September 3rd, 2004
Three rounds down, one to go. The smash'n'trash Team Demolition Derby Tournament of Destruction has reached its final round for 2004. The points title has already been wrapped up by The Locomotives, but that won't stop any team from taking out aggression on the Locos and you can bet the white and black wrecking machines won't go quiet either, loving nothing more than to finish off the year undefeated. In addition to the demo races, the double length thrill show also included the Lil' Red Beer Hauler jet truck, a motorcycle death dome and of course MONSTER TRUCKS!!
The Team Demo National Finals was scheduled
for the last weekend in August which meant I would be back at school but I had already
made plans to fly back home to make the event on Saturday. Only problem was the weather
did not want to cooperate. I arrived at the track with rain coming down and when I got to
the gate, I learned the horrible news the event had been cancelled! I about puked on
myself. The guard said it was rescheduled for the following Friday of Labor Day weekend. I
sulked back home and calmed down by throwing stuff around the house for several hours and
the next day got a hold of Jan. He confirmed the reschedule and said the track was a
complete mess and if the event went on, it would not be enjoyable. I pretty much agreed
but told him I didn't know if I'd make it back the next weekend or not for the event.
I sat down at school and dwelled on it all week and was pretty much set on not going. But then I saw the vision of an angel and she gave me her car...well ok, it was Jackie but same thing. She wanted to go back home for the weekend and didn't want me to miss my big event either so I was on my way! We took off after class at noon Friday, made it home before 5:00, I jumped in my van and headed for Route 66 making it by 6:00.
The weather was perfect and the crowd showed up in bigger numbers than expected even with the rescheduling to Labor Day weekend. Andrew Pellegrine was also in attendance and he helped out with some pictures for this coverage too.
Amber Sky Walker would be piloting the Kid Rock/Kevin Harvick #29 and Charlie Miller would be behind the wheel of Smoke after the recent departure of Brian Townsend to CCE. Charlie drove Boogey Van in freestyle at Valparaiso and other than that doesn't have too much experience. But what better place to learn than the nasty mud pit of the demo track?
After the trucks pulled to the back pit area, I made my way around and chatted with Amber and Charlie as they prepared the trucks.
I ended up talking too long and needed to be up at the flag stand for driver interviews so instead of making the long walk, Amber was nice enough to give me a ride in the truck! Now that was awesome! I looked nice and late as Jan was interviewing members from the National Champion Locomotives team.
Next, he hyped the crowd for all the thrill acts and before I knew it, out shot Charlie and Amber in the monster trucks speeding down the front stretch and nearly taking my head off.
All the demo teams rolled out next and the Junk Yard Dogs were given the trophy for best looking cars.
The monsters came back out for the singing of the National Anthem and paraded around with American Flags.
The intros were over, the track was ready and the crowd was jacked up chanting the names of teams so let's smash some cars!!
First match pitted Stranglehold against Team Xtreme. A somewhat calm opening race which saw Stranglehold dominate and kept Team Xtreme from their second win.
Second race featured the first of many shocking moments to come on the night as Damage Inc. took on Orange Crush. No big hits were made between cars but the biggest one came as a Damage Inc. car missed a high speed T-bone attempt and slammed violently into the concrete barriers about 10 feet from me toppling the barrier over and snapping the steel cables holding them together! An incredible hit than had me running scared as I thought these barriers were my protection, well not anymore. Another Damage Inc. car tried to push the stuck car off but instead got itself wedged into the bumper of the stuck car. Somehow they still managed to win the race against Orange Crush.
The third race provided some nasty hits along with yet another shocking moment I didn't think I'd ever see as Havc faced off with Junk Yard Dogs. A JYD car also missed a big head-on hit and slammed into the barriers, instantly bursting into flames! The inside of the car filled with flames immediately. Several tense seconds went by, as I could not see the driver inside the car. Thankfully he dove out the window seconds later unscaved. The race was stopped and the fire department took their sweet time putting out the flames. The race restarted but then was stopped again as there was still fire personale on the track. After another abrupt restart, Havoc came away with a win in a wild and confusing race.
