DeKalb Rolling Thunder
Monster Truck Challenge
Presented by Torgerson Motor Sports
March 6th, 2004.

Movie sequels suck, we all know that. Minus a select few such as "Empire Strikes Back," "Godfather Part II," and more recently "Shrek 2," the second edition of pretty much anything is not a good thing. Just stick with the original. Now when it comes to monster truck events, it's pretty much the same thing, especially when the whole "plot" of the event along with the "actors" are changed. My point is that the first DeKalb event last year was great. Despite some breakage, it all flowed together and was a really good show. But 2004 rolls around and logic seems to be thrown in the trash can.

The hookin' dirt floor replaced by bare concrete. The two fresh sets of 5 cars replaced by two smashed down flat sets of cars. The lethal tuff truck course replaced by...lawnmowers. The stellar 5 truck lineup replaced by 4 "lower-class" trucks. My great view from the floor of the track switched with crap seats and a HUGE FMX landing box ramp in between the cars for the whole show! I think you have the idea by now. Want to keep reading? Hey I was kidding don't leave! There are actually pictures, I swear!   But first, I must thank Andrew Pellegrine of Monster-Truckin' and his Dad for letting me ride up with them to the event and thanks to Kevin at NIU for the pit passes and tickets. Be sure to check out Andrew's coverage of the event on Monster-Truckin'.

Truck/Driver Lineup:

American Thunder--Robert Miller.
If the truck looks somewhat familiar, good, it should. This truck has run under Thunder Struck, Fast N Furious and the most recent Webslinger. The new body really looks good up close.

American Dream--Jeremy Ward
Ward would venture away from Pony Express for this show and run Dave Turpen's truck. Don't know where the Barney idea came from but ok!

Texas Rattlesnake--J.R. ???
Not a new truck by any means but new to me. Never seen this driver either who's last name I never got/heard. This truck just looked like a good wheelstand truck so we'll see what happens when freestyle comes around.

Goldberg--Robbie Dawson
This truck I have seen before with Tony Stephan doing the driving. A very different chassis setup on this one and it never seemed to get much air over the cars. But with a different driver, things just might change.

Once inside the arena, we hit the floor for the pit party where there certainly was no party going on, just a few folks milling around and the trucks sitting by their lonesome. I wanted to check out the Texas Rattlesnake truck as I'd never seen it before, but something else got my attention:

Are you kidding me!! What does it take to get it through to these people! In case you are confused, that image on the jumbo tron was on the NIU website when this event was first being promoted and it is composed of two of my pictures from the race last year. For full background on it, visit the Stolen Goods page. I just had to laugh and bite my tounge from saying some nasty things because no one would've cared anyways. So I threw my hands up and we went to find our seats.
Our seats were in a terrible location, right on the starting line and with the ugly and huge FMX ramp in the middle, our entire view of the other set of cars was blocked. Andrew and I got up and headed to the corner of the arena for a somewhat better view. All the competitors were introduced and the interesting part was that there was no mention of the WWE wrestlers or any comparison made to the Goldberg and Texas Rattlesnake trucks, hopefully that stage is finally over. After what seemed like an eternity, the first round of Freestyle for the monster trucks was ready to go.

Freestyle Round 1

American Thunder-- Robert Miller can pull some pretty good freestyle runs but is usually better when there is more room to work with and actually some fresh cars. The beaten down cars were not going to provide much air and that was seen right away as on American Thunder's first hit, the front tires were hardly off the cars and the rear tires never saw air. Miller lumbered over the cars and went to the other set and found them a little more friendly and got an alright jump. Miller turned the truck around and went for the back of that same set but not much luck. His final jump was pretty good back on the first set and nearly cleared it. There was one advantage to the slick concrete and that was the ability to do donuts! Miller got American Thunder spinning really well in two different spots and almost nailed the wall on the last one. Not a bad run considering. Score: 5.

Texas Rattlesnake-- The J.R. dude hit the track next and it seemed my prediction on the truck being able to pull good wheelstands was correct as on his first jump, J.R. hit the cars hard and shot the front end way up but kept the rear wheels planted for a cool jump. He came around to the near set and hit the cars hard again and got an even better jump with all four tires up in the air. His final two jumps started to weaken probably because the cars were so beat to crap but J.R. still got some ok air off them. Score: 6. I thought his run was better simply because of the hits on the cars but the crowd didn't think so and gave the win to American Thunder so Robert Miller would move on to the finals.

After the first round, the crew brought out a fresh car-van-car pyramid and a motorhome! Oh wait, this isn't a monster jam, nevermind.

Freestyle Round 2

American Dream-- Jeremy Ward was up next for Freestyle and went for the cars but didn't muster up much of anything on any of his jumps. That truck is just not setup for air. So if hobbling over the cars doesn't work, it's time to play on the open floor. Ward found a good hooking spot on the concrete and unloaded a furious set of donuts and didn't seem in any hurry to stop either. After about 10 crazy revolutions he stopped the truck for just a few seconds then went for it again before getting too close to the wall. Ward popped out the window and got a big applause and that usually signals the end of the run, right? Not this time as Jeremy got back in and started ripping off more donuts nearly smashing into the crush cars. Excellent array of donuts and definately one of the highlights to the show. Score: 6.

