay outs, and as a result, many names began to fall off the list. Shafer Motorsports had nearly every one of their trucks booked for this event, but issues in the weeks and days prior led to several driver's abruptly being removed from the lineup or leaving the team altogether.
My confidence in this event was waning and I second guessed my decision to attend. Just 1 day before leaving for Florida, I did not have a full lineup or complete details on the weekend and just prayed it would all come together. In the end, and as you'll soon see, I got all that I hoped for and plenty no one could have bargained for.
Truck/Driver Lineup for Day 1: Racing
Bad News Travels Fast--Bruce Haney
Bigfoot 11--Rick Long
Bigfoot 14--Dave Harkey
Captain USA--Rodney Tweedy
Carolina Crusher--James Tigue II
Dragon Slayer--Kreg Christensen
Extreme Overkill 2--Doug Charles
Wild Thang--Brian Harwood
Kid Rock #29--Larry Swim*
Monster Patrol--Kirk Dabney
*Bill Wirth, who had been driving Smoke, and Amber Walker, who had been driving #29, both left Shafer Motorsports prior to this event. Shafer and Swim would drive double-duty in Racing while Charlie Miller would pilot Smoke in Freestyle.*
I arrived in Orlando Thursday morning and spent the day visiting with my aunt and uncle whom I had not seen in years and whom I'd be staying with for the weekend. Friday morning came early and I was about half awake on the long twisting highway from Orlando to Deland arriving at the Volusia County Fairgrounds right around 10:30am for a scheduled Noon start time with Qualifying.
It seemed everywhere I turned there was someone to talk to in the pits including many drivers, other photographers including Eric Stern and Bryan Wagner and even Dirty' Dingus himself. There were also some new trucks and new looks in the field of 17 combatants.
The much hyped "ORI truck" would make its competition debut as Extreme Overkill 2 with a driver also making his debut, Doug Charles. Charles drove The Mummy ride truck for several years and has progressed into the driver's seat. Not exactly the event to cut your teeth at, especially in a new truck, but I was eager to see what, if anything, this radical truck could do.
Charlie Miller's Rampage truck had some brand new paint, so new that it was still drying as they loaded the truck up for the haul to Florida. The body was entirely air-brushed and really has some great detail once you're up close to appreciate it.
The track for racing was a 300' long straight line course with a two-car set off the start line, a huge flat land for building speed, and then a final leap over 8-cars! Yes, 8 cars, definitely something we hardly see anymore as most jumps only average 5 cars. After the final car in the set there was still a 50' run to the finish line. The racing would be timed by ProMT with immediate results available for determining the photo-finish races we were bound to have.
But, these were no ordinary racing lanes. The ramps for the cars were HUGE! Nearly 4 feet tall up against the cars and incredibly steep to say the least. Even the hills for the first jump were not setup to simply be "rollers," they would be putting the trucks in the air and would definitely play a factor.
As the time drew near for Qualifying to begin, all the drivers met with ProMT official Eric Meagher to go over the basics of the timing equipment and where all the sensors were at. Drivers also pulled a random number to determine Qualifying order.
The Outdoor Channel had a camera rolling to cover some of the action; mainly the 2005 Monsters of Destruction overall Champion Kreg Christensen & Dragon Slayer.
With the Qualifying order set, the trucks paired off and began the day-long battle to determine the first ever Shafer Motorsports World Racing Champion!
(As I'm sure a lot of people already know the results from this event, I will remain brief on covering the action and will let the pictures do a lot of the talking. We all know I can be incredibly long-winded in the telling of every single storyline and as much as I'd like to cover all the details, this coverage would be very dragged out and hard to follow).
Monster Truck Qualifying
Drivers would only get 1 shot in Qualifying with lane choice based on whomever had the higher pick in the random draw. With a field of 17 trucks, the slowest Qualifier would be automatically eliminated.
Bearfoot & Frankenstein-- A jaw-dropping start to Qualifying as both drivers got some ridiculous air, clearing all 8 cars and nearly landing on the finish line! Paul Shafer showed he still had the quick light ability and could blister a track when he wanted and laid down a 7.095sec pass. Bearfoot's time was a bit slower at 7.420.
Equalizer & Carolina Crusher-- Transmission problems for Tigue as he never got up to speed on the course. Hawkins had a smooth pass with a nice finish for a time of 8.039 which locked him solidly in the field while Tigue was already in danger of not making it with a 10.250.
Wild Thang & Smoke-- Shafer's second time down the track was not as successful as his 8.197 fell to Harwood's 7.761. Harwood's truck sounded great and it can really run on these long tracks.
