One final night. One final night of monster trucks. One final night of monster truck history in the place it all started. The sport has changed quite a bit compared to that memorable night back in 1982. But, one thing has not changed. The Pontiac Silverdome has been and always will be the Mecca of Monster Trucks, the Holy Grail of Horsepower, and the most legendary venue to ever host a battle of monster trucks. There will never be another Silverdome, there will never be another place that takes its spot and there will never be anything to erase the memories stored within the soul of this structure.
On January 7, 2006, the final curtain would drop on monster trucks at the Silverdome. It was the last act, the grand finale on over 20 years of history and the last chance for trucks and drivers to etch their names into the Pontiac legacy. The largest field in Pontiac's history, one full of monster truck and Pontiac veterans, but also featuring the sport's best new-breed of talent. There would be no better night for a Dennis Anderson, Gary Wiggins, Allen Pezo or Guy Wood to stake claim as one of thee best ever. There also would be no better night for a rising star like Jimmy Creten, Tom Meents, Tony Farrell or Linsey Weenk to cement their name as the future of this sport.
One final night. One final night of monster trucks. One final night in the Pontiac Silverdome!
I did not make the final trek to Pontiac by myself and was able to share the moments of the night with my Dad, Jim, and my two uncles Tim and Jerry, all Michigan natives and multiple-time attendees to all kinds of events at the Silverdome. All of them being old-car guys, they were instantly attracted to SpellCaster and War Wizard. This was my first time seeing these trucks and the detail on the paint is absolutely amazing.
The Pit Party was huge! So huge that even the main Silverdome floor could not contain all the trucks and other activities. The mini sports dome, which attaches to the Silverdome via a tunnel structure, housed Stone Crusher, Superman, El Toro Loco and Grave Digger. Going back and forth between the two domes was no easy task and required long lines and a lot of patience. Madusa's and Meent's trucks were parked on top of the crush cars, but Madusa and Tom were signing autographs up on the concourse to help alleviate all the people in one area. With the participants so spread out and tens of thousands of people all trying to get to each truck/person, it was pretty impossible to see everyone. I arrived at the Pit Party 30 minutes after it opened and did not have nearly enough time for every line.
This final, historic event brought fans from all over the country including several individuals I've met online and it was great to finally put faces with the names. All of us and the other 40,000 or so fans that arrived early would get the added bonus of watching Qualifying. To ensure the best chance of the show finishing on time, Qualifying was held prior to the official start of the show and there would be no side acts! Only monster trucks and that is exactly how it should be.
SpellCaster's shocks were fully expanded during the Pit Party, but afterwards, TG Short decreased the pressure and the truck sunk back down to its normal ride height.
After the Pit Party was cleared of the floor, the four trucks from the mini dome were brought onto the floor. The trucks had their transport tires on because they could not travel between the domes on the 66'' tires. This slight inconvenience was turned into a cool competition. All four crews competed in a tire change race to swap the transport tires for the full-size tires. It was a pretty close battle in the early minutes but the Grave Digger team started pulling away. Chad Fortune's crew was only one tire behind while Stone Crusher was two tires and the El Toro Loco crew did not have much luck and did not finish until well after the other's were completed. This was a pretty cool idea for those fans who always wonder how they get those big tires on.
Blue Thunder--Tony Farrell
Bob & Tom--Guy Wood
Bounty Hunter--Jimmy Creten
The Broker--Jim Leahy
El Toro Loco--Lupe Soza
Grave Digger--Dennis Anderson
Iron Outlaw--Linsey Weenk
Maximum Destruction--Tom Meents
Stone Crusher--Gary Wiggins
War Wizard--Randy Moore
The 20 monster trucks would Qualifying side-by-side on the large St. Louis style track. Many eyes were on Linsey Weenk, driver of Iron Outlaw. Weenk won the first two events of the season, Montreal and Minneapolis, and could continue to be the biggest story in the early going of 2006 with a good performance or even the win. But, Weenk's boss also had plenty attention. Jimmy Creten is always a front-runner to win an event and continually a favorite to win the World Finals in Las Vegas. This lineup is full of past World Finals Champions and there will be no stronger lineup on the road to Vegas. A win here would create an instance favorite come Vegas. Tom Meents, Dennis Anderson, Madusa, Allen Pezo were also heavily favored to win the final Pontiac racing event, but there were just too many wild cards in this 20-truck deck for anybody to be a sure winner.
