5 years. 10 shows. 24 Monster Trucks. 100+ vehicles destroyed...only 1 Rockford Speedway. Thrills, chills, twists and turns all lie ahead on the night I mark a milestone 10th trip to Rockford Speedway with the Eve of Destruction4!! As with any trip to Rockford, you better expect the unexpected and be prepared for a night to remember. September 13th, 2003 would be that night...
With it being the month of September, that meant I was down in Edwardsville once again for school and made the 4+ hour trip back home. But I had more than a good reason. Not only for Rockford Speedway, but for the debut of Bearfoot Old School earlier in the day.
The truck was in Blue Island, which is over an hour in the opposite
direction from Rockford. I headed to there at 1:00pm and stayed til 3:00. Show time at
Rockford is 7:30! So it was a rush-rush day just to make it on time. But the real drama
was of course the weather. RAIN RAIN RAIN! All across the northern Illinois area for the
entire day and it showed no signs of letting up as it continually pounded Rockford. I made
several calls to the track to make sure the event was still going to take place. It was
unclear if the race would happen and they set a 5:30 deadline to decide. I arrived back
home from Blue Island right around 5:00 and they said the show was a go! But, no time to
slow down. I had to get my Dad movin' over to my house to follow me to the track and had
to pick up Jackie who was coming along for her 3rd trip to the speedway. We all
coordinated perfectly and hit the road north with no time to spare!
We were also meeting up and sitting with Andrew Pellegrine from Monster-Truckin' and his Dad who were venturing up for their first Rockford Speedway experience. Andrew helped me out with plenty of pictures for this coverage as well, big thanks to him for that.
We rolled into the speedway just after 7:00 and found that the shaky weather had scared away the usual massive crowds for the Eve of Destruction. We got our tickets and I ran over to the pits to sign up for Spectacular Drags...YES, I was at it again, Round 5 here I come! I sprinted back to the stands, ran up to good ol' row 17, met with Andrew and his Dad, sat in my seat and the flood gates opened up! The rain started pouring and pouring but I was roughing it and ignored the rain as much as I could, I wanted to go racing!
With the extremely slick conditions on the track, the National Figure 8 League Finals would not be held tonight but the lineup included: Hornets, Rollover Contest, Draco, The Gauntlet Race, Spectacular Drags, School Bus Football and MONSTER TRUCKS!
You can see by Andrew's pre-race pit shots how gloomy the conditions were. If only it had stayed like that....
As the rain began to fall, the ever popular Hornets took the track. With the rain, I couldn't keep either camera out in the weather too long for fear of damage. During the final race later in the show, the rain had let up a bit and I managed to snap off a few shots. The very slick track caused several spin outs but the drivers seemed to be going easy because of the conditions.
After the Hornets, yup, the rain kept pouring and I was starting to get cold. But I quickly ignored the weather when I heard the monster trucks fire up and start heading for the track. It would be the Battle of the Brians as Brian Townsend in Boogey Van and Brian Harwood in OzzMonster would go at it and do what they could to tear up Rockford Speedway. Both of these drivers have been more than impressive this summer at a variety of race tracks and events. Townsend especially has stepped up to be quite the show stealer in Boogey Van having nearly perfected what I call the "Leaping" slap wheelie where he'll clear a row of cars and maintain enough speed and force to pull the front end up for a wheelie. A much harder task that popping a slap wheelie over a hill or steep ramp.
Each driver rumbled the trucks out to be introduced and then threw in a little extra to try and keep the crowd motivated. Townsend and Harwood each took a shot out in the slick middle of the track to try for some donuts.
Townsend started to get a good donut going but the right front tire kept lifting off the ground. He kept spinning the truck regardless and managed to get a few good revolutions.
Harwood roared OzzMonster out to the center next for a shot at the donuts. The truck kept sliding on the pavement and wouldn't spin very well but Harwood managed to get a couple going after sliding off the track into the grass and mud. You can see a quick video clip of both truck's donuts in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre
Did the rain keep going? Yep, you know it! Harder now and the puddles around the bottom of the track swelled way up. The next event was suppose to be Spectacular Drags but because of the slick track, it was not decided if the event was still going to run. So instead, they fired up Draco the Dragonator to stroll out from the pits and just show off for the crowd a bit. This was Draco's second appearance at the speedway, the first being at this event last year, Rock8. Draco just spit and sputtered for a little while and then parked over by the monster trucks.
