It's something that you only hear once a year. The sound is so sweet that it brings in thousands of people to listen and watch. It's a sound that is so unmistakable. It can only be heard in one place. It's a sound that rattles the bleachers and shakes people to the bone! Its the sound of the Mid-Summer's Night Scream!
Another jam packed Rockford Speedway was ready to rock at the Mid-Summer's Night Scream5 including me as I was yet again going to a part of the racing action in the Spectacular Drags. The night's events included Hornets, Rollover contest, Gauntlet race, Spectacular Drags, Green Mamba, and the Main Event: Monster Trucks! The racing action kicked off with the most familiar sound at the speedway, the Hornets.
Not as many Hornets showed up as have in years past but the action was just as wild. The racing broke down into Buzz #1 and Buzz #2, splitting the field in half. Later in the show all the cars that could run again returned for the Swarm. I have a lot more shots here of the Buzz races as the Swarm was very spread out and there weren't too many spins or crashes and my shots didn't come out so hot. I'm never able to keep track of which car won with so many little buggers running around the track so just enjoy the pictures as I did get some really good ones.
After Buzz #2, the call was given for the Spectacular Drag drivers to make their way to their vehicles and get lined up. I headed to the parking lot and fired up my new 1996 Dodge Ram 1500 that'd I'd only had for a month...am I really that insane? Of course! My number for the night was lucky #7 and I would need every bit of luck as my last 3 tries at Rockford have been very disappointing. Let's see...I got slaughtered by a Camaro when I raced with a Sunfire, I took an embarrassing loss to a Mercury Villager the second time, I gave a 1972 Mercury LTD a good run with my van the third go around, and now we come to Round 4.
I stormed onto the track with the rest of the Spectacular Drag participants and made the pass by the grandstands and up into the very steeply banked curve 1 and 2 and then down to the middle of the X to get lined up. I quickly realized I was surrounded by a bunch of Firebirds and Camaros.
I made it my goal to get on the outside lane this time so I could keep up more speed in the turns and not have to worry about the brakes as much. I also shifted the truck into 4x4 so I could get more power to the ground as well as have more control in the turns. I was about the 10th vehicle in line so there were a few races before mine highlighted by a stinkin' Cavalier beating a Camaro! I became the next in line and sitting to the left of me was a mid-90s Chevy pickup truck, one of those low riding sport models. I thought to myself that this was just what I wanted and I could take this guy and finally win! We were given the cue to head to the starting line and I shot out of the X and made sure I got the outside and he didn't try to cut me off and it worked.
We were announced to the crowd and the announcer played up the truck vs. truck deal and then he hopped down onto the track because he saw something sitting on the back side of the other truck. He went over there and grabbed a roll of black duct tape. He said "I'm going to go find out what this is for" and went over to talk to the other driver. He asked him what it was for and the guy said "Hornet racing!" HORNET RACING?!?! Oh for crying out loud, this guy is a Hornet driver out in his street truck! I couldn't believe my luck. I tried to block that out and focused on the starter. The flag dropped and I smashed the gas as far as it would go and I got a half truck length hole shot on him. We headed into Turn 1 really fast and I slid up the track while Mr. Hornet Racer knew the quick inside lane and he kept good speed up all the way through Turn 2. Out of Turn 2 and on the back stretch he pulled ahead to a two truck length lead as we barreled down to Turn 3 at about 55mph.
Here's where I became very thankful I put the truck in 4WD. I had way too much speed going into Turn 3 and when I hit the brakes the truck was sliding up as I dove into the turn and the front tires were what kept digging and kept me going the right way. With that much speed I may have been in the wall without it. The Chevy had slowed down a bit in Turn 3 and I gained some ground on him out of Turn 4 but not nearly enough as he cruised to the finish line with me still about 2 lengths behind.
With having done the "loser" bit 4 times now, I knew the routine and I cruised around the back stretch once more and out the pit gate and sulked back to the parking lot. Then I had to make the walk of shame back up the grandstands only to watch that Chevy truck go on to win two more races but finally he got knocked out by a Firebird that went on to win it all. Round 5 in September at the Eve of Destruction? We'll see...
