(The intro is a long read, but if you skip it, you'll be in the dark)
The crystal clear sky, bright sun and
mid-80s temperature from Monroe Michigan in 2002 were no where to be found this year.
During the last week of July and into the first week of August, the entire upper midwest
and especially Michigan was slammed with crazy amounts of rain and wave after wave of
severe thunderstorms. The day that saw nearly a dozen tornados and the worst part of the
storms just happened to be Aug. 1st-- The same day as the Midwest Monster Trucks event,
presented by Tim Bush, in Monroe.
My Dad and I traveled to Coldwater Michigan, about 2 hours west of Monroe on Thursday night to stay at my grandparents. I was constantly keeping an eye on the weather report as I knew there was a chance Monroe would get hit by the rain. It wasn't until Friday morning that I realized that the event may be in jeopardy. 3 storm pathes were all headed straight for the Monroe/Detroit area and set to hit right at show time. But, never letting rain stop us before, we hit the road to the event with fingers crossed.
After an hour on the road we caught up to the cluster of storms and were bombarded with blinding rains, hurricane winds, and golf ball size hail. Cars were pulling off the road and under bridges to try and avoid damage and wait out the storm. We tried to continue on but the hail was getting too severe so we stopped for a few minutes as well. The storm passed within 5 minutes and we headed off again. Finally I decided to flip on the radio to get a weather report as well. The station was declaring a Tornado WARNING for counties just to the west and south of where we were and they were moving right for us. I pulled out the map to make sure where we were just as they announced another warning for a Summerset county. I couldn't find it on the map anywhere. Me:"Where the hell is it?!" Dad:"whats that sign say?" "Me:"Now entering Summerset County." Both of us:"Oh S**T!!"
I was frantically looking out of the car in all directions for a sign of the on-coming danger but I saw nothing. We sped up to try and get ahead of the weather and start heading more south. We never encountered a tornado or more severe weather on the road and made it to the Monroe County Fairgrounds about an hour before showtime...and an hour before the storms caught us again!
We sat around outside the grandstands and watched the clouds roll in as we waited for Elliott Miller (MichiganMonsterTrucks.com) to arrive as he was our ticket in. As the storm got closer and closer we were picking out spots to run incase it got really nasty. My Dad took one of the exhibit halls...I chose underneath a bulldozer.
Elliott and his Dad arrived, we grabbed some wristbands and headed to the pits. But by the time we made the short walk there, the rain had just began to fall and the winds were picking up and the sky went black in a hurry. We sat in the uncovered stands on the far side of the track last year, but no way were we going there with the rain.
So we trekked over to the main stands to get some seats.
Conditions continued to get worse by the minute. The 8 monsters were parked on the track and crews were trying to get vital parts covered up from the rain. As the storm grew stronger, so did the line for the Blue Thunder ride truck! I kid you not, the truck never stopped running all during the horrific downpour. The riders were drentched and covered in mud by the end of their turn.
The rain was relentless for over a half an hour before finally showing signs of letting up. The crowd was kind of getting restless and with a break in the storm the call was given to go racing!! Problem was, the track was now the 6th Great Lake. It made for one interesting event as you will see.
Lil' Miss Dangerous--Jocelyn Perrin
Full Boar--Ed Eckert
Bad News Travels Fast--Bruce Haney
The first event on tap for the night would be the sided-by-side flat drags. Only 4 races would be run and its just a little extra event that Tim Bush likes to add to his programs. The highly anticipated matchup was Bigfoot vs. RAMinator. Both trucks spun like crazy at the start but as soon as he got traction, Eric Tack put the power down and blew away the Hemi with big Ford power. The shutdown area is quite big but on the slick track, the trucks were sliding way down to the end and Eric Tack nearly went into the wall trying to stop Bigfoot after that run. That will be something to keep an eye on.
Freestyle is run before racing at Tim Bush's events because he likes to see trucks not only put on a decent showing in Freestyle, but also save enough to put their best effort forward in racing. A car-van-car pyramid and slap wheelie hill were added at the last minute and good thing too as the slick track wasn't allowing for much else.