Over an hour into the show and the rain kept coming and kicked up another notch as a tow truck dragged out the rollover contest ramp. There was a huge field of cars to tackle the ramp and the wet grounds in what would prove to be a difficult task. The majority of the cars could not get any kind of roll going off the slippery ramp and also having too much speed hitting it. The other big problem....the rain! Which didn't allow me nor Andrew to get off one shot with the cameras. I wanted to video the rollovers so I stuck my head with the camera up under Jackie's huge pancho and pointed the camera out one of the arm holes! Hey, it worked :-) The winning car got 8 points on one roll and ended up with about 15 points I think. Most of the field had only 4 or 6 points. Once again, sorry there's no shots, conditions just wouldn't allow it.
With the show format being shook around and no real set
structure to the events like usual, the monster trucks came out for an impromptu wheelie
contest instead of the Too Tuff Timed Runs. A single car was place over in the grass area
at the bottom of Turn 1 and each truck would get a few cracks at the car and do whatever
else they wanted. First up was Brian Townsend in Boogey Van.
His first hit on the car was a sweet wheelstand that carried the front end way in the air while the back tires ran over the car and kicked it out sideways. Townsend tried to slap up a wheelie but just too slick. He lined up the car again and as he hit it, the car squirted out again and sent Boogey Van's tires every which way. Still a good jump and he nearly pulled off another slap wheelie. A good effort by Brian to get Boogey Van to be able to do even that much in the nasty conditions.
Brian #2, Harwood, in OzzMonster fired up next to tackle the sloppy track and car. On his first hit he didn't get a good angle on it and the pesky car was hindering the truck more than anything. His second jump was much better as the front end carried over nicely and Harwood stabbed the throttle on impact for a slap wheelie but no-going. So he went back to what was actually working and that was some muddy donuts. He went right back to that same area and whipped off a few good donuts much to the delight of the soaked crowd.
After much deliberation and finally getting a break from the rain, the call was given for the Spectacular Drag participants to head to their vehicles and line it up. I was pumped and ready to run while my Dad was freakin' out because of the still wet track. His words of advice: "don't crash and put it in 4wheel drive." I think I can handle that much, but could I FINALLY break the streak and pull off a win!? I wanted a win BAD and no Camaro, Villager, LTD, or pesky Chevy sport truck was going to stand in my way. As I headed out to my truck, Draco fired back up for dinner time and was given one hell of a meal! The speedway let Draco munch on this huge rv/motorhome! I couldn't believe it. I would've much rather seen the monster trucks get the honor of smashing the heck of it. Oh well...
I got to my truck and went to lineup. The usual field of 20+ cars was shrunken down to a mere 7 and I was #5. I was the last one to roll out onto the track and instead of my usual showing off with a squeeling of the tires, I let the other cars get way out in front of me and then started swirving back and forth on the track to heat up the tires and to see just how slick the track was going to be. Surprisingly, it wasn't too bad on the front stretch nor up into Turn 1. All the cars pulled into the 'X' to pair up and I surveyed my competition. A Jeep Cherokee, an ugly brown thing, a Honda CRV, a Buick something, some other car, and a nice looking Chevy shortbed Silverado...gee, I wonder who I'll get matched up with.
The Silverado an I were the last race of Round 1 and my game plan was to shoot quickly out of the X to get that outside lane first. We were waived onto the track and I took off for the spot and made it there easily. With the small field, the announcer came down to each of us to find out who we were and what we'd be driving. He tried to make small talk and I said some really stupid stuff now that I look back on it but I didn't care about talkin', I wanted to race! The flagman was ready and the announcer did his perverbial "...aaaannnnnddddd.....watch the starter!!!"
The flag dropped and I dropped the hammer!! I mashed the gas for all the 360ci V8 Magnum had and pulled a 2 truck length lead into Turn 1. I started sliding up the track and I could feel the truck getting away on the wet surface. I kept a constant speed going and tried to look at the track ahead of me as well as where the truck was behind me. We exited Turn 2 and my lead had shrunk down to barely a truck length as I opened the engine up again down the back stretch. I topped out around 60mph and the Chevy stuck right with me. As we dove into Turn 3 I was going way too fast and had to climb on the brakes a bit to make the turn. I slid up the track again and tried to stay in the gas as much as possible. The Chevy on the inside was closing in too. As soon as I reached the peak of the turn I mashed it again and charged for the finish line still with the lead. We poured out of the turn and down the stretch and I flew to the checkered flag with the Chevy nearly 2 truck lengths behind! I WIN!!!! I was beyond pumped that I'd finally broken the losing streak and didn't have to take the drive of shame down the back stretch and out the pit gate. Instead I simply watched the Chevy cruise on out while I coasted back into the staging area ready to battle again. I rolled down the window and heard my Dad and everyone up top cheering so I pumped my fist in a air a few times. Wanted to do a dance ontop of the truck but thought better of it.
