September 17, 2005 led me back to the ol' stomping grounds of Rockford Speedway for the 14th installment of coverage here on MidwestMonsters.com. I have been saying a lot that it is unbelievable that I've been to that track 14 times but when they keep dishing out the hits year-after-year it is hard to not go back. This year's Eve of Destruction was stacked with a lineup guaranteed to thrill, chill and undoubtably there were going to be some spills. Hornets, school buses, figure-8 league, rollover contest, auto football, figure-8 train race, Gauntlet Race, Monster Trucks, and I make a return to the Spectacular Drags!
Jackie, my Dad and I would be the coverage crew for the night and crammed into my new ride (at that time) the '97 Dodge Dakota. I wanted to unleash the truck in the Spectacular Drags for the first time and see what I could do after having some decent success with the larger '96 Ram.
The night got off to a hard hitting start with the first two Buzz races for the always exciting Hornets division. Right away on the first lap, the #316 car took a hit from the back and was fish-tailed into one of the giant barrier tires for quite a hard hit on the driver's side. Most of the field fell behind as 4 cars broke away from the pack and stretched a lead with each lap through the top part of the X. #77 lead from nearly the start all the way through lap 4 but lost it on lap 5. A few spin outs by other cars and timely cornering allowed the #77 to regain the lead on lap 6 and hold it to the win.
In the second race, the 12 cars were very aggressive on the first lap and caused the lead cars to spin out as they exited the X and a 4-wide pile up ensued. #23 escaped the mess and took a huge lead and never let up as most of the pack continued to fight for lower positions and never were much of a threat.
Time for the heavy metal to start rolling out already as the Diesel Diva bus race rumbled out next. But, there was a special addition to the field driving the #99 Sponge Bob Express bus...
The woman behind the wheel easily had the most experience driving "monster" sized vehicles. Jocelyn Perrin, driver of the Lil' Miss Dangerous monster truck jumped behind the wheel and would go for her first ever bus race victory! She was easily the crowd favorite and would definitely need some support as she started way in the back of the field.
The tight pack of buses that started the race quickly thinned out and Jocelyn was left all the way in the back trying to play catch up. She made her way in 7th place but had nearly 3/4 a track to make up on the #86 bu,s but that did not detour her as she muscled by the jigsaw puzzle designed bus and took over 6th place! She looked to really be getting the hang of the steep corners and was really pushing the bus down the straights. She made up nearly a 1/2 a track of distance on the leaders but it would not be enough to catch the #86. Excellent job for her first time out in a bus. But, I think I'd rather see her crush the bus next time!!
From one beast to another! Jocelyn jumped out of the #99 bus and ran over to where Lil' Miss Dangerous was parked and fired up the 1941 Willys as it was time for the first monster truck action of the night! Each truck would do a short freestyle on the back set of 4 cars and later both trucks would return for a huge dual freestyle.
Perrin started her run with a huge vertical wheel stand as LMD seemed to freeze in mid-jump and balance on the back tires before the front smashed down on the other fresh cars. She turned the truck around and came back with another nice hit, standing the truck up well. She really attacked the cars on her third hit and threw the truck off crooked in the air with a hard landing at the end. But it did not seem to phase Perrin as she spun back around for a final big hit on the cars. Jocelyn put the pedal down and flew around the asphalt making a complete lap around the track waiving to the fans.
Mark Schroeder in Devastator would be up next and already had a tough act to follow. Schroeder, along with Perrin, is making his second appearance at the Speedway so he is no stranger to what it takes to win the crowd's cheers and how to attack the track. Schroeder kicked off his run with a stiff hit from the right side getting some nice vertical air. He came back from the other side with a real nice hit that nearly cleared the four cars, only dragged the rear wheels down the edge. Mark was really trying to keep his momentum flowing and cut a quick turn on the asphalt that rocked the truck up but he quickly stabbed the gas back towards the cars and hit a huge wheel stand that spiked the rear into the second car. He concluded the run with another nice hit on the cars and then flew around the track saluting the crowd as well. Good opening runs from both drivers!