Brutus-- It'd been well over a year since I saw Brutus the last time at the Silverdome where Bergeron lost the front tire even before hitting a jump in Freestyle. The plagging axle problems have long since been fixed and Bergeron was ready to tear it up and make a mess in Monroe. Bergeron blasted down the cars but couldn't get much air off the ramps and slammed into the mucky ground. Chris turned, well mostly slid and spun the truck towards the back of the far set and hit the cars very hard and sent Brutus skyward with a huge sky wheelie! Awesome jump that got the wet crowd rockin'. Bergeron wasn't going to let anything go untouched and charged for the pyramind and made his way over it in fine fashion. He instantly put all the power he could to the ground and roared to the slap wheelie hill and the truck took off! HUGE jump by Brutus getting near completely vertical and slamming down very very hard on the back end snapping some shock components as well. But that didn't stop Bergeron as he whipped the truck into some slop splashing donuts to finish the run. An electric run to start freestyle but he would need to get to work to repair the truck before racing. Video of this run is in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre. Score: 7.
Full Boar-- Ed Eckert in the big and heavy Full Boar were out to play in the mud next. Eckert started with a speed run down the cars, but like Brutus, not much air as the shallow ramps had eroded down even more with all the wind and rain. Eckert went to the back of the near, untouched set and tried to get a sky wheelie but the slick cars were not playing nice with Full Boar. Eckert cruised down into the middle where the pyramid was and hit it with a good amount of speed and cleared it in a picture perfect leap landing incredibly hard on the other side. Eckert had a good jump on the backside of the far set but still couldn't get much air under the truck. A bit lacking and I was hoping for some donuts but none. Score: 2.
Lil' Miss Dangerous-- Been over a year since I'd seen Jocelyn drive as well as this truck ran as Willy Badd with Frank Krmel behind the wheel as this event last year and I last saw Jocelyn race at East Lansing 2002. Jocelyn started strong with a very aggressive jump over the pyramind getting the best air on it so far. She followed up with a nice pass down the cars but still, no air. Jocelyn went and attacked the far side cars with a nice leap over them getting all four tires off the cars. She flew down the cars once more and went to the end of the track into the sloppy mess and cut some great donuts, actually getting down deep enough to find some dust still on the track! Jocelyn finished with another fine jump on the cars. Good run and the women in the crowd went wild. Score: 5.
Avenger-- The 2003 USHRA World Freestyle Champ Jim Koehler in Avenger hit the track next to show just why he has that title. Koehler shot out of the pits and hit the pyramid full force carrying the back wheels up over and off and nearly pulling a slap wheelie. Koehler went to the mud and pulled off some sensational donuts spinning perfectly in the mud. Koehler attacked the cars and managed to get some pretty good air off them. Koehler went for more big air off the pyramid but kind of stumbled on it a bit. He shot down the cars and went back to the donuts nearly covering the entire truck in mud. Another big jump on the near set of cars and Avenger was done. Good, fast paced run. Score: 6.
Bad News-- Bruce Haney in Bad News was sporting the Superman cape look for his freestyle run. Haney rigged a blue tarp in the bed of the truck to cover the engine from the continuous rain and flying mud. He's got the cape, but can the truck fly? Bruce usually has some pretty fast and exciting runs but he seemed to be taking it easy tonight considering the conditions we were in. Haney made a couple attempts at the pyramid but didn't get much off it on any jump. The cars weren't allowing for much air in the truck either. Haney did show what Bad News is known for and that is the top end speed of the truck as he rocketed down the back stretch and grabbed some nice air and great distance off the ramps, the only truck to do that so far. Score: 3.
Backdraft-- Chad Tingler was at the reigns of the big Backdraft Dodge as he has been most of the summer season subbing for truck owner Rick Disharoon. I'd never heard much of Chad and didn't know what to expect from him. I quickly learned to pay attention. Tingler blasted onto the track and hit the pyramid full tilt standing the truck nearly vertical and carried it all the way over in spectacular fashion. Tingler never let up and roared down the cars and out into the open muck. Tingler put his foot down and whipped off some awesome donuts keeping his momentum going. He fishtailed the truck out of the donuts and headed back to the pyramid. Tingler took Backdraft skyward again with another excellent wheelstand over the van. He kept trying for a wheelie but it wasn't going to happen on this track. Tingler grabbed some air off the near cars on his way back yet again to the pyramid. I think Chad found an obstacle he likes as he was consistently having excellent jumps in Backdraft off that pyramid. The crowd was into the donuts and he gave them more of what they wanted with another set of even nastier donuts digging way into the muck and now covering his truck with it. Fantastic run for Backdraft and Chad Tingler. Score: 7.
