Lake County Fairgrounds
Paul Shafer Motorsports
The July monster marathon is in it's fourth stage as I arrived in Grayslake for some mid-week monster trucks. Shafer Motorsports has been on a whirlwind tour throughout July consisting of nearly 20 events and numerous on back to back days in different towns much like this week. Two events in Grayslake on Tuesday and Wednesday then off to Valparaiso on Thursday for a show. Originally I had not planned to come up to Grayslake with Valpo on Thursday and having to work during the week but I pulled a few strings and got out of work early fearing heavy traffic during rush hour. But I ended up flying to the track and had an extra hour to kill before showtime.
Another big reason for coming to this show was I had just received my new Canon Digital Rebel camera in the mail a few days before and needed a good place to test it out before needing perfect pictures on Saturday at the Team Demolition Derby. After thumbing through the 100-page manual and figuring out the basic functions I figured I'd just learn it on the fly at the event. I did not get a lineup for this show but figured it'd be along the lines of previous years. When I got to the track, here's what I found:
Wild Thang--Dave Harwood
Blessed Hellride--Bennett Clark
Kevin Harvick/Kid Rock #29--Amber Sky Walker
Boogey Van--Larry Swim
Mr. Late Arrival himself, Rick Busca and Chicago Outlaw!
Rick got stuck in local traffic and rolled in with about 10 minutes to go before show time. But with the help of extra crew guys from Shafer Motorsports, Chicago Outlaw hit the track just as he was to be introduced.
This would be my first time seeing the Harvick/Kid Rock truck, looks
really good on that chassis and Amber has been getting better and better with her new
truck. But what about Boogey Van? Well it has become the "driver by committee"
truck of Shafer Motorsports and tonight a thrilled looking Larry Swim was at the wheel.
Usually the show format for this event is having the trucks split into two groups, get a "wheelie contest" winner from each then have those two winners face off for a wheelie contest champ. Then after intermission, all the trucks will freestyle. But things changed up this time and instead of opening the show with a wheelie contest, the trucks would pair up for side by side flat drags. With the very short course it was stomp on the gas then three seconds later mash the brakes.
Racing Round 1
Chicago Outlaw vs. Wild Thang-- Not much to it for this or any race so not too much to describe. Outlaw is just too heavy and low geared for an event like this and Harwood blew him away. Winner: Wild Thang
Boogey Van vs. Blessed Hellride-- A much closer race this time but it was Larry in Boogey Van adapting nicely to his new ride and taking a win. Winner: Boogey Van.
Frankenstein vs. Harvick/Kid Rock #29-- Two big Hemi's up against each other but one just didn't seem up to speed and that was Amber's truck as Shafer cruised by for the win. Winner: Frankenstein.
Racing Round 2
Blessed Hellride vs. Wild Thang-- Bennett gets back in as fast loser but finds himself just short at the finish line again. Winner: Wild Thang.
Boogey Van vs. Frankenstein-- A very close race start to finish. I thought Larry had him but Paul eeked out a win by the slimmest of margins. Winner: Frankenstein.
Wild Thang vs. Frankenstein-- Easily the two fastest trucks and makes sense they made it to the Finals. Harwood drilled Shafer on the line and was hard on it as far as he could go. Shafer made up some ground but just not enough. Winner: Wild Thang.
After racing was done, Bobby Cox came out to do one of his little bits then it was suppose to be time for some car crushing I guess. But we didn't know what was going on as the announcer, Bobby Paul, his mic went out. We were pretty much left in the dark for a good 10 minutes. We didn't have audio but we did have trucks so Chicago Outlaw was given the green light to hit the track for Freestyle.
Monster Truck Freestyle
Chicago Outlaw-- Busca rumbled out of the pits and went straight for the cars getting a good first jump with some nice air. He got the big Ford turned back and hit the other side with another nice leap out of the heavyweight. Busca's third jump didn't provide as much air but he was about to make up for that. He lined up Outlaw to the cars then backed up as far as he could and got a running start towards the cars. Busca blasted Chicago Outlaw into the car and way up into the air clearing the first two cars then slamming down on the last three. Sweet slow motion jump and thanks to that handy burst-mode on the new camera, I got 4 pictures of the jump. Not a bad run for Outlaw, right in line with his usual performances. Score: 4.