The next races went by and it turned out 2 of the cars were dummy cars just out there to beat the crap out of each other for a lap. So with them out, there was only one race left, The Finals! Sure I'd only won once but I didn't care, it was the Finals and I was there paired up against a falling apart Plymouth Valiant! Somehow that thing managed to beat the Jeep Cherokee and got to the Finals.
I got the outside lane again without any problems as the Plymouth
was too busy trying to show off. As with each Final round, it would be 2-out-of-3 with the
second race going the opposite direction. We pulled up to the line for the first match,
the announcer pumped the crowd, and the flag dropped! I smashed the pedal down once
again and left the Plymouth playin' in puddles on the starting line. I continued to pull
away up into Turn 1 even though I wasn't going as fast as last time. The Plymouth was way
down on the inside and went through all the huge puddles
. As I exited Turn 2 I stepped on it again down the back stretch not taking any chances with this car. I heard the announcer say something and the crowd react and I hit the brakes and looked behind me to see the car spun out! I eased off the gas and just cruised around the rest of the track and took yet another win!
I continued around the track and saw the car still spun out as I
rolled back into the 'X' and headed for the Start/Finish line for the next race. As I
pulled up, a track crew member informed me that the Plymouth blew a tire and wouldn't be
able to continue. Result? I am the Spectacular Drags Champion!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
I got out of my truck and the announcer interviewed me shortly and I mentioned this was my 5th time at it but he didn't seem to catch on too much and I was talkin' pretty fast and didn't realize it. He congratulated me and said "small field and small trophy" and handed me a Rockford Speedway Event Winner trophy with a big freaky looking Eagle or Hawk on it standing on some rocks. Must've pulled the thing out of a dust filled closet. I posed with the checkered flag and my trophy up against my truck for some track pictures as well. You can watch the video of both my races in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre.
I was still in shock that I had won and pumped up when I got back into the truck so I turned to the right and mashed the gas shooting up some rooster tails as I cut across the muddy wet grass. Should have cut some donuts but oh well...maybe next time? Oh you better believe it! After all, I'm the defending champion now! Look out 2004!
After parking the truck back in the lot, I was on a dead sprint back to the stands as my favorite race in the entire world, and I know your's too, THE GAUNTLET RACE, was lining up. I flew up the steps to Row 17 and got Hi-5s all around from everyone and I could barely contain myself with the excitement. To the doubters, you have to experience the feeling of being on the track, in the spotlight, dualing it out with your street vehicle. Its a rush! Anyways, like I said the Gauntlet Race was about to take the track and with the rain just at a drizzle I grabbed the camera to get all the action. The Gauntlet vehicle this time around would the longest lasting vehicle so far, the Hearse. I thought for sure the Hearse was done for after being severaly banged up and on fire at the Mid-Summer's Night Scream5 but it has risen from the dead again.
The key element to the Hearse's downfall at Rock9 was the constant aggressiveness of the Gauntlet cars, keeping the pressure on and not letting the hearse get far away and taking every opportunity to lay in a hit. Could the Gaunlet cars make it two in a row for the first time since July of 2000?
The flag dropped and the 8 laps of destruction were under way. The Hearse was off on a quick sprint to try and get some distance between it and the cars but they weren't going to fall for it. The cars stuck right with and had the Hearse surrounded through the first two turns. Onto the back stretch and the Hearse again tried to pull away but couldn't do it and was slammed from everyside by the cars who kept it boxed in. The pack of vehicles came all the way around to complete the first lap without much incident. The cars took over the lead in the race and decided to set the pace. Three of the cars blocked the Hearse on the ouside into turn one while another car came up behind and gave the Hearse a rough shove and sent it spinning.
The cars fell out of position and passed up the Hearse which allowed it to get back going the right way. The cars were still out front on the back stretch and tried putting on a block but the Hearse had none of that and just plowed right through them all sending a few spinning. As they charged towards the stripe to complete Lap 2 it was the Hearse again in control.