Qualifying got off to a very scary and unfortunate start. Randy Moore lined up War Wizard against Chad Fortune in Superman. Moore rocketed off the line with a tremendous amount of speed, cleared the set of five cars and landed very hard. The truck did not slow down to make the left-hand turn and instead plowed straight into the garbage dumpsters! War Wizard nearly climbed the dumpster but the truck was quickly shut off via the RII after that shocking and freak collision. Fortune finished his run but all attention was on Moore who was not getting out of the truck. After a few minutes, Moore left the truck under his own power but required a trip to the hospital. According to a person who spoke to Moore at the hospital, Moore was knocked-out after the hard landing and did not remember hitting the dumpster.
War Wizard suffered extensive front-end damage and was immediately out of action but thankfully Randy Moore was not seriously injured and did in-fact return to the arena later that evening. Two other shockers from Qualifying were the exceptional performances by Chris Bergeron in Brutus and Larry Jaruzel in Prowler. Bergeron finished in the top 5 while Jaruzel held the #1 spot all the way until the last truck ran and was finally bumped. Racing was shaping up to be even more interesting than we thought.
The team CSK trucks of Iron Outlaw and Bounty Hunter were on opposite ends of the time spectrum and doubts were raised as to Weenk's ability to make it three straight Monster Jam wins. Iron Outlaw barely made it into the top half of the bracket with a #12 spot, while Creten put Bounty Hunter in solidly at #4. Tom Meents in Maximum Destruction emerged as the #1 Qualifier after a very smooth and fast run against Guy Wood in Bob & Tom. Wood had problems during his final jump and was given a 5 second penalty for not hitting the cars properly.
The main portions of the night officially kicked off with the truck parade lap and driver introductions. Dennis Anderson and Tom Meents tore onto the track and launched over the cars a couple times then had some dueling donuts before sliding up nose-to-nose.
Racing Round 1
The slowest eight trucks would have to face off in Round 1, while the other 12 received an automatic pass into Round 2. This bracketing allows for even numbers the entire way and eliminates the need for fast losers.
Bob & Tom vs. Stone Crusher-- Two of the old-pros faced off in the opening contest. I have not seen Gary Wiggins drive since 1989 and he has never had a better truck to pilot. Wood is also now in a hired-gun roll and has adjusted very well to the older-style truck. A victory in the final Pontiac event would be a crowning jewel in either of their careers. Wiggins was a little slow off the line and allowed Wood to take a half truck lead over the cars. Wiggins grabbed a ton of air while Wood stayed low and smooth into the corner. Wood took the right-hand turn very smoothly while Wiggins struggled a bit. Wood extended his lead in the final corner, hit the last set, and claimed the first round win. Winner: Bob & Tom.
T-Maxx vs. BYE RUN-- Due to the breakage of War Wizard, T-Maxx would get a Bye Run. Seasock had an easy run and moved to Round 2. Winner: T-Maxx.
Thrasher vs. Destroyer-- Both of these trucks have been Pontiac mainstays over the last several years, but only one stayed around to see Round 2. Evans had a strong start and cleared the cars while Summa did not have much power over the first jump. Evans did not slow down very well for the corner which allowed Summa to take advantage and he opened up a lead down the stretch. They were dead even out of the last corner, but then problems! Smoke surrounded the rear axle area on Destroyer as it lost all forward momentum and slowly rolled up onto the cars. Thrasher once again did not have much speed up to the cars and slid off to one side. Summa lucked out thanks to what appeared to be drive line damage on Destroyer and advanced to the next round. Winner: Thrasher.
