Monster Jam Summer Heat
Kalamazooooooooooo  Michigan
June 19th, 2004

Welcome to the 'Zoo! For the first time since the TNT series days, monster trucks returned to Kalamazoo Michigan for a complete weekend of action. The month of June usually is a slow month for my monster truck travels and the trend looked to continue. Father's Day weekend boasted 6 different monster truck events I could've attended and as it was getting down to the wire, I was still unsure of just where I was going if anywhere. But being the good son I am, I settled on going to Kalamazoo with my Dad so we could go to monster trucks and do the family thing in Michigan all in one trip.
Kalamazoo Speedway would be the venue and it is right down the road from Galesburg Speedway which should sound familiar as there are several pictures from an event back in the early 90s over in the Miscellaneous photo gallery. Here's a quick refresher:

Kalamazoo Speedway is a much different track setup than the big open fields of Galesburg. This was a small, enclosed paved oval stock car track with limited space for monster trucks and even more limited seating. We managed to get around the crappy seating by finding a good spot way up top in the grandstands away from the main center section that was all wooden benches and crammed underneath the v.i.p. boxes. The monsters though would be pretty limited. The pit area on the track was littered with walls, barriers and buildings yet that's exactly where they'd have to put the monster truck course. The front stretch of the racetrack was reserved for Quad Wars and the monster trucks couldn't run on there anyways because it wasn't a straight away and it was way too close to the stands.
After hassling with CCE staff, security and then getting some of my pictures signed at the autograph session, the event was ready to begin so let's get to it!

Truck/Driver Lineup:

Grave Digger--Jason Childress

Avenger--Jim Koehler

Brutus--Chris Bergeron

Full Boar--Ed Eckert

Lil' Miss Dangerous--Jocelyn Perrin

The race course was the boring 5 car Thunder Nationals style setup but that was pretty much all they could do with the venue. I don't mind Thunder Nationals, but if I want to see one it better be on concrete and inside, not on a big oval speedway!  The monsters would take part in first a Wheelie Contest, then Freestyle and finally side-by-side racing to close out the night. There could be no real hometown or state favorite as all the trucks/drivers are from Michigan and the surrounding areas. Who's the best in the state? Tonight might be grounds for some argument.

Wheelie Contest

Full Boar-- Last time I saw Ed was way back in January at the Milwaukee Thunder Nationals where he was exploding transmissions left and right but also getting some pretty good wheel stands on the cars plus winning the freestyle on Saturday night. Ed lined up Full Boar in the near lane for his attempt in the wheelie contest and rolled to the cars slowly then nailed the gas right at the cars but the truck would not stand up at all. Just a low leap over the cars for his effort and not the way to start off. Score: 3.

Lil' Miss Dangerous-- I had not seen Jocelyn for over 10 months with the last time being the mud fest in Monroe last August. She had a good night in the mud but dry land suits her much better and it showed right away as Jocelyn launched the '41 Willys into the air with a great rolling 45degree angle jump across the cars. Very nice jump. Score: 6.

Brutus-- This was my first time seeing the new giant Taco Bell dog body and Monroe was also the last time seeing Brutus with Chris behind the wheel. Bergeron won freestyle in Monroe and has been doing very well for himself on the monster jam tour. He lined up his jump in the near lane and stabbed the throttle shooting the truck up on its hind legs...errr...wheels with an awesome vertical wheel stand. Score 10. Can't do it much better than that!

Avenger-- The 2003 World Freestyle Champion had a good following in Kalamazoo and he wasn't about to disappoint. Koehler has been on a roll ever since his WF5 let down and if there ever was a "man on a mission" it as to be Koehler out to get back what he once had. His wheelie here was a step in the right direction as he blasted Avenger way up and over the cars, not so much vertical but it still was a sweet jump. Score: 8.

Grave Digger-- I've never had the opportunity to see Jason Childress race, Bigfoot nor Digger. This was Jason and his brother Lonnie's first year back full time as racers and they've been touring mostly smaller monster jam shows with Digger and Lonnie in High Roller. Jason tore up #14 the night before but thanks to a lot of work had it back together for Saturday night. The engine was fluttering and running a bit rough as he pulled up to the line for his jump. Jason couldn't seem to make up his mind if he wanted to do a slow approach or just go fast. The result was a little bit of both as he got Digger pretty vertical but also cleared a couple of the cars with a sideways leap over the cars. Not a bad jump but not nearly enough to win it. Score: 6.

After some lame Quad Bores, it was right into monster truck freestyle. Only extra obstacle for the monsters would be a car-van-car pyramid to the left of the near set of cars. It was already pretty smashed down but at least it was something else for them to crush. No casualties from the Wheelie Contest so all trucks would be running for freestyle. Of course, the trucks were only given 60 seconds for freestyle which is pathetic. Mostly everyone ignored the time thankfully and ran until they were content.


Full Boar-- Ed was the first up to tackle the track and started with a jump on the far set of cars. He turned Full Boar around for a hit on the near set but couldn't get much air off it. He continued back and forth on the cars with a couple more jumps but just couldn't get the truck off the ground at all. Ed went looking for something else and found the pyramid. He lined up and hit the stack pretty hard, cleared the top of the van and the second car then came slamming down extremely hard on the ground. A very good jump but with harsh results. That ended Ed's run and would end his night as the rear axle was now in pieces. Not a pleasant night for the Full Boar team. Score: 3.