Out of Turn 2 on Lap 3, the cars were tired of the games and laid in a couple heavy hits that spun the Hearse around onto the infield and also sent some of the cars flying into the huge tire barriers at the 'X'.
After regaining control, the Hearse saw another opening and took off as quick as possible and this really became a speed race up into and out of Turns 3 and 4 and down the front stretch into Lap 4. The cars could not get in good enough hits to spin the Hearse out and were merely glazing the side of it.
The cars still could not get much done for the entire lap and the Hearse was simply out running the cars, taking them out of their game completely. As they crossed the stripe into Lap 5 a few cars managed to get in some harder hits but the speeds were still too great by the Hearse to cause more than a few dents.
Into Lap 5 and the Hearse was having trouble staying in front and cars closed in for some attacks. They surrounded the Hearse again and blasted it with shot after shot to the side and back trying to knock it even the slightest off balance and let the wet track come into play. They finally got the Hearse spun around in the middle of Turn 3 & 4 and sent it spinning to the bottom of the track. The cars showed no mercy and continued to pummle the Hearse while it was having problems getting going again.
Finally the Hearse got going and found a quick hole to get through and left the cars in a tangled mess totally out of place. The Hearse tried to turn it into a speed and chase game once again as they entered always dangerous LAP 6, the lap where nearly all the Gauntlet Vehicles have met their demise. The Hearse crossed the stripe into Lap 6 with only 1 Gauntlet car right on its tail. That car was not going to let up even though out sized and out gunned.
Into Turn 1 and the Hearse took a different route than before and went higher up the track trying to block the car from gaining any ground. But the near perfect skills and ability of the Hearse driver got out smarted in one of the best moves ever seen in the Gauntlet Race. That lone car darted underneath the Hearse and spun the back-end of it up higher into the turn and rammed it into the wall! But he didn't stop there and kept the momentum going and knocked the Hearse over! Watch the video of the roll in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre!
The driver and team in the Hearse immediatly started to bail out of the overturned car and while doing so the engine lit on fire again! Smoke blasted out the bottom of the car and a fireball popped under the hood sending people scrambling everywhere and track crews to put out the fire.
Definately one of the more exciting Gauntlet Races with only the second rollover to knock the Gauntlet vehicle out. The Gauntlet Record stands at Vehicle: 4 Cars: 6. Will a new vehicle step up in 2004, or will the battered, bruised...and burnt Hearse rise from its junkyard grave once again?
With some of those cars on their way to the junkyard, they were about to get some company for the ride over. Track crews and tow trucks were lining up 4 cars on the front grass for, what else, Monster Truck Freestyle!
That break we had in the weather for Spectacular Drags was short lived as the rain started falling again even before the monsters fired up. Brian Harwood discovered that OzzMonster had blown a head gasket during the last time on the track. Harwood tried to fire the truck and get it to run anyways but it wasn't going to happen. A disappointment for sure but before we could gripe too long, Brian Townsend was fired up in Boogey Van and roared onto the track. No one, except maybe Townsend himself knew what we were about to see...
Townsend went to work attacking the cars from the left first and didn't take it easy at all, carrying the front tires in the air across the four cars and let the rear drag on the top. Townsend splashed through the puddles and came back to charge the cars, standing Boogey Van way up on its end and taking a rough hit on the fourth car. Townsend cut a quick donut on the slick pavement and went right back at the cars with a big leap to clear them all and slammed to the ground hard trying to pull that Leaping slap wheelie of his. Townsend was not taking much time in between his jumps and was turned around ready to launch over the cars again and hit the cars with a lot of speed clearing the cars again.
Brian continued to build momentum in the run and shot over the cars from the left side again with a good jump but couldn't clear the stack this time. Townsend drove Boogey Van up into Turn 1 and I thought he was starting to wind up the run but actually, he was just getting fired up! He put a charge into Boogey Van on his approach to the cars and slammed into them getting a rediculous amount of air, easily clearing the four cars and then some. The front tires hit the ground and Townsend pulled up a slap wheelie and rode it up onto the pavement. Awesome leap!
Townsend bobbled a bit on his next hit and didn't get nearly as much air and really crunched down the cars instead. Townsend drove down the front stretch in front of the stands I figured that was it as the monster freestyles usually don't last too long and he'd done a good job already. But as soon as he was past, he cut the truck to the right and stomped on the gas and took off over the cars with another big jump, thundering down on the last car so hard that the Emergency lights turned on! You can see them on in Andrew's second shot below. Townsend took a long turnaround again to build up a lot of speed on his next run. He blasted through the mud and puddles and hit the cars faster than he had all night pulling off another incredible jump and then a picture perfect Leaping slap wheelie all the way up into the turn! Outstanding!