After Spectacular Drags, the monster trucks were brought out for introductions and they had to try and conquer the track entrance in Turn 3 as with every truck that's come to Rockford, they've got to climb over the wall to get into the track. The first of the two trucks out was Kirk Dabney in Monster Patrol!
I've not seen Kirk drive since August of 2000 where he lost to Eric Tack in Bigfoot in the first round at Valpo 1. At that time, Kirk was running the blue Monster Patrol Ford body and this time it was his very new and very sharp looking black and green style to keep with the original Monster Patrol color scheme.
The second truck I knew was Bearfoot but I didn't know just what Bearfoot it was. I had seen it when we arrived before the show and I stared at it for a few minutes and realized I didn't have a clue as to which Bearfoot it was. Why? Because I hadn't seen it before and neither has very many people. It was a brand new truck built by Donny Smith out of Muscle Shoals Alabama. You may know Donny as the former owner of Bad Influence which was sold about two years ago. But the name is not gone as you will see a little later on.
I've talked to Donny on-and-off over the past few years and always told him that he needed to get up to the Midwest so I could finally see him run and I could not wait to see him in action. Take a good look at those bed panels on the truck, they won't be there long, hint-hint. After the monsters took the intros, the ramp was brought out and its time to go tumbling upside down with the Rollover Contest.
A field of 8 cars took to the track and threw sanity out the window. One noticeable non-entrant for this event was Salem Barker as he's is usually a top choice to win it but the other king of rollovers was in the event tonight, and that being Gary Schinderling who has won just about every rollover contest ever held at Rockford. Gary was last in line to go and he had a rather large car this time which surprised me as the best cars are short wheelbase cars that can get a tight roll going. The mark to beat after the first 7 cars was a score of 8 meaning two complete rolls. 1 point is awarded for every 1/4 turn the car makes. Cars are allowed up to 3 runs as long as they can re-fire and the car can continue on. The announcer pumped people up as Schinderling started his run down the back stretch, dove out of Turn 1 and he charged the ramp with a ton of speed and launched off it with a perfect sideways roll and the car went into a huge barrel roll immediately. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!! 10 points on one roll! The crowd was jacked at that insane launch by Schinderling that gave him the win, again, with only 1 jump. Schinderling said that his goal is to pull off a 15 point roll sometime and that I got to see. The most ever was 12 back at Rock2 and a video can be seen of that in the Rockford Video Theatre.
Plug the ears and get out the marshmallows, Green Mamba took to the track! Doug Rose in Green Mamba would close out the night's events by burning up this:
A big ambulance labeled "Sadam's Escape RV" was going to be reduced to rubble a little later, but for now, Green Mamba would show off the power that made it a land speed record holder way back in the 70s. Rose took Green Mamba around once with the fire blowing out the back and top of the jet engine and then he turned on the afterburners the next time around and blew so much smoke and force out that back that it blew off part of the Rockford Speedway sign to make it read "Rockfor_ _eedway" Green Mamba is always a crowd favorite and I could sit there all day and watch it melt cars, its something I look forward to everytime.
When Green Mamba left the track, tow trucks and loaders started pushing the victim crush cars into place for the monster trucks! The crews quickly maneuvered 4 cars into place when a flat bed tow truck brought out another car. Kirk Dabney had said something about a "pyramid" during his intro interview but I was thinking like car-van-car or something. Well, what Kirk had in mind was putting that extra car ontop of the 2nd car in the line! They built it up as a big deal but I envisioned him smacking the car with the rear tires and just knocking it off. But, hey, the people that come to these shows don't get to see monster trucks in big events with big obstacles so this is a unique thing for them. Kirk fired up Monster Patrol even before the trucks were done setting up the cars but something was different. There was something ONTOP of Monster Patrol, better yet, make that SOMEONE!
Kirk was driving Monster Patrol while Donny Smith hung on to the wing for dear life! Obviously the truck was not moving very fast but its not like the wing has footholds either! Donny was able to stand up on the wing as the truck rolled down the front stretch and he proudly displayed an American Flag on the wing. Now that is definitely a different way to do the Wing Walk and something I'd never seen before.