The Broker vs. SpellCaster-- T.G. Short needed a decent run in SpellCaster to try and rebound his team after the terrible start to the night. This was the debut of SpellCaster, but not of The Broker. Jim Leahy has picked up several Monster Jam victories and if he captured the underdog win in Pontiac, it would easily be the biggest of his career. Leahy drilled the light and left Short sleeping on the line. Short nailed the throttle and blasted over the cars in a hurry to try and catch up. The comeback was short-lived though. T.G. could not get SpellCaster in and out of the turn properly and fell way behind to The Broker. Leahy cruised around the last turn and picked up the easy win. Short struggled through the last turn and, to make matters even worse, the truck lost power and died on top of the cars. A very, very rough night for the team and not the debut Short wanted for SpellCaster. Winner: The Broker.
Bob & Tom, T-Maxx, Thrasher and The Broker all survived the extra round of racing and completed the field of 16 trucks for Round 2.
Racing Round 2
Bob & Tom vs. Maximum Destruction-- Wood survived the first round, but now had to square off against his teammate and the #1 Qualifier, Tom Meents in Max D. Wood bolted off the line and left Meents sitting on the line not moving. No one was sure what exactly happened as Wood continued his run. He was stopped before completing the run and instructed to line back up. There was some sort of miscommunication between the starters and the lights and a re-run was ordered.
This time around both trucks left the line at the right time. Meents had a truck-length lead into the corner and made it stick around the pole. Wood blasted down the back stretch and went hard into the final turn. Meents spun around the corner without much trouble but Wood went for a wild ride! Bob & Tom rocked up on two wheels, then Wood powered the truck back down on all 4s but it bounced back up on the other side. Wood throttled the truck for all it had and drove it on the side walls across into Meent's lane before gravity finally took over and twisted the truck, around, down and onto its side. One incredible effort by Wood to save the truck. Winner: Meents.
Madusa vs. El Toro Loco-- Madusa had to be a favorite in some people's eyes to win this event as she was the reigning World Finals Racing Champion. But, some considered it a fluke. Lupe Soza may have wished it was all a fluke, especially after this race. Madusa took the early lead and navigated around the first pole rather smoothly while Soza had trouble corralling the big bull. Madusa increased her lead down the stretch and took the final turn cautiously. Soza had problems in his final turn and could never catch up. Not a fast run by any means but enough to move on. Winner: Madusa.
Superman vs. Avenger-- Chad Fortune has found moderate success in the Superman truck after several years of obscurity with Power Forward. Something about this truck really allowed Fortune to turn a corner and become a top player in racing. Koehler is always a top player but his racing victories are few and far between in the large arenas. Fortune took a huge hole shot and left Koehler snoozing on the line. Fortune used the big lead to his advantage and kept the truck slow and smooth around the corner. Koehler whipped Avenger around the turn and tried to close the gap down the stretch. Another good turn for Fortune sealed his victory as Koehler got crossed up out of the turn and never hit the cars correctly. Winner: Superman.
T-Maxx vs. Bounty Hunter-- This was the strongest pairing so far and one that should provide a great race. Both drivers left the line with a ton of force and sailed over the cars. Creten launched out ahead of Seasock, but the extra bounced evened the sides as they hit the turn. Seasock was quick but Creten was just a bit quicker and took a truck length lead down the stretch. Seasock went hard into the final turn to make up the ground and again pulled nearly even as they headed for the cars. Creten blasted up the ramp and soared Bounty Hunter over the cars, edging out Seasock by a 1/2 truck. Best race of the night so far! Both drivers were right on their game and its a shame one had to go to the trailer. Winner: Bounty Hunter.