Boogey Van-- Larry Swim was ready to kick freestyle up a notch and he started off right with a big rolling wheelie across the cars that put some life in the slowly dwindling crowd. Swim liked that side of the cars and came back for another hit with nearly the same results. Larry brought Boogey Van to the other side and shot up the truck with another nice jump and was really building up the momentum. Swim slammed into the cars from the left side again and nearly cleared them with a sweet jump. Back on the other side Larry put Boogey Van way up in the air finally able to get some big distance under both axles. Larry let it all hang out on the final jump and cleared the cars with ease. Really good run especially since he never drove the truck before. Score: 7.
Wild Thang-- Last time I saw Dave Harwood, he smoked a huge field of trucks at Route 66 Raceway including beating Jim Koehler in the finals. Talking with Dave he said that night at Route 66 is one of his best memories in racing and loved coming in an underdog and ending up top dog. Harwood started his run with a giant leap from the left side sending the big skull way up in the air. He came back with a good jump from the other way followed by a mirror image of it on the other side. Harwood finished with another big leap from the left side to end the run. Score: 5.
After Wild Thang freestyled I don't really remember what happened but there was some lawn mower racing then Bobby Cox came out for one of his acts/stunts doing a wall of fire deal with his mini monster truck. During this time, the sun was setting and even though it was the middle of July, temperatures began falling and the combination of all these things for some reason sent people streaming to the exits. By the time Bobby was done, only about 1/4 of the original packed house remained.
Kid Rock/Kevin Harvick #29-- If anyone can come up with an easy acronym or a good abbreviated name for this truck, please tell me because I don't really know what to call it and hate typing out the huge name. Amber started off with a nice long jump from the left side and ended with a good knock on the front end. She turned around and got a lot of speed towards the cars and unloaded the biggest jump on the day, sailing way over the cars and landing again hard on the front end. After getting luck off that side, she stuck with that end for the rest of her jumps but just couldn't match the first jump. Still had 3 more really good jumps to complete a solid run. Score: 7.
Blessed Hellride-- Bennett was having some engine trouble over the past few weeks as the stress of so many events was starting to catch up. But his engine seemed to be running just fine on the first jump as he shot the truck nearly straight up in the air, cleared four of the cars and made a nice save on a crazy landing. The hopes of a strong engine were short lived though as it began to flutter and hesitate when Bennett would stab the throttle at the cars. He never duplicated his first jump but still have some good ones in the mix. Bennett was the only person to get a little creative with the run and threw in some donuts and that got the crowd that was left a little excited. Not a bad run from Blessed Hellride but if that engine would've been running correct, Bennett may have won it all. Score: 6.
Frankenstein-- One truck to go and that was "the boss" Paul Shafer in Frankenstein. Shafer attacked the cars very hard from the get go with a combination of big air and distance. He tried to pull up a small slap wheelie at the end of his jumps but just couldn't get it to hit right. Shafer wasn't wasting too much time in between jumps and did a good job of keeping momentum flowing even in the tiny space. He nearly matched the airtime of Amber on his fourth jump but she was still a bit higher up there. Solid run all around. Score: 7.
And before I knew it, the show was over! Yikes, that surprised me. After being drawn out in every place possible, it was now cut short on action. Seemed a little ridiculous to me but what can you really expect when its such a small show and there is no extra fee for people to get in a see the show once they're in the fair.
I stayed around for awhile afterwards and talked with Eric Stern and got
some camera pointers which definitely helped and I'm still trying to learn all the modes
to this new toy. I then talked with just about every driver but mainly Dave Harwood. He
discussed the toll this hard summer was taking on him physically and that time off may be
in the future. That was in July, as of August, he has announced his temporary retirement
from driving due to health issues. I told everyone I'd see them two days later in
Valparaiso and headed off.
Thanks for reading this brief coverage of Grayslake and always look for more to come!