The crews finished setting up the pyramid and Donny worked his way down from the wing and then Dabney brought Monster Patrol up to the pyramid for the first crushing action of the night. I figured Kirk's motive was to jump over the stacked cars but I'm not too sure if he even knew what he wanted to do. On his first attempt he hit the first car a ton but then let out of the gas and the front tires just landed with a thud ontop of the stacked car. He backed the truck off for another try but again let off the gas and now he was high-centered with the frame ontop of the stacked car! I saw that as a bit embarrassing and the crowd was getting restless. Dabney managed to wiggle Monster Patrol free from the car and backed down again for another run. This time he kept his foot in it more and with the cars more smashed down, he was able to drive right over the top of them and the crowd still loved it despite the falters. After that, the crews made the wise move to get that car back down and just put it in the line to make a 5-car set for the Too Tuff Timed Runs as well as freestyle.
The Hornets came back out for their final 20 lap race of the night, the Swarm. Nearly 30 cars were on the track but it didn't take long for them to spread out. The faster cars and the previous winners from earlier quickly shot to the front while the stranglers tried to keep up and some dropped out of the race entirely. Minus a few spin outs, it wasn't too much of a bang-em-up race.
Entering into the last parts of the show and the big hits are going to start flying. The stage was set for Bearfoot and Monster Patrol to attack the cars in the Timed Runs. The trucks would take one pass from each side of the cars and the best time wins. First truck up would be Donny Smith in Bearfoot.
Donny brought Bearfoot to the left side first and squared up to the cars. He started about 10 feet back, hit the gas and hit the cars with a ton of force standing Bearfoot totally straight up and down, digging the tailgate right into the first car! The truck seemed to stand still for a couple seconds before smashing down on the 5th car. An incredible wheelstand that instantly got the crowd behind him for the rest of the night. Not exactly a fast run but not a bad time of 4.21 seconds.
Donny circled Bearfoot around and lined up from the other side this time. He charged at the cars full speed again and got another big jump but managed to level it out more and nearly cleared the cars with a much faster run of 3.29.
Dabney brought out Monster Patrol next to try and top the run laid down by Bearfoot. Dabney started on the left side as well and went after the cars much the same was as he did that pyramid and backed out of the gas mid way on the cars. The result was a slow time of nearly 6 seconds.
Dabney wasted no time in setting up at the right angle for the second pass on the cars and just went right after them with a much better leap this time but he still could not unseat Bearfoot from the fast time.
The monsters would be back for Freestyle in a bit but first it was the ever treacherous and the ever popular Gauntlet Race of Destruction. If you've never seen or heard of the Gauntlet race and the chaos that ensues with it, what rock have you been under for the past 4 years!? The Gauntlet vehicle was 0-3 to start off with a totaled Hearse, the RV disaster, and the micro bus rollover.
The first win was at Rock4 when the micro bus squirted by the finish after being t-boned right at the end and knocking that driver unconscious.
Another mini bus had an easy go of it at Rock5 but got the rear axle twisted like a pretzel by the Gauntlet cars at Rock6 and it was done for. Rock7 debuted a new hearse with a very skilled driver and the Gauntlet cars never stood a chance. Rock8 was the Gauntlet vehicles fourth win as the skills of the hearse driver were amazing including running a half lap in reverse. There were some hard hits but not enough to stop it.
With a record of 4-4 its time to break the tie as the longest lasting Gauntlet vehicle, the hearse, returns for its third run against a field of 7 Gauntlet cars including what looked to be a mid-80s Camaro in really nice shape, well, not for long. The only rule of the Gauntlet Race: Stop the Gauntlet vehicle from making 8 laps by any means necessary. The green flag dropped and all eight cars dove into Turn 1 and already stuff was getting aggressive as the hearse was passed up by one of the cars and immediately gave it a shove from behind and sent it spinning up into the wall.
The Gauntlet cars kept the pressure on for another lap, not letting the hearse break free from the pack. On the 2nd lap and out of Turn 2 the hearse was the one that took a couple hard hits and was spun towards the infield.
The hearse got straightened back out but the cars didn't cut him any slack heading into Turn 3 and knocked it up into the wall and then they put and real number on it coming back out of Turn 4 as they rammed the nose into the wall and sent sparks flying.