Thrasher vs. Grave Digger-- Pat Summa snuck into the second round after breakage on Destroyer, but Summa was probably not going to be able to rely on luck to get past Grave Digger. Anderson has some legendary moments in this building and probably wasn't going to end this night without another one. Anderson blasted Digger XX off the line like a rocket and had a huge lead after the first jump. Anderson spun Digger around the poles perfectly and shot down the front stretch while Summa struggled to remain in sight. The final turn was easy for Digger and Anderson launched the truck off the final ramp and into the next round. Winner: Grave Digger.
Iron Outlaw vs. Blue Thunder-- From my perspective, pressure is not something Tony Farrell has handled well in Blue Thunder. When its a big stage with high expectations, something seems to bite him or the truck and lead to their collective downfall. The pressure of Ford's representation was one thing, but the new pressure from the guy in the other lane is something no one has been able to conquer. Weenk fears nothing. He's said it time after time that he runs his race and ignores everything else. There was no ignoring, however, his spotless record and his ability to achieve even more. They both left strong off the start and dove over the first set nearly even. Weenk entered the turn faster than Farrell and really opened up a lead as they hit the flat drag. Weenk approached the final turn perfectly while Farrell pushed Blue Thunder too hard and spun the truck out. It would not have mattered as he had no shot at catching the Iron Outlaw. Winner: Iron Outlaw.
Brutus vs. Predator-- These two animals were at the top of the food chain during Qualifying and now had to battle for the alpha male of Pontiac. Bergeron again took off exceptionally well and held a slight lead over Pezo as they crossed the cars. Pezo slowed down too much in the first corner while Bergeron kept Brutus moving quickly and increased his lead to a truck length down the stretch. Pezo nailed a beautiful turn, but so did Bergeron! Brutus hit the ramp ahead of Predator but then suddenly lost all power! Brutus rolled across the cars while Pezo unloaded a huge leap to pass the crippled dog and win the race by a fang. An incredible yet heart-breaking finish. Bergeron had it won. Another very good race. Winner: Predator.
The Broker vs. Prowler-- The last pairing of a very long and exciting Round 2 featured the #2 Qualifier, Larry Jaruzel in Prowler, up against Jim Leahy in The Broker. Leahy really needed to get on the gas if he wanted to hang with Jaruzel. Both drivers left well off the line and Leahy was right with Jaruzel over the first set. Leahy had some trouble with the turn and opened the door for Jaruzel. Excellent turn for Jaruzel and he powered down the front stretch with Leahy in catch up mode. Jaruzel hit another perfect turn and left Leahy well behind. Not the fastest run of the round, but definitely right in line with is qualifying effort. Winner: Prowler.
Racing Round 2
Madusa vs. Maximum Destruction-- Two of the three World Finals Freestyle co-Champions collided in this race for a spot in the Semi-Finals. Madusa already beat the third person they shared the title with, Lupe Soza, but now she had to topple Max D. Meents showed no mercy off the line with an excellent hole shot. Madusa held her ground over the cars and stayed close into the turn. Meents did not execute the corner as well as he could have and Madusa pulled even as they flew down the stretch. Meents nailed the final turn while Madusa went in way too fast and she met the same fate Farrell did earlier. Madusa spun around 180 degrees and rocked up on one wheel but she was able to bring the truck back down. Meents cruised over the final set to pick up the win. Winner: Maximum Destruction.
Superman vs. Bounty Hunter-- Ford vs. Ford, F-150 vs. Expedition, but, more importantly, a proven winner verse a guy still trying to create a name for himself. Creten's skill and experience were no match for Fortune on paper. Could the man o' steel over power Bounty Hunter? Or does Creten posses Fortune's Kryptonite? Creten left Fortune on the line and took a truck length lead over the first set. Fortune did not enter the turn well and exited even worse and slid off nearly into the wall. Creten, however, was on his game and laid down a flawless pair of turns and blasted over the final jump to a decisive victory. Winner: Bounty Hunter.
