Less than a week after
the hellacious Monroe Michigan tornado alley adventure, MidwestMonsters strolled into the
Lake County Fairgrounds for a relaxing trip to a simple 4-truck show. Now since when is
one of my trips simple? NEVER. What should've been a less than two hour drive turned into
over a three hour one with chaotic Chicago area traffic and finding back roads to get us
to the fairgrounds. We arrived with a grand total of 5 minutes to spare before show time.
The stands were packed to the brim which meant I was left standing at the top and tried to
dodge the ominous wooden grandstand poles.
This would be the first trip back to the fairgrounds since the 2001 6-truck show with two different racing formats. Now its down to 4 trucks and straight line only but I was hoping for a good performance. I said this was suppose to be simple (ha, yeah right) so here we go!
Virginia Giant--Diehl Wilson
These trucks have accomplished alot in their respective ways in 2003 and I've seen them all at least once this year in a variety of races and situations but this would be the first where they're all together. Benear is coming off a strong performance in Monroe and before that Champaign and is looking to keep that momentum rolling but he's got some stiff veteren competiton to deal with.
Virginia Giant-- Each truck got to run once out of each lane but they seemed pretty even on all trucks. Wilson was very aggressive over the first set of two cars but he backed out of the throttle everytime into no-mans-land. why? I don't know but it sure hurt his times.
Samson-- This show was possible thanks to Dan Patrick organizing it but could he put together a winning night as well? Patrick had two good passes down the track with no complications and was faster than Giant.
RAMmunition-- Benear stumbled a bit in the far lane as he hit the final set a bit crooked and landed pretty hard but drived out of it. His pass in the near lane was much smoother.
RAMinator-- Mark Hall blistered the track on both his runs and layed down quick time beating the nearest truck by over a second.
Racing Round 1
Giant vs. RAMmunition--
Even though the track was relatively short, the key wasn't all the hole shot. The roller of 2 cars was rather steep and getting over that and settled the quickest would be the advantage to fly ahead to the finish. Wilson in Giant drilled Benear on the line and had him over the first set. But again he let out of the throttle for just a split second and Benear used that as his opening to put the Hemi power to the ground and blast by for the victory. Winner: RAMmunition.
Samson vs. RAMinator--
These two were the smoothest in Qualifying by far and on paper this should be a tight race. Hole shot RAMinator and Hall rolled the 2 cars perfectly as Patrick nosed up and over it and took a slight bounce that kept him from getting back up to speed. Meanwhile, Hall had no problems at all and blasted off the final set getting some absolutely rediculous air and distance. Winner: RAMinator.
Samson vs. Virginia Giant--
These two ran good first races but were simply out powered by TeamRAM. Wilson grabbed another great hole shot and had a significant lead over the roller but AGAIN let off the gas!! I don't get it. Patrick recovered from his deficeit and passed up Virginia Giant right at the ramp on the final set. Winner: Samson. I'll go out on a limb and say that if Diehl had not let up on either race he would've EASILY won both! He was that far out in front!
RAMinator vs. RAMmunition--
The battle of TeamRAM, a matchup that has become custom when the events involve both trucks. Last time it was in Champaign at the Monster Nationals and it was Dale Benear laying down a flawless run and getting some huge air to victory while Hall in RAMinator died out on the cars. Would it be another dominating win for Dale Benear or would Hall regain his winning ways?
No hole shot either way as they both rocket over the roller and into the flats. Hall gets just slightly out in front of Benear off the roller. Benear corrects his aligntment to the final set while Hall takes the slightest, I mean slightest of bounce in the rear-end of the truck. They both hit the ramp at nearly the same time and they both fly across the finish with some huge air and nearly run out of shutdown room at the end of the track. Awesome race that no one knew who won. The Winner was called RAMmunition and you can see that indeed Dale Benear stuck it to Mark Hall again and snuck by for the win to continue his hot streak of victories. Winner: RAMmunition. You can watch this race in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre!
While standing up at the top row, I was next to a gentleman that was attending his first monster truck event and was trying out his two hi-tech top of the line SWEET cameras. One was a digital SLR camera will all the auto stuff you could imagine and the other was a high speed 35mm with lots of auto as well. My camera isn't even in the same league as these as its nearly 25 years old but gets the job done. He had shot up all his film that he had and with Freestyle on tap he said "you want to put your film in here and use it?" DROOLING. So I got a quick 'How To" on his camera and gave it a go. I'm in love! I wish I had the money to splurg on one myself but that just won't happen. THANKS AGAIN!!!!
RAMmunition-- While getting myself comfortable with this neat camera, I managed to miss several of Benear's jumps at the beginning of the run. Benear kept up alot of speed and got some nice long jumps off the near set while really kickin' up some air on the back set. With the limited track and obstacle, Benear made good work of it. Score: 6.
Virginia Giant-- I was still scratching my head on the whole letting off the gas during racing when Diehl blasted out of the pits, over the roller and LAUNCHED off the near sets of cars with the biggest jump off the ramps of the night. Once again, Giant would of won the whole deal, I know it. Anyways, Diehl turned the beach of a race course into his personal playground and tore up every section and never missed a beat. Big air off the back sides and some good runs down the ramps. I was hoping for a donut but he never did it and just fish-tailed it around. A picture perfect, well paced run. Score: 8.
Samson-- Patrick built this track but that doesn't mean it has to be nice to him. As much and as hard as Patrick tried to get some air under those big four tires, it just wasn't happening. Ramp or no ramp...notta. Patrick did get one good leap off the back set but with this fancy camera I was a bit over anxious and didn't let the camera auto-focus and I missed the jump. He followed up with a good jump off the back of the rollers to finish the run. Score: 5.
RAMinator-- Big air and lots of momentum are Mark Hall's weapons when it comes to freestyle and he used every bit of the track to display the full aresenal. Hall was blasting off the ramps with tons of speed, swinging RAMinator around and launched off the back of the cars with more huge air. I was also wishing for a donut on the loose dirt from Hall but that didn't happen. Just when I thought he couldn't get anymore height on the cars, Hall lined up on the far set of cars and rocketed towards the back of them and here's where this wicked camera came in handy...Hall got some massive air and cleared all 5 cars and then some and came crashing back down on the beach with a very hard landing that caused the front tire to come up and rock the hood of the truck off center. I was able to click off 4 shots in 1 second on this jump!! Oh I love it! Hall came up to the grandstands and saluted the crowd and claimed the Freestyle victory. score: 10.
As the crowd let out I thanked Chris, geez I hope that's right, for letting me use that camera and was having trouble giving it back :-) I made my way down to the autograph line to get some picture signed and talked with the drivers as well as June Hall and Chris Patrick at the souvenior table. I was the last one to leave and wished I could've even stayed around longer and wandered back to the pits but with it already being a long night I had to head back as soon as possible. A good break from the usual hussle & bussle of the big shows and driving red-eyed through the night. But I'm sure the next adventure is just around the corner. Thank you for stopping by and reading the coverage. Jason Twite.