The hearse managed to put some distance in-between itself and the other cars as they got tangled up with each other after slamming into the wall with the hearse. One of the cars caught up and pulled ahead of the hearse but got a friendly shove from behind and went head on into the back wall and the hearse was back in control of the race heading for the stripe to complete lap 3.
At the exit of Turn 2 that Camaro got in a sweet shot on the back end of the hearse and sent it spinning all the way down to where the monster trucks were parked. The announcer said "You are now the proud owner of Monster Patrol" too funny! The cars didn't actual hit the trucks but were pretty close.
After escaping that mess, the hearse bumped and shoved its way across the line to complete lap 4 and headed into lap 5 with a lot of speed. But the Gauntlet cars stayed right with him and 3 of them put a big shot on the back half of the car sending it spinning up into the wall in Turn 1.
Even after the beating its taken, the hearse was still running strong but so were the other cars and they all stayed aggressive and on the attack heading into lap 6. I think the cars were just about tired of the hearse escaping all their traps and hits and they turned up the heat into Turn 3. Two cars gave the hearse a shove at the back while the Camaro kept pressure on the outside and shoved the car down the race track. At the exit of Turn 4 the Camaro cut the hearse off and spun it down into the infield. I thought we were going to see another driving masterpiece in reverse from the hearse but the cars were ready and quickly cut off his pass. The cars were now in one big bunch in the middle of the track just to the left of the X. The cars had the hearse surrounded and started laying in shot after shot doing some heavy front end damage to the hearse. The hearse's front tire was punctured and he couldn't find a hole to escape what was turning into a demolition derby! The driver threw the hearse into reverse but there was no way out with cement barriers and track personal and crew behind him. The hearse had no where to run and it seemed like the end was near when that Camaro reared back and delivered the death blow to the front of the hearse that started a fire underneath it on impact! The race was stopped and drivers were bailing out of cars as the fire kept getting bigger. The hearse as well as all the cars sustained extreme damage and only time will tell if the hearse will rise from the dead for the next Gauntlet Race. The Gauntlet cars were victorious making the vehicle's record 4-5 in one of the more exciting races to date.
With the debree from the last race cleared away, it was time for the monster trucks to hit the track for Freestyle action! The trucks would have the 5-car set to work with but no extra car up near Turn 2 like the previous two events for wheelies. Plus the trucks could use whatever part of the track they wanted to try for donuts. Bearfoot and Donny Smith would be the first out.
The right rear body panel was cracked and broken from the big jump in the timed runs so there was nothing but frame and engine showing on one side of the truck. Donny started off on the left side of the cars again hoping for more big air but instead got not as much height but was able to clear 3 of the 5 cars. Clearing 5 cars doesn't happen too often at Rockford or for that matter at any monster truck event where ramps aren't used. Donny swung Bearfoot around on the slick grass and came back for another run at the cars. This time he stood the truck up much higher and carried the back wheels across two cars with the front tires coming down on the 5th car. Donny hit the cars from the left side again with a lot more speed this time and he got much better height and distance out of that jump. For his last jump back on the right side, Donny didn't approach the cars with a lot of speed, but instead mashed the gas right at the last second and stood the truck way up in the air yet again and carried the front end in the air almost across 4 cars! Excellent jumps and with the vision of his 90degree launch from the timed runs, the crowd was all behind him.
Kirk Dabney had the deck stacked against him for this run with the little mishap with the pyramid as well as the loss in the Timed Runs, but the long time veteran is not one to back down. Dabney started on the left side of the cars and hit them with a lot of speed but with the cars pretty mashed down he didn't get much of jump and barely cleared 2 cars. Kirk cut a quick 180 on the blacktop and brought Monster Patrol back for another hit. Again not a bad jump but he wasn't getting anywhere near the air that Bearfoot was pulling off. Dabney went at the cars again with good speed and was able to clear half the stack. With not much luck on the cars, Dabney needed something else...donuts!! Dabney ripped off a few donuts over in the grass area and nearly took out the big ambulance that was for Green Mamba. That move instantly put crowd support behind him as he charged for the cars once more. Dabney hit the cars a ton and got his best jump of the night easily clearing 4 cars and the front tires slamming down on the ground. Dabney kept that momentum up and wasted no time spinning Monster Patrol around and he flew at the cars again with another nice jump. But Dabney didn't finish there....he headed out to the center of X and started cutting the tires around in a circle trying to get a donut working. It took a couple revolutions but finally the tires gripped and Dabney spun off some perfect tire smokin' donuts to conclude the run.