You couldn't ask for a better pairing to finish out Round 1, as it would be a rematch of the July event's Finals with Road Rage taking on The Locomotives. Road Rage came out slugging and laid some serious hits on the Locos including a vicious head-on wreck between the #1 and #74 cars. The Locos seemed thrown for a loop as Road Rage pounded away and put a stop to the winning streak defeating the Locomotives decisively.
With the first round complete it was time for one of the thrill acts and that being the motorcycle death dome. It took crews a very long time to get the dome out there and setup correctly as well as safely transporting the bikes and stunt performers platform to platform to avoid any contact with the mud. First it was one rider then two riders and then two riders in there with a girl standing in the middle! Very good job by the riders, just a bit of a challenge to photograph.
As I made my way to return to the back of the track I spotted these two killer looking trucks.
I stopped and talked with Charlie and Amber and gave them the bad news that the water truck had just turned the track into a horrid mud pit. They were not pleased at all and I told them to be prepared to have the trucks completely covered in mud when they're finished. Amber was going to make sure her truck looked nice for the time being though.
Before the monsters, the Consolation race took place with Orange Crush vs. Team Xtreme vs. Junk Yard Dogs vs. Locomotives. The shocking moments just kept coming and this time we had two of them. On the first lap, an Orange Crush car went cutting across the track flying for a head-on in Turn 1 but missed and slammed right into the concrete, blasting the car up onto barrier and becoming the second car to snap the steel cables! The only reason the block didn't tip over was because of the extra barrier behind it turned vertically. That put Orange Crush out of the race and opened the door for the JYD who put a hurtin' on the Locomotives and captured the win. But the carnage wasn't over. Pete Ryan, one of the infamous Loco drivers, took his car and rammed head-on into a JYD car after the race was over. The JYD driver just brushed it off, stood on the roof of his car and offered a handshake to Ryan. But, Ryan tackled the other driver off the roof and onto the track spawning chaos! Members from both teams ripped through the security fence on the track and jumped the barricades to get into the brawl. Had to be over 100 people on the track just going nuts!! They all went streaming right by me and I got the hell out of the way. It took a very long time for order to be restored so we could get back to action. The wild night just keeps getting wilder.
Finally the moment had arrived to get down and dirty with the monster trucks! Charlie and Amber worked it out that she would do a run first and then pull to the side and let Charlie go then they would both attack the cars at the same time to complete the run. They had two sets of 2-cars to work with, one in Turn 4 the other in the middle area of the track between Turns 1 & 2.
The crowd was behind Amber from the start as she opened the run with a big wheel stand on the far set of cars followed by slinging some mud around on her way to a sweet leap on the near set.
Amber really got nasty next as she cut loose with a fury of donuts in the middle of the track, really covering the truck in mud. So much for the wax job.
Amber followed the donuts by going right for the cars out of her spin and got some nice air, landing very hard on the front end, which was already hanging by a bolt after damage in a previous show. She attacked the far set again and shot up some high speed rooster tails of mud before parking the truck on the side. Good job so far for Amber in the Kid Rock #29 truck.
It was time for some SMOKE with Charlie Miller. He never really got the momentum going like Amber did but that's quite expected for his limited driving time and the very slick track. Miller got a couple okay jumps off the cars at both ends before ripping off a real nice donut of his own.
Miller waived Amber to fire back up and she took off fast headed for the far set of cars and blasted over them while Miller hit the near set. They switch spots and Amber launched off the near set now with an awesome leap slamming down hard again. Miller was right behind her and followed up with a jump of his own. Awesome tandem donuts by both trucks finished off their run and they pulled up to the stands to salute the crowd. Amber got a heavy round of applause while Charlie wasn't so fortunate and got boo'd by the Route 66 Tony Stewart hating fans. Very good performance by both drivers.