Iron Outlaw vs. Grave Digger-- The race of the night. Easily the most anticipated match up everyone (who had a brain beyond that of the common fan) wanted to see. Weenk's undefeated streak up against Anderson's drive to win. Anderson is 0-for-2 against Weenk already and did not want to be up-staged in the biggest event of the year. Tension were high as the RPMs climbed and the light hit green! Anderson throttled Grave Digger with all his might out of the shoot and claimed the slightest of leads as they were in the air over the cars. Weenk landed flat and smooth while Anderson's truck nosed over on the landing and pogo'd Grave Digger's front tires back up into the air. A terrible bounce and it cost him precious time into the turn. Anderson had to go wide while Weenk stayed tight around the poles. Anderson blasted down the stretch and tried to close the gap. Weenk erased anything Anderson gained with the best turn of his career and the best I've ever seen on this kind of track. They powered towards the final jump and exploded off the ramps with two huge leaps. Weenk stretched the lead back out to a full truck length and defeated Grave Digger yet again! Winner: Iron Outlaw.
The race was over, but the finish was about to get wilder. Grave Digger landed hard and the truck spun quickly to the right side as the rear-end tried to pass up the front. Anderson hit the gas to try and gain control but it was too late! Digger flipped violently to the left, went straight up on the two front tires, cart-wheeled in the air, landed the rear tires nearly on top of Iron Outlaw, and was planted nose first into the dumpster!! Digger rocked straight up again on its nose while in the dumpster and then came slamming back down on all 4s, bringing the dumpster back down with it! Totally insane! One of the wildest and scariest wrecks of all-time!
Digger actually hit Iron Outlaw during the roll, which probably shocked the heck out of Weenk, but Linsey was aware enough to quickly throw Outlaw into reverse and get the truck out of the way of Digger before it came crashing back down. Anderson was uninjured thanks to the excellent safety requirements and actually drove Digger out of the dumpster and back to the pits. I said Anderson wasn't going to leave without leaving his mark...I just didn't think it would be prior to Freestyle nor in this crazy of a fashion. Anderson gave everyone a moment they'll never forget, but the fact remained Linsey Weenk had Anderson's number and was still undefeated.
Predator vs. Prowler-- Another teammate duel concluded Round 2 as the big cats were ready to claw it out for the last spot in the Semi-Finals. Both drivers have been very consistent and to say either guy was favored to win would be inaccurate. Jaruzel may have been the #2 Qualifier, but Pezo could Qualify #20 and still whip anyone before they'd knew what hit 'em. Pezo indeed grabbed a hole shot on his employee and maintained his low approach to the cars. His turn was not flawless and he had problems heading into the stretch. Jaruzel kept true to his form and closed the gap as they hit the final turn. Pezo made up for his earlier mistake and made a perfect turn that Jaruzel could not match. Predator launched off the ramp with a big final jump and knocked off Prowler by a truck length. Another solid and exciting race. Winner: Predator.
There should not be any surprise we are left with these final four trucks. Pezo: The crafty veteran with nearly more racing experience than the other three drivers combined. Meents: The man who probably holds more televised racing victories than anyone over the last 5 years. Creten: Realistically, the most feared truck/driver combination on the Monster Jam circuit to line up against. Weenk: No where near the rookie people try to make him out to be and currently the #1 truck to beat. An impressive final four, but even the Silverdome is only big enough for two in the Finals.
