The 2003 Monster truck
season was winding down entering the month of October and this final stop at Route 66
would culminate an incredible year of monster truck racing. But it wouldn't be an easy
trip of course, you know me better than that. The Monster Mash was on the 4th of October
but so was the USHRA Tech School which I was invited to attend. The school started bright
an early at 8am and would go pretty much all day. I had to duck out early of the tech
session just to have time to make it to the show as well. I picked up Andrew Pellegrine of
Monster-Truckin', headed to my Dad's place and jumped in his car and off we were to get
our kicks at Route 66!
Time was not on our side and getting lost in the back roads behind the speedways didn't help our cause. We were finally in the gates with only about 20 minutes remaining in the pit party. We met up with Elliott Miller of MichiganMonsterTrucks.com and his family who decided to finally venture out of Michigan for a show :-) I strolled the pit party as quick as I could talking with most of the drivers especially Brian Townsend and Don Frankish. After marveling at the track design (more on that in a minute), everyone got rounded up and we headed to the stands. We spotted Steve Maver formerly of MavsMonsters.com and some of his friends so we crowded up in that section. One big group of internet monster truck fans.
Well, story time is over kiddies, its time to go racing!!
Jurassic Attack--Lindsey Weenk
Airborne Ranger--Joe Cypher
Bearfoot Old School--Brian Townsend
Scorpian King--Larry Swim
Crazy track designs have been at the forefront of all the monster truck shows at Route 66 and this one is no different. Two HUGE 13 foot high railroad storage containers covered with dirt made up the "roller" hills on the starting line and were the most ominous monster truck race course object I can ever recall. After the hills there was a set of 5 cars to tackle even before getting to the turn. The turn itself was vicious. An extremely tight turn around two stacked tires would need be made to head down the final stretch towards a 6 car jump and the finish line. For Qualifying, each truck would get to run once in each lane. It was not timed as brackets were preset. The TeamRAM and Shafer trucks seemed to be the smoothest and quickest around the track with RAMmunition highlighting the session with an incredible leap off the final set, nose diving hard into the ground but coming away unharmed. Brian Townsend in Bearfoot broke a tie rod on his last jump but it was fixed for racing.
Racing Round 1
Maniac vs. RAMinator-- The hole shot was not going to be a big factor for this track as that hill would immediatly slow the trucks down. The biggest factor in the race would be getting down the front stretch first and get a line for the turn. Hall was up the hill and down it first but Frankish in Maniac roared back as they hit the cars and took the lead with both trucks clearing the set. Frankish landed hard and was too fast going into the trun and went way wide. Hall slowed down quick and cut around the corner beautifully and was already hard on the gas. Frankish was now way behind and Hall stepped on the gas and let RAMinator take to the sky with a great leap at the finish clearing all 6 and probably could've cleared 16. Winner: RAMinator.
Airborne Ranger vs. Frankenstein-- Frankenstein was up and over the mountain first but Cypher was right on him. Shafer pulled away over the cars and was smooth into the turn extending his lead. Still was a bit wide around the tires while Cypher closed in but all out horsepower took over on the back stretch and Frankenstein out muscled Airborne Ranger to the finish. Winner: Frankenstein.
Bearfoot vs. Scorpian King-- Bearfoot was staged just slightly ahead of Scorpian King but as soon as the flag dropped, that advantage was quickly erased. Swim powered over the hill and blasted over the cars taking a good size lead into the turn. Townsend managed to gain ground as he approached the turn but went too wide while Swim pulled an excellent move around the tires and cruised down the front stretch as Bearfoot lagged behind. Winner: Scorpian King.
RAMmunition vs. Jurassic Attack-- Benear bolted off the line first and was very smooth and quick over the hill but the big dinosaur was right on his tail. Benear pulled away over the first set of cars but took another hard nose dive after clearing the set. Weenk in Jurassic Attack gained all kinds of ground as they headed to the turn. Weenk took a great line around the tires and was ahead of RAMmunition as they straightened out. But then something went away for Jurassic Attack and Benear poured it on towards the final set to take a two truck length win. Winner: RAMmunition.