All of this action and the monsters were the mid way point! Bring on more demos! The semi-finals kicked off with Damage Inc. up against Stranglehold. The race developed slowly with several spin outs at the beginning but then the hard hitting began and advantage went to Stranglehold. All the cars managed to stay off the walls this time and maybe breaking up that pattern was the cause of Damage Inc's downfall as they were stomped by Stranglehold who were headed to the Finals.
The second semi-finals put Road Rage up against Havoc in what became a death blow showdown. There were no light hits in this match, they were all out for a kill shot. Havoc would get in a great shot and then Road Rage retaliated with a vicious shot on that same car and they continued to trade blows until it was down to hardly any cars running. Havoc was in control until the sickest shot of the night took place as Steve Scarboro in the #1 Road Rage car absolutely annihilated the #47 Havoc car in a wicked head on crash! But Scarboro ended up taking the worst of it as his car folded up like paper. Havoc cars kept rolling and eliminated all four Road Rage cars and were headed to the Finals for the second time this year.
During the break in action, I walked over to where the monster trucks were parked to see the bad news on the cleanup awaiting Amber and Charlie. The trucks were caked, decked, covered, plastered, whatever you want to call it, top to bottom in mud, thick, nasty, wet mud. They were happy with the performance but not happy with the mess they were left with. The engines were clumped up, the tires had 3 inches layered on them and of course no way to get it off. They decided to go try and spin the trucks around in a back field to sling some of the mud off. The tactic did not work much at all.
Fred Sibley's Lil' Red Beer Hauler was up next to set the night on fire by burning down a car. Sibley had the car roasting for several minutes before finally shutting the engine down to reveal a twisted pile of metal looking nothing like a car.
Team Demo FINALS!
Stranglehold vs. Havoc
Both of these teams have avoided any dumb moves and have raced smart and smooth to victories in the previous two rounds. The similar styles now had to clash as they fought for top prize and end the season in a winning way. As the race began, both teams went away from their methodical attack format and instead were out kill in a hurry. One Stranglehold car managed to avoid any serious contact and was cruising around the track very quickly picking up the laps. Cars began to die off and by lap 4 only 1 Stranglehold car remained and only a couple limping Havoc cars were still running. Stranglehold looked to me to be ready to win the race as the lead car entered the final lap. But a Havoc car surged back to life and knocked out the Stranglehold car in Turn 4. One of the limping Havoc cars completed the lap and before I knew it, the checkered flag was waiving! Havoc took the win rather stealth like as they had one car trailing the leading Stranglehold car the whole time and when that Stranglehold car got stopped, the Havoc car moved past and completed the race to victory.
As Havoc celebrated their win, Stranglehold team members and fans began going nuts as they believed they were just screwed out of a win and that Havoc did not complete the required laps. No fights broke out thankfully and upon review of the tape the next day by Jan Gabriel, Havoc indeed won the race and rightfully earned their victory. Congrats to team Havoc!
After speaking with whom I needed to from the TDA, I wandered back to the pits to track down Amber and Charlie. Amber was packed up and ready to head back to Indiana for family business and Charlie was left with two muddy monsters. He said that even if the trucks were clean he wouldn't be able to get them both in the hauler as the Harvick truck's rear steering was shot and needed to be fixed before it could be moved. Amber headed out and I talked with Charlie for a while as he contemplated what to do. The trucks ended up sitting at the track over night and were fixed, cleaned and packed up the next day.
A flat out awesome night of destruction at Route 66 and well worth my trip. I highly suggest you make the effort to check out a Team Demo event in the summer of 2005, you will not be disappointed. Monster Trucks will be back for at least one event next year as well.
**Remember, the July race and this National Final event will be televised on Speed Channel! Check out speedtv.com for dates/times for Lucas Oil: On The Edge!**
Thanks to Jan Gabriel and all the TDA personale for making this event and year a total blast for me and all the fans!