Lil' Miss Dangerous-- Jocelyn roared onto the track next and went for the near set of cars but didn't get much air off it either. That near set is really beaten down and wasn't giving the trucks much to work with. Jocelyn realized this and focused on the other set and busted off two really nice long jumps. She came back to the near set from the back side and unleashed her best jump on the night with another beautiful rolling wheel stand across all the cars. The front end of the truck hit the pavement pretty hard and bounced a little funny but Jocelyn seemed to have control then all of a sudden the truck hooked hard to the right and Lil' Miss Dangerous went tumbling to the ground very, very hard! The roll was out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise including the crowd who really didn't make much reaction at all. Fans not cheering a roll at a Monster Jam? What! Jocelyn got out of the truck ok and seemed fine minus walking slowly but that was due to already having a broken foot! The truck suffered minimal body damage and Jocelyn would return later on for racing. Score: 6.

Brutus-- Bergeron rumbled Brutus out to the track next and was ready to pounce at the cars. He got a good jump over the far set to open the run and already I could tell he was aiming to keep that all-important momentum flowing in the run. He got a weak hit on the near set coming the other way but that didn't even phase Chris and he whipped the truck around and launched over the far set, skimmed the cars then bounced up a slap wheelie on the landing and carried it as far as he could before dropping the front end and running right into two huge barrier tires! But those weren't even a factor and Bergeron just ran right over them. Awesome sequence right there. Bergeron came back around for a final hit on the near set and called it good. Short but good run. Score: 7.

Grave Digger-- As I said for Brutus and like I always say, momentum is the key and Childress must be able to read minds because he was dead on this entire run. He opened with a great jump on the near set, about the only truck able to get one. He came back with a great wheel standing launch over the back side of the far set then turned around, built up some speed and unloaded a colossal jump off the far set getting all kinds of air. Childress came back with a small jump on the back of the near set and tried to pull a slap wheelie on the landing but just missed. He turned back around to try the same thing again and this time the jump set it up perfectly and he was able to get a small wheelie going. Jason finished off with a big jump of the crumbled pyramid. Very good run. Score: 9.

Avenger-- There was to be no slow rolling up to the cars or taking time to line up a proper jump in this run. Koehler went all out and full tilt for as much as the track allowed. He started with a giant leap over the far set, never touching anything after the first car and could've clear 7 or 8 cars. He came to the back of the near set, mashed Avenger so hard that it didn't matter the cars were nearly flat and cleared the entire pile again. He cut a quick corner and blasted over the far set diagonally and then into the near set with a big jump. He didn't get as much speed on his next jump over the near set but it still managed to get the truck up in the air. His final jump was again on the near set and he planted the back end of the truck into the first car sticking the front straight up in the air and walked it across half the set before slamming back down. Excellent run. Score: 10.

Intermission was followed by more Quad crap then Mike West in the American Thunder Jet Jeep made an appearance and burned around the track a few times throwing some flames.

Monster Truck Racing was all that remained on the night. Full Boar would be out so that would leave four trucks to battle for the title.

Racing Round 1

Avenger vs. Lil' Miss Dangerous-- Hit the gas on the green and hold it to the finish hoping to have enough for victory is about all there will be to racing on this short track. Perrin in the near lane, which will keep the trucks low, and Koehler in the far lane that will probably put some air under the trucks easily. The light hit green and Koehler left Perrin sitting there and launched over the cars, clearing them again with no problem. Jocelyn was left at the line and only got within a truck length. Winner: Avenger.

Grave Digger vs. Brutus-- A really close launch off the line but Childress hit the cars just ahead of Bergeron. Digger went flying high and Brutus stayed low and almost snuck underneath for the win but the hole shot did in Brutus. Winner: Grave Digger.

Racing for 3rd place

Lil' Miss Dangerous vs. Brutus-- Another very close launch off the line as they both hit the cars at the same time and surprisingly it was Lil' Miss Dangerous who got the most air but managed to still dive towards the finish line. Meanwhile in the lane that was suppose to throw the trucks skyward, Brutus was staying even lower and never got any kind of air and motored across the cars just a bit quicker and managed to beat out Jocelyn. Winner: Brutus.


Avenger vs. Grave Digger--

Avenger in the far lane, Digger in the near lane. The crowd was pretty split on their choice to take it as well. They both roared off the line very even and hit the cars hard together. Both trucks went soaring over the cars with sideways jumps and cleared the cars with ease and had to slam on the brakes before hitting other things on the track. Neither truck went straight over the cars and if one would have it probably would've meant victory. Instead the crazy jump resulted in a close race and a Grave Digger controversial victory. My picture really doesn't help decide much but I thought Avenger had him. Winner: Grave Digger.

Both trucks came back towards the cars and I thought were going to put on an extra little freestyle but instead just popped the tires up on the cars and parked it.

All around not a bad show but certainly nothing exceptionally great and I won't be circling it for next year. Thanks to Traci Raymond of Clear Channel for giving in and finally letting my Dad and I in the gates and thanks to everyone for stopping by once again. That's all from the 'Zoo!