As Monster Patrol finished, Bearfoot fired back up and both trucks headed to the front stretch to park for the crowd Freestyle judging. It was going to be a choice between the big air of Bearfoot or the donuts of Monster Patrol. The big air by Donny in Bearfoot was the jump of the night for sure and his jumps were very consistent while Dabney seemed to struggle on the cars but did pull of the donuts. I was split on an actual winner myself and so was the crowd. The applause for both trucks was very even so they did it again and the second time around the cheers for Bearfoot just barely out weighted that of Monster Patrol and Donny Smith in Bearfoot picked up the double win for the night! Both drivers did a fine job and I would love to see both of them tear up a bigger outdoor track in a full monster truck event.
With all the racing action finished, there was only one thing left: Green Mamba! The ambulance was dragged into place and Green Mamba was chained up to it so he didn't blow it away with the power of the engine. Green Mamba got the jumpstart from the crew truck and the big engine came to life. The lights on the speedway were shut off and Doug Rose lit the sky on fire!! The first blast out of the car totally engulfed the ambulance in flames as the body was already starting to peel and melt away under the extreme heat. Rose kicked on the insanely hot blue-flamed afterburner and just the heat and force were blowing all the flames to the rear of the ambulance as the front of it was quickly being reduced to a metal skeleton. Rose turned the big flames back on again and the ambulance was no where to be seen in the huge ball of fire. Rose kept the flames on the ambulance a good long while and just let it roast down to nearly nothing before finally blasting the flames out the top of the engine signaling the end of the burn and he coasted Green Mamba up to the front stretch to a huge ovation.
As the show let out, people were free to go and roam on the track and check out all the carnage for themselves. Of course, my objective is hunting for a new odd ball piece for the Carnage Collection. What did I manage to find? Well I had many options including a perfectly good jack that was in the trunk of one of the crush cars. There was also plenty of headlight assemblies and hubcabs, both of which I already had, but I needed something unique. In one of the crush cars was a nasty, rotted and muddy deck of former casino playing cards. They even had a hole in the middle of them since they were no longer good. The cards were all stuck together but it was a perfect addition to the Carnage Collection.
I headed back to the pit area next to take some shots of Donny's new truck but I decided to put the flash on and forgot to put the camera settings back on auto and they all over exposed so I have nothing to show. I introduced myself to Donny and he instantly knew who I was which was good so I didn't have to be like "yeah I'm that kid that always bugged you on the internet." I brought up the subject of Bad Influence and he said "wait right here..." and disappeared into the hauler. When he came back he had a photo album and in it was shots of the new truck with a totally new Bad Influence body on it! I couldn't believe my eyes, the truck looked awesome. Donny had some extra prints of the shots so he gave me a few as I knew people would want to see this truck. Here is one of the shots:
The body was suppose to debut a week before this event in Terre Haute Indiana but then he got switched to a different show and was running the Bearfoot body. With running Bearfoot full time, he wasn't sure as to when the Bad Influence name would actually re-debut. If I hear about it, I will make every effort to get to that show.
Well, another Rockford Speedway crazy night is in the books. This event was much shorter than previous ones as it seems the speedway is cutting down on actual racing on the monster truck nights. They may be shortening the show by request of spectators as some past events had run into the early morning hours and with many kids in attendance, perhaps they saw it as a better idea to cut the show down. Whatever the reason, it doesn't really matter, the shows are still top notch and I look forward to attending as many as I can. September 13th is the Eve of Destruction4 at Rockford and I hope to make the trip back from school to attend once again.
Video clips of Bearfoot, Monster Patrol, and my Spectacular Drag race are available for download in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre, be sure to check them out if you haven't. For info on other Rockford Speedway events, feel free to contact me or visit their site at www.rockfordspeedway.com. Thanks for visiting and reading once again, Jason Twite.