After one round of racing, its been all TeamRAM and Team Shafer and the semi-finals will be all Dodge's and all Hemi's. The teams will have to battle against each other again to see who represents the Finals.
Scorpian King vs. RAMmunition-- Larry and Dale have been two of the smoothest and quickest on the track and should provide one heck of a race. This might also be the first time these two trucks have ever faced each other. Off the line niether truck had a definite lead and over the hill they're even. Swim had a rough landing off the hill and Benear powered ahead for a slight lead over the first set of cars. He took yet another bad nose dive off the cars and Swim moved in to take advantage. Swim was already lining up his turn and slid around the tires nicely but still pretty wide. Meanwhile, Benear in the far lane had way too much speed into the turn and went even farther out than Scorpian King. Benear made up for it with his lead foot and was out to play catch up with Scorpian King. They both screamed down the final stretch towards the cars and Scorpian King flew across the line with a big jump about a truck length ahead of RAMmunition. Awesome race. Rumors swirled as to what happen to RAMmunition on that last jump. The RII may have accidently cut off RAMmunition but whatever the reason, I don't think he would've caught Scorpian King at full strength anyways. Winner: Scorpian King. Watch the video of this race in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre.
RAMinator vs. Frankenstein-- As with the last race, I don't recall another time these two trucks have faced each other. Mark Hall and Paul Shafer have raced against one another before, just not these two trucks. Both their Dodge Hemi powered showed as they carried the front tires over the peak of the hill and down the backside. Hall was quicker on the gas and took a one truck lead to the first set of cars. He was also much better on the braking end as Shafer was going to fast while trying to catch up and ended up way off track. Hall had his best turn of the night so far and stomped on RAMinator for all it had not taking any chances with Shafer in Frankenstein. Shafer made up some ground but it wasn't enough. Hall's jump on the final set of cars was beyond awesome, clearing the set and landing nearly all the way back at the starting hill! Massive leap. Winner: RAMinator.
The Finals were set and what a Final it would be. Arguably the two best running trucks on the night would square off to see which team and truck would reign supreme at Route 66.
RAMinator vs. Scorpian King-- Hall stuck Swim over in the far that niether of them had run all night. Hall rocketed off the line first but that had no effect as they hit the hill. Swim pulled dead even with him off the hill and they were side-by-side as they hit the cars. Both landed a bit squirrely off the cars but regained control fine heading to the turn. Swim didn't get on the brakes fast enough while Hall was already sliding around the tire. Hall made it seem like RAMinator was attached to that tire barrier and pivoted absoluetly perfectly around the turn. Hall put the pedal down as Scorpian King was not out of this one yet. Swim tried to reel him in on the final set but fell short but about a truck and a half. Hall flew across the finish with his biggest jump yet, landing the front tires right at the end of the starting hill. Mindboggling jumps from RAMinator. Winner: RAMinator.
For freestyle, there were some interesting extras on the track leaving plenty out there to work with. A double wide car-van-bus-van-car pyramid, a leveled down FMX hill and a fountain jump in between the starting hills were the bonus items. Freestyle would be judged by some fans in the audience and they didn't do a bad job, but the scores below will be from my perspective. Some of these shots were taken off the video I shot as well.
Frankenstein-- Shafer kicked off freestyle by headin' right for the cars in the middle of the track. Even on the fresh stack, he didn't get much air. He moved to the front stretch to attack the two sets there and numerous times got some nice air, clearing the sets. He ventured back to other side of the track and hit the pyramid and strolled over it nicely with the pyramid looking pretty smooth. Shafer rumbled Frankenstein over to the dusty, open area and ripped off some awesome dounts that actually pumped some life into the very dull crowd. Shafer went to the near cars again with another good jump then mixed stuff up by hitting that same set of cars from their hoods. Nice move that which I'm a sucker for every time. Good opening run from Frankenstein. Score: 4.