After so many jumps, Boogey Van's engine was getting very hot and blue flames started appearing out of the headers. But did Townsend stop? NO WAY! He continued to attack the cars with the crowd seemingly getting lounder and lounder after every jump. Even the announcer who's seen every freestyle run at Rockford Speedway was going crazy. No one could contain themselves as Townsend was a one man in a van wrecking crew tonight! Townsend was running Boogey Van harder and faster with every jump and turn and was getting incredible distance off his jumps. His final two jumps were without a doubt the longest ever seen inside the Speedway with the truck clearing not only the four cars but the entire grass strip on the front stretch as well!
Townsend finally brought the truck to a stop after a heart stopping 4 and a half minute, 12 jump, Leaping slap wheelie filled Freestyle run for the ages. The crowd gave Brian a well deserved standing ovation and cheered lounder than some of the bigger crowds I've seen make. Harwood and Townsend came over to the stands for interviews while the next race was setting up. Harwood explained what had happened to OzzMonster and thanked everyone for sticking it out in the cold and rain. When Townsend was introduced he got another thunderous cheer from the crowd and also thanked everyone and wished he could've gone longer but the truck was over heating. Awesome job by Townsend and once again, the monsters are crowd favorites at Rockford Speedway.
The final event of this crazy, wet and rainy night was the ever popular School Bus Football! The smash and crash spectacle of School Bus Football was back for its fourth matchup of Bears vs. Packers. But keeping in the pattern of this mixed up night, there were only 3 buses that could run as the fourth bus in the pits wouldn't fire up. So it was a 2-on-1 advantage for the Bears. The flag dropped and the three buses charged to the "football" minivan in reverse. The shorter bus on the Bears side didn't get a hit on the football while the other two crunched up the football but sent it spinning sideways out into the middle of the stretch.
The sole Packer bus backed off and the Bears buses continued to push the football, as well as the Packer bus, sideways up into the 'X' and track crew safety zone.
The Packer bus got straightened up and was pushing the football towards the goal on the other side of the crush cars when the Bears cut it off with a double hit to the football and the bus. The Packer bus starting pouring smoke and steam out of the engine and it didn't look like the bus was going to continue on for long.
The football ended up getting pushed back down to the right side of the track by the monster truck crush cars. Sure enough, the Packer bus was smoking big time and was out of order in the middle of the 'X.' The mini bus on the Bears side went after the football but ended up getting it tangled up on the last crush car! So the other Bear bus came over and tried to ram the bus or the football free and in turn got itself also stuck on the football! Brilliant strategy I must say. Not the first time the Chicago Bears have beat themselves either.
A rather dismal and anti-climantic ending to the Eve of Destruction4 but with everything thats gone down in the night, it didn't surprise me either. The crowd didnt really know what to think and without much commotion, just starting shuffling around and heading towards the exits. The Monster Patrol ride truck was out to give rides but no one stuck around as the rain picked up force again and was pounding down on the track. The track was not opened up for roaming around on either but the pit gates were opened up so we packed up and headed over there. Andrew and his Dad also packed up but they were hitting the road to head back after a long and rainy night. Big thanks to Andrew for the shots and I wouldn't be surprised to see them back again next year. I always encourage people to attend Rockford as no matter the conditions, you will always have fun and enjoyable time watching a night of destruction!
When the pits opened, I headed over to the haulers and met up with the Brian's. They were already hard at work tireing down the two trucks to load up. I talked with both of them for awhile and thanked them again for doing a great job and for themselves sticking it out in the weather. I tried getting some shots in the pits but they turned out terrible. We decided to take off and let them get to work on the trucks especially before they decided to put us to work :-)
As I said in the opening, it was going to be a night to remember
and indeed it was. The rain, the win and the destruction all made the night memorable,
both good and bad. What will the memories be from Rockford Speedway in 2004 be? Only time
will tell as the months towards the Mid-Summer's Night Scream6 start ticking away...
Big Thanks to everyone who came along and to the great staff of Rockford Speedway for putting together a solid show despite the track conditions and not letting the dedicated fans down. Thanks to you for stopping by again from your defending Spectacular Drags champion, Jason Twite.
This one's going in the trophy case, not the Carnage Collection!