Goldberg-- The donuts from American Dream were a pleasent surprise and I was about to be surprised again as Robbie Dawson in Goldberg came out for his run. Dawson hit his first set pretty hard and got some alright air but it had been topped. Dawson circled to the other set really quickly and mashed the truck hard into the cars and launched into the air with the biggest jump on the night, easily clearing the whole set of cars. Dawson turned Goldberg around for a hit on the same set and got some nice air going the other way too. The truck that I assumed could get no air was certainly getting plenty of it now. On his final jump, Dawson used the fast speed approach again and blasted off the far set of cars with another big leap, clearing the cars with the front end in the air all the way across. Really good air from Goldberg, Score: 7. The crowd was pretty split between the big air of Goldberg and the crazy donuts of American Dream but they finally gave it to Goldberg.

Freestyle Finals

American Thunder-- Upon leaving the pits, I noticed that one of the front wheels on the truck was not spinning properly and it was obviously going to hamper the truck for freestyle if not just break all together. Miller did what he could but the truck was hurting and the two jumps he took showed it, nothing better than his first round. He went back for a shot at the donuts that got him to the finals but the wheel hindered that and he didn't get much of a rotation going. Not a good run but with the tire, what can you do. Score: 2.

Goldberg-- Dawson was not going to have to put on a hero like performance to get the freestyle victory with the breakage on American Thunder. Dawnson obviously knew that and didn't go full tilt during the run but still put some pretty good air under the truck on his jumps but nothing like his first round. The truck I thought would get the least amount of air during the event was now winning freestyle. Score: 5.

In between all the monster truck rounds were the lawn mowers and the FMX riders. No shots of the lawn mowers because thats just simply a waste of film. I got two shots of the FMX guys who weren't that bad but, guys, invest in a ramp that doesn't take up 1/4 of the arena floor!!!

Monster Truck Qualifying

The trucks were all suppose to come out for single lane time trials but a bunch of miscommunication took place as Texas Rattlesnake and American Thunder took to the line. American Thunder was suppose to have a timed run and the flag guy knew that but the timing people didn't and niether did the announcer. When the flag dropped both trucks took off as if they were racing. Times weren't taken because no one knew what was going on and its kind of hard to time two trucks with one stop watch. Finally everything got sorted out and each truck came out one by one for their runs. Nothing noteworthy other than American Dream took the #1 spot. So onward to racing we go!

Racing Round 1

American Dream vs. Texas Rattlesnake-- J.R. in Texas Rattlesnake looked pretty strong in freestyle and his qualifying race launch was really good and I figured this was going to be a high vs. low battle. Rattlesnake would be going sky high while American Dream would probably be staying low and quick across the cars. The flag dropped and Ward got a definite hole shot on J.R. to the cars. American Dream did say lower than Rattlesnake even though they both had pretty flat jumps and came smashing down on the last two cars. The hole shot for Ward paid off with a win. Winner: American Dream.

Goldberg vs. American Thunder-- The two freestyle finalists match up in the first round and again I figured this to be a high vs. low matchup. Goldberg has been skying big time on every jump while American Thunder has struggled with the cars and now with basically running on 3 wheel drive, Miller would be hard pressed to knock off Dawson. No real hole shot either way but the full powered Goldberg simply drove away from American Thunder. Dawson didn't have a big jump but it was enough to get past American Thunder. Winner: Goldberg.

Racing Finals

The finals were delayed like 30 minutes from the end of the other round for way too much FMX and lawn mowers plus an intermission, are you kidding me! The first race was for 3rd-4th place.

Texas Rattlesnake vs. American Thunder-- J.R. had started off looking really strong in freestyle but seemed to die off in racing. Don't know what happen to him in this race but he must've been tired from the dragged out show and was napping big time at the line. Miller drilled the flag and was nearly a truck length ahead of J.R. in the other lane. Even on only 3 good wheels, Miller put a beating on Texas Rattlesnake. Winner: American Thunder.

Goldberg vs. American Dream-- Solid performances all night from both these trucks and rightfully so they're in the finals for racing. The crowd favored Goldberg for winning but I was split and was hoping for a decent race. The flag dropped and both drivers were right on it and mashed the throttle to the cars. Dawson hit it just slightly before Ward did and managed to stay pretty level with his jump and dove to the final car at the finish. Meanwhile, Ward put a charge into American Dream and cleared the five cars and even though it may not look like it in the picture, he landed with all the weight right on the front of the truck taking a sick looking nose dive at the finish line. Winner: Goldberg. I wish I had a shot of the nose dive Ward took because it was very rough and he was shaken up after it.

After the show was done, Andrew and I headed to the concourse for some autographs. We talked with Jeremy Ward and Robert Miller shortly before finally heading out. The show was a real let down in several areas. The effort put into this show was flat out piss poor and compared to last year, this was pure crap. No, I'm not even basing that on what trucks were there, just on what else was/wasn't there like I mentioned in the opening. One of the really sad things about this is that last year the attendance sucked for a great show. This year, it was 3/4 full for a crap show! If the event comes back next year, I shutter to think just how many open seats there will be. Unless I know there will be a much better format lined up, one of those open seats will be mine. Thanks to the drivers for atleast attempting to make the show passable and the big air from Goldberg and the great donuts from American Dream did just that. Pretty short coverage huh! Don't forget to stop by and check out Andrew's coverage right here. Thanks for reading, Jason.