RAMinator-- Dale Benear was flying the RAMinator name this weekend as Mark Hall was driving his RAMinator out in Essex Junction. A little over a week prior to this race, Dale was ontop of his game at the Champaign Monster Nationals and was clearly the crowd favorite and nearly took the win in every event only topped by Big Dawg. Benear flew onto the track aimed right for the pyramid and pulled an impressive wheelstand up and over it. Benear did not hesitate and put the power to the ground and charged towards the wheelie hill and aired the big Dodge out with a HUGE jump. He landed the jump perfectly and continued on by spinning the truck around and going back for the cars. Benear shot over the far set and he was unsuccessful as well at getting much air over them. Benear went back down to the end of the track and set loose a fury of donuts spinning nice and tight and sending mud all over the place including up into the stands. Best donuts of the night so far and a good cap to the run. Score: 6.
Bigfoot-- Bigfoot was without a doubt the crowd favorite during intros and Eric Tack wasn't about to let them down. He started by taking the same route RAMinator did with a perfect wheelstand over the pyramid and then a big leap over the sky wheelie hill. This crowd was already hot and they were about to go into a frenzy. ET went to an untouched part of the track and unleashed an intense set of donuts digging down and also stirring up the dust. ET spun Bigfoot back straight and opened up the big Ford motor on Bigfoot as he blasted down the back flat stretch to the front of the course. The sides of the truck were nearly completely covered in mud and even the name was getting hard to read on the truck. ET shot Bigfoot over the pyramid once more and turned the truck right back around and smashed down the far side cars with a good jump. He wasn't wasting time move to move and rocketed towards the slap wheelie hill and launched off it again. The truck was 100% mud by this time as Bigfoot was on the track longer than anyone else. ET still wasn't finished as he attacked the cars once more and then went to the center of the track inbetween the two sets of cars and spun Bigfoot into a mind boggling donut! He spun the truck around 5-6 times within the blink of an eye, then let off the gas and the truck continued to spin twice around before coming to a stop facing the stands perfectly. The place went nuts and I was out of film to get it all, crap! Bigfoot takes top honors in my view but the crowd judged a 3-way tie between Bigfoot, Lil' Miss Dangerous and Brutus. Score: 10. Video of the donuts is in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre!
American Thunder Jet Jeep and Qualifying notes
Instead of waiting to close the show out with it, Mike West brought out the American Thunder Jet Jeep to blow up a car mid-show. A path had to be dug out for the jeep to be able to makes it way in and off the track without getting stuck. It took a little time but finally it was all set and West torched the heck out of a helpless car and nearly out of Tim Bush's new truck! They had the jeep pointing the flames back toward the pit area where all the crew vehicles and such was for some reason and stuff started flying off that car in that direction. Thankfully no damage was done to anything.
After the monsters freestyled, they were each given a Qualifying pass to test out a lane of their choice. Brackets were already pre-determined so it was merely a test session for the drivers. I believe Bigfoot came away with the fastest time but Backdraft and Bad News came away with damage to where they couldn't race. Backdraft sucked mud into the engine and Bad News threw a timing chain in the engine after getting crossed up on the final jump and slammed into the slap wheelie hill. The field would be down to 6 trucks with Brutus making it back repaired.
Racing Round 1
Full Boar vs. Brutus-- The starting line would be the key on the slick track as the trucks were easily going to spin on the line. Brutus has the speed advantage, but Full Boar is much heavier and that could help him keep traction. Eckert shot off the line first with a definite hole shot on Brutus and kept it over the first jump. Eckert continued to pour it on as Bergeron was struggling and got crossed up heading to the cars. As they hit the final set Full Boar still had the lead and they both sailed across the line and hit the ground hard. Full Boar pulled the upset and stuck it to Brutus in a clear victory. Or did he? It was determined that Eckert had got that big hole shot because he red-lighted. A good run goes by the boards and Brutus will advance on. Winner: Brutus.
Avenger vs. Lil' Miss Dangerous-- These two trucks matched up last summer in the same lanes, only difference is that it was Willy Badd and it was Frank Krmel behind the wheel. Power advantage is Avenger but again, more weight on the other side. Krmel last year stuck his foot in the truck all the way down the course and narrowly was beat by Avenger. Jocelyn had the same idea this time as she burned Koehler on the light and got off to a good start, only problem was the Avenger didn't spin much at all and leaped over the first jump. Both the trucks poured it on towards the final jump with Avenger still about a truck ahead. They hit the ramps and both cleared the cars easily but Avenger managed to hold off Lil' Miss Dangerous and take the win. Winner: Avenger.