Bounty Hunter vs. Maximum Destruction-- A rematch of the 2002 Monster Jam World Finals, but also a rematch of the Final Round in this venue 1 year ago. Meents beat Creten in Vegas and Meents beat Creten here in 2005 after Creten spun out in the corner. Creten can begin the pay back with a win here and build momentum for a possible rematch in Vegas. Meents tore off the line with a slight hole shot, but landed awkwardly as he headed for the corner. Creten drove smoothly yet again and pulled even with Meents as they powered down the stretch. Creten executed his best turn of the day while Meents fumbled slightly. Creten opened up all the horses and blasted up the final ramp and cleared a tremendous distance on the jump. Meents charged towards the ramp at full speed, but a losing effort in the end. Max D carried too much speed into the shut down area and Meents could not get the truck stopped in time and whacked the dumpster! Not hard enough to do any severe damage and Meents back up and drove off. Yet another fast and thrilling race. Winner: Bounty Hunter.
Iron Outlaw vs. Predator-- Would Pezo be able to stop the kid's winning ways in what I believe may have been their first ever meeting? Or would Predator just be another victim of the Iron Outlaw? Pezo was not going to make it easy and drilled the light and held a slim lead over the first set. They hit the turn dead even and were wheel-to-wheel down the drag. Pezo could not make the final turn and got the truck crossed up and had to watch Weenk make another perfect turn on his way to another spot in the Finals. Winner: Iron Outlaw.
The Last Pontiac Silverdome
Decades of history came down to one final race. Hundreds of monster trucks have graced this hallowed ground, but only 2 remain. It was a dream ending for the Checker Schuck's Kragen sponsored 2Xtreme Racing Team of Bounty Hunter and Iron Outlaw. The entire team has dedicated themselves to racing and being the absolute best in the sport. This final race in the Silverdome was their time to shine.
No matter what the winning driver achieves throughout the rest of his career, the one moment all monster truck fans will remember is the fact him and his truck won the last event ever inside the Silverdome. We all know Bigfoot started it, and we'll all know who ended it.
Bounty Hunter vs. Iron Outlaw-- I do not remember which driver had lane choice, but regardless, Jimmy Creten was in the far lane; a lane he had not ran all night. Weenk ran the near lane in Qualifying and ran a much slower time than Creten who also was in the near lane. Even the teammates were playing mind games with each other. The drivers each inched towards the start line and prepared for the final battle. Both were set and sat dead-red on the light. The starters gave the cue and we went GREEN!
Creten drilled the light and did what no one else had been able to do and put a huge amount of distance between himself and Weenk. The trucks landed identical as they charged for the first turn.
Creten led the way into the turn and made the pivot tighter and faster than Weenk and it was blatantly obvious that Weenk's streak was severely in danger.
Over 3500 horsepower rocketed down the final stretch and then climbed on the brakes for the last turn. Creten maintained the lead around the first pillar while Weenk went way wide! Creten went sharp into his final turn, but it was TOO SHARP! Creten took out a pole! The horrible nightmare from Vegas 2005 was re-lived! Creten let out of the gas and did not finish the run at full speed. Weenk made absolutely sure he was within the 5 second penalty window and finished three lengths behind Creten with the largest jump we'd seen all night!
Creten had him beat. The Iron Streak of Iron Outlaw was done, over, finished. That was, until the last turn when Creten over drove himself, even with a wide lead, and handed the win to Weenk. Not the way anyone wanted to see this awesome night of racing end, but a win is a win. The Final Pontiac Silverdome Monster Truck Racing Winner: Iron Outlaw!
Linsey Weenk extended his perfect round record to 11-0 with the win in Pontiac. Weenk was not done after Pontiac as he continued to crush the competition en route to a 20-0 round record with event wins in Anaheim and San Diego. Weenk's first 2006 lost came at the hands of Jason Childress in Batman during the Finals in Phoenix, AZ. Congratulations to Linsey Weenk for an incredible beginning to 2006 and for his exceptional performance displayed the entire year.
The last chapter in the history book of monster truck racing at the Pontiac Silverdome was officially finished. There was, however, one Champion still left to crown. Freestyle was going to have to be incredible to top the great action witnessed in racing. The obstacles already on the track were pretty ominous looking and we were undoubtedly in for some memorable moments.
All the Freestyle action is just a click away!