RAMinator-- Different to see RAMinator going second in the freestyle order as there's no playing favorites at Route 66. Hall started right out with a big sky wheelie on a far set of cars then rumbled around to near the starting line to setup for the fountain jump. Hall charged RAMinator toward the ramp with some good speed and cleared the water easily getting lots of air. He headed to the other far side of the track and ripped off an incredible set of donuts throwing dust everywhere. He followed up with some great leaps over the near sets of cars really keeping the momentum flowing in the run. Hall worked over the cars then went for the fountain jump again this time with more speed and getting some awesome height out of the jump. He maneuvered to the back of the track for a run at the pyramid and took a hard nose dive on the way down. He recovered and hit a final great jump on the cars and then saluted the crowd to finish the run. Very solid and fast paced run. Score: 8.
RAMmunition-- I wish I would've had the time to do an end of the year wrap up thing and highlight the best events, best driver and best truck etc. Dale Benear in RAMmunition would be right at the top with his performances over 2003. As the summer progressed, he only got stronger and more consistent in racing and freestyle. Benear started his run here where everyone else did on that far set of cars with a nice jump. He rolled over the starting hills and then circled back to go after the cars back there again. Benear brought the truck to the front stretch and started beating up the cars there. He headed to the starting line area and was lined up for the fountain jump. Didn't have much speed approaching it but nailed it right at the ramp and took off with a great amount of air and distance and landed very hard on the front end. Benear went to the open area and spun off a fantastic set of donuts and followed right up with clearing the six cars on the front. He took a few more nice jumps on the cars and called it good. Score: 5
Airborne Ranger-- Joe Cypher is the only truck in the field that has been to all three Route 66 monster truck events and won the freestyle event last August. Cypher brought Airborne Ranger right to the front sets of cars and got two really nice jumps on them to open his run. He then took to the back side of the track and hit both sets of cars. Cypher lined up for the pyramid but didn't have much speed which kicked the rear wheels up over the bus and sent the truck nose first on the way down. He recovered well and turned the truck around for another crack at the bus. He got much more speed going and hit the pyramid strong and sailed over it perfectly. Cypher blasted down the front stretch with a lot of speed then turned back up the track and hit the FMX hill from the side! Great move. He then kept right on going and hit the fountain jump from the other direction then immediately let loose some awesome donuts! Excellent combo of moves by Airborne Ranger to close out the run. Score: 7
Scorpian King-- Joe Cypher isn't the only person who's been to the speedway three times. Larry Swim in Scorpian King has been to Route 66 two other times this year alone performing freestyle exhibition along side B.J. Johnson in Bearfoot at the Team Demolition Derbys. Only difference now is that there's no mud and plenty more to run over! Swim started off with a great sky wheelie over a far set of cars and then rolled a hill to circle back to hit the other set. He popped up a HUGE sky wheelie and on the landing pulled a nose dive that was dejavu to the Washington Missouri show. Swim roared Scorpian King to the middle of the track headed for the fountain. He didn't have a lot of speed up to it but it was just enough to clear the back wheels on the other side. The near set of cars was on tap next as Larry cleared the set and the ramp and then mustered up as much of slap wheelie that he could. Larry hit the cars in the middle then turned the opposite way towards the FMX hill, popping a wheelie up and off it. Larry beat up the cars a bit more with some good jumps then ended the run. Score: 6.
Bearfoot Old School-- After returning to the seat of a monster truck for the first time in three years, Brian Townsend has been on a tear the entire summer behind the wheel of Boogey Van. But with the departure of B.J. Johnson, someone needed to take the reigns of Bearfoot. This event was only Brian's second ever in this truck and the feeling out of the truck was still apparant. Townsend started his run on the middle set of cars and got a nice jump clearing the set, but when he landed something in the front axle area broke and sent a shower of sparks out from underneath. I figured the run was done but he kept right on going. He lumbered Bearfoot to the near set of cars and cleared them easily. He headed back to that first set of cars for another jump and cleared those as well. Knowing the truck was hurt, Brian seemed to be just sticking to the cars and not doing anything extreme. Of course as soon as I figured that, he launched the truck over the near set of cars really hard and slammed the front end down hard on the ground. You could heard metal hitting metal from whatever was broke on the front end. Brain continued to make laps as it seemed and was on his way back to the middle row of cars. He flew over them and started picking up speed as he came back down the front stretch again. He still had a ton of speed coming up to the cars and unleashed the biggest jump on them so far in freestyle, clearing the 6 cars and then some. He slammed the front end down again and pulled up his patented Leaping Slap Wheelie! Even with the damaged truck he was able to muscle one up. Townsend ended the run on that note and a good effort despite the circumstances. Score: 3.