Bigfoot vs. RAMinator-- The match everyone wanted to see and we get it right in the first round. So far its been Bigfoot's night, will Dale Benear put a stop to that? Both trucks were hammer down off the line and were shooting mud everywhere. Benear got the power down first and shot over the first jump while ET was a bit behind. As soon as RAMinator hit the flat land, it was gone! Benear blew away Bigfoot by a truck and a half with a great run and some big air on the back end. Winner: RAMinator.
RAMinator vs. Brutus-- Maybe the two fastest trucks in the field going head-to-head in this matchup. Bergeron was going to have to get off the line much better to have a shot at keeping up with RAMinator. Benear cut a good light but Bergeron stuck right with him. Benear got over the roller set first and put the power down into the flats but Brutus was hot on his heels as they flew over the last set getting some nice air and RAMinator taking a half truck length win. Winner: RAMinator.
Bigfoot vs. Avenger-- These two names matched up in a thrilling race last year, just different Bigfoot body and driver, but it was still Bigfoot taking the win. That was then and this was now. Whole different track and conditions as well. No hole shot either way and they were dead even over the roller with both trucks getting a really good launch. Koehler continued to carry the front tires in the air well off the first jump and that cost him. The front end came down off centered and he had to back out while Bigfoot charged towards the finish. They still hit the cars at nearly the same time but that slight slip by Avenger was the race. Winner: Bigfoot.
Bigfoot vs. RAMinator-- Well with Bigfoot getting back in as the Fast Loser, looks like we get Round 2 in this battle. Will it be a Bigfoot domination or will Benear continue his hot hand and spoil the victory party? The light hit green and the foot's hit the floor! Both trucks hardly spun at the line and left right at the same time. Benear slid a little to the right over the roller hill, a minor stumble. Bigfoot was smooth as silk over the roller and never let up into the flats. RAMinator was haulin' Hemi to play catch up as they hit the ramp full speed and sailed across the line with two huge jumps and slammed to the ground. Both trucks had trouble stopping and Bigfoot slid all the way into the dirt hill and ET decided to finally just drive right up on it! It was a dead heat to say the least. No one had a clue as to who won. A great race all around. Word finally came back and it was BIGFOOT taking home the victory! You can see that for sure in the picture that by less than 1/4 of a truck length, ET held off RAMinator for a thrilling win. Winner: Bigfoot. Watch the video in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre!
After the trucks got turned around, they each charged back towards the cars and took one last hit on them before pulling to the stands for a big ovation. All the other trucks then pulled to the front of the stands as well to greet the fans.
As you can see, the trucks were covered
in the sloppy mud by the night's end and it would take several hours to get them hosed
off. The rain was still coming down as it never totally stopped once during the show and
was regaining power at the close of the night. I wanted to get some autographs and talk to
drivers but had to cut things short with the rain.
Avenger would not refire after pulling up to the stands and Frank Krmel was in the cab just itchin' to get it running....but the pic is too dark to even see him. Frank has found himself a fulltime ride for the winter season and I can't wait to see him back on the track.
Even with the mud, rain, wind and cold, some fans just couldn't get enough and the Blue Thunder ride truck again had a huge line of people ready to get dirty. The truck was still running long after we left.
We headed out of the stands and down towards the merchandise table and ran into Tim Bush. I thanked him for everything and especially for putting on the show and he said he couldn't have done it with any other group of trucks and the real thanks goes out to them. Tim was nice enough to trek all the way to the other side of the track through all the mud just to get my Dad and I some Midwest Monster Trucks event hats. We talked more about his series and his trucks and plans for next year. I may try and get to a second show of his next summer.
Cold, wet, tired, but extremely pleased with the show, we headed out of the fairgrounds and back on our way home. A crazy night of racing that still sent the rather large crowd home happy. Great job by everyone involved to put forth the effort to make the show click. Big thanks to Tim Bush and Elliott Miller for allowing our access to the show. Thanks as always to you for stopping by again. Jason Twite
Be sure to check out Elliott Miller's coverage of this event as well for different shots and view points on all the muddy action. MichiganMonsterTrucks.com is the source!