Bad News Travels Fast & Rampage-- Pre-race drama left Bruce Haney with no blower belt for the engine. The original one was shredded as the truck was backed out of the hauler Thursday night. The Haney's were frantic in trying to hunt down a belt that would match their blower. No match was found until Kreg Christensen pulled in and low and behold, his two trucks ran the exact same belts. The belt looked to be working just fine as Haney locked himself into the field with a 8.045 while Miller nearly missed the last set of cars but would still be in with a 8.279.
Dominator & Monster Patrol-- I was very eager to see Chandler open up the Dominator Hemi on a long track, but he fell to Dabney's SVO Ford in this pass. The trucks were very even in times as Dominator clocked in at 7.896 and Monster Patrol at 7.589.
Overkill 2 vs. Bigfoot #11-- Team Bigfoot had to be a front-runner to win this whole thing and Rick Long got the team off to a good start with a 7.475 pass. In the other lane, big problems for Overkill and Doug Charles. The truck's rear steering malfunctioned which kicked the truck off to the right side in no mans land causing Charles to barely get two wheels across the set. He got out of the throttle early and the result was an 18.818 run which would almost guarantee elimination pending any other trucks breaking.
Kid Rock #29 vs. Bigfoot #14-- Rain began to fall lightly as the pair rolled to the line. Swim would be at an advantage going into Racing with being able to get a run down both lanes. This race was an all-out aerial war! They were nearly even the whole way until Bigfoot settled faster near the final set and Harkey uncorked the biggest leap of the day which landed the front tires on the finish line. Swim put big air under his truck as well, missing the finish line by 5 feet on the landing. Incredible passes from both drivers but it was Harkey in Bigfoot with the quickest of the pair and the quickest of the day with an amazing 6.912 compared to a 7.201 for Swim which placed him in 4th.
Unfortunately, both trucks suffered heavy damage on the landing. #29 snapped the front tie-rod bolts while Bigfoot busted up the rear axle! Both trucks were quickly parked in the pits and work started to try and fix the damage before racing began at 2:00.
Dragon Slayer & Spiderman-- The two Hummer's were paired against one-another and you would've thought they were glued together on this pass. Almost completely dead even the entire way but it was Christensen back on the ground first after the final jump and he dashed ahead of Jensen for an excellent 7.193 run to Spiderman's 7.460.
Captain USA-- Rodney Tweedy got the #17 draw for Qualifying but also drew some heavy rain for his run. A very solid pass put Captain USA right in the middle of the pack with a 7.554.
Official Qualifying results:
1. Bigfoot #14 - Dave Harkey - 6.912
2. Frankenstein - Paul Shafer - 7.095
3. Tuff Country Dragon Slayer - Kreg Christensen - 7.193
4. Kid Rock/Harvick - Larry Swim - 7.201
5. Bearfoot - Larry Swim - 7.420
6. Spiderman - Paul Jensen - 7.460
7. Bigfoot #11 - Rick Long - 7.475
8. Captain USA - Rodney Tweedy - 7.554
9. Monster Patrol - Kirk Dabney - 7.589
10. Wild Thang - Brian Harwood - 7.761
11. Dominator - Kyle Chandler - 7.896
12. Equalizer - Mike Hawkins - 8.039
13. Bad News - Bruce Haney - 8.045
14. Smoke - Paul Shafer - 8.197
15. Rampage - Charlie Miller - 8.279
16. Carolina Crusher - James Tigue II - 10.250
17. Extreme Overkill 2 - Doug Charles - 18.818
After Qualifying, the weather continued to worsen as rain really poured on the fairgrounds and turned a relatively dry, fast track into a slippery mess. Drivers would have to adjust from their flat-footed Qualifying runs and try to balance speed and torque on the slick track.
Shafer Motorsports' crew and Bigfoot crews were hard at work to fix their trucks before Racing was set to begin. Bigfoot 11 also needed some minor repairs but was fixed in plenty of time. The clock was winding down on Kid Rock #29 and Bigfoot 14 though and it looked possible that neither truck was going to make it. But, word came that repairs were nearly complete and shortly after Larry Swim fired back up the #29 truck and headed to the staging area, he was followed a few minutes later by Harkey in Bigfoot 14. That would leave Doug Charles in a busted up Overkill 2 out of Racing by virtue of being the slowest Qualifier. Not the debut I hoped for from that truck.
Our 16 truck field was set and the battle for the Championship was set to rage on. An incredible day of racing culminated in the crowning of the first ever Shafer Motorsports World Racing Champion. See all the drama, upsets and high-flying Florida action on the next page!