Maniac-- I was very anixous to see the Team Canada trucks of Maniac and Jurassic Attack for the first time in person. Don Frankish is always one to go all out for any occasion and I was hoping to see him invade the U.S. and snatch a win. Frankish started with a lot of speed on everything and was burning up the track with speed runs over the ramp sides of the cars. On the near sets he lined up two excellent rolling sky wheelies and continued to build that momentum. Frankish got up the nerve to pull a wheelstand over the big starting hill, the most aggressive hit on the hills all night. He shot over the cars again and headed for the big pyramid. Good speed on the approach and he shot up in the air and the back tires kicked on the bus sending Maniac nose first to the cars below. Frankish drove out of it and swung the truck around for another crack at the bus. This time an even harder hit getting plenty of air under all four tires and pulling a slight wheelie on the back side. The two biggest jumps on the pyramid easily. A short run, but none the less, a good run. Score: 5. Watch the video of his two pyramid jumps in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre.
Attack-- Only one truck left and it was the big dinosaur Jurassic
Attack and Lindsey Weenk. He got everyone's attention right away by starting ontop of the
FMX and rolling down the back of it then over to the cars with a great sky wheelie. Weenk
went up and over the starting hill then turned to the center for a run at the tar
pit....errr...water fountain and sailed over it with ease. He kept the Jurassic rumblin'
and Attacked the FMX hill from the other way as well with a nice wheel stand at the peak.
Back to the front cars with a great rolling wheelie across the six cars, followed up by
another great hit on the other near set. Weenk took to the pyramid but didn't attack it
too hard and rightfully so with quite an investment in that body. Weenk stopped the truck
in its path and tried to cut loose some donuts but with no locker in the back, the wheels
rocked up and didn't keep spinning. That didn't slow Jurassic Attack down much as he went
for another hit in the FMX hill then back to the near cars with a picture perfect sky
wheelie. His last hit was on the farthest set of cars and Weenk rocketed the truck
straight up and down, nearly clearing the cars as well and taking a vicious bounce at the
end but was able to drive out of it. Very good run for Jurassic Attack. Score: 6.
Watch the video of his last sky wheelie in the Other Midwest Shows Video Theatre.
Another fine showing for the
monster trucks at Route 66. The show was solid top to bottom with a stellar lineup, an
incredible track and layout and just enough freestyle to send everyone home happy. The
crowd for this show was a bit on the down side probably because its was October and it was
cold out and not too many people felt like roughing it for a night of monsters. I hope the
monsters return to Route 66 for some events next year as it is a great place to run them
and I enjoy coming every time.
After the show let out, I headed to the TeamRAM merch hauler to chat for a bit but got stopped short by the mass of people crowded around trying to buy stuff. Seems people were quite impressed with RAMinator's dual victory on the night. I finally managed to squeeze in the side door and was greeted with a big smile from June Hall.
Dale and Mark were busy signing autographs like crazy and everyone else was running around trying to pull merch as quick as possible so I didn't stay and chat long. Plus I had to be up early the next day for the tech school again.
Big thanks to my Dad for taking Andrew and I there and for shooting all the pictures for this coverage as I was busy running video camera to make sure I got everything. Thanks to Steve for lending some of his shots for this coverage and be sure to check out Andrew's coverage of this event on Monster-Truckin' as well as Elliott's over at MichiganMonsterTrucks.com
Thank you for stopping by MidwestMonsters again and everytime in 2003 and I hope you are ready for more monster truck racing action in 2004!