The always intense Figure-8 Train Race took to the track next for what would turn out to be the wildest one we've ever witnessed! The reigning champ of the train race, Gary Oscarson, was again ready for battle with his #66 Stars & Stripes team of vehicles to take on all comers. Oscarson started in last place of the four-train field but as always he is the most aggressive and determined to take the #1 spot. He muscled his team past two trains right on the first lap and was set to take over the lead as he entered lap two going almost door-to-door with the #99 train.
Oscarson led his train up the outside of the banking while the #66 team stuck to the bottom of the track but began drifting up into Oscarson's path as they hit the high banking. Both trucks were absolutely flying, way too fast for the turn, and the combination of the high speed plus a desperate side panel shot by the #99 truck attempting to block Oscarson from passing caused a horrific rollover! Oscarson' truck barrel rolled twice, the middle car rolled once as the third car flipped on its side which also had a driver in it! Glass and metal ripped away from the #66 truck as it lay on its side looking completely smashed. As if it was not bad enough, the engine burst into flames!
Oscarson quickly climbed out the window and hopped away from the burning truck and was unharmed. His team driver also was quickly out of the third car and walked away uninjured. The drivers were fine but the insane crash left the power team crippled and smashed up. The #64-#64 1/2-#65 train went on to win the race of 3-trains after the restart. You can view a video of the crash in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre!
From one crazy race to another that, actually, might even be crazier! How about a game of Follow The Leader...with Hornets! This was certainly no ordinary race and if you've ever played follow the leader as a child, just think of it with cars. After 1 complete lap around the oval, the lead car was free to turn which ever way the driver pleased on the track! They could go backwards, through the X, down the X, make the same turn 3 times, it did not matter! Laps were counted whenever they crossed the Start/Finish line.
The #23 car led the first lap and took advantage of the Follow The Leader rule very quickly as he cut a hard left up the X right after the starting line. The cars slammed on their brakes to try and follow and as soon as it seemed like everyone was on the same page, the lead car cut a hard right at the top of the X to go down the back stretch!
This turn did not go nearly as smooth as the #10 had snuck up in front of #23 and got a hard shot to the rear panel and a complete 360 spinout for his trouble. A new leader took over and sent the cars continuing around the oval but now back in the right direction. He made two complete laps without any different turns but then cut a hard left out of Turn 4 then immediately another hard left to go right back up into Turn 3 and then back around the oval.
The #25 car now had a firm lead over the field as they crossed back through the X and returned to going the opposite direction on the oval and took the checkered flag for the victory. Crazy and fun race to watch.
The National Figure 8 League fired up next for their unique version of competition that is always contested on the Figure-8 track, obviously. Some of these high powered autos also compete in Rockford's Road Runner series and Grand Slammers. But some are special racers built just for this competition including the police-scheme truck which actually wrecked during a race last season here.
The 5-car field was pretty packed together for the first lap but then the two most powerful vehicles broke away from the three slower cars and would wage a 2-car race for the entire time. The police truck and the #01 red/silver car battled for 1st place putting the other cars over a half lap behind and in danger of colliding as they crossed the X. There were some close, but calculated, crosses in the X but no one ever did hit, which is probably all for the better with the speeds they were reaching. The police truck driver tried and tired to pass up the #01 car but could not find an opening on the inside nor outside at either end of the track. The #01 car held the lead the entire time and took a hard fought win.
Time to turn some heads and turn over some cars in the rollover contest! Always a crowd favorite, the rollover contest provides thrills and the guaranteed spills, some more extreme than others. I did not get to watch the rollover contest as the participants in Spectacular Drags were called to go lineup in the pits so the pictures are some crappy captures from the video camera.
The first driver out was able to make two runs at the ramp but did not get very aggressive and ended up with 8 points after getting 1/2 roll the first attempt and 1 1/2 the second. The second driver in his little Colt Vista had better luck and got the small car to roll very well off the ramp to receive 8 points for two complete rolls and kept going for a second try. He picked up 4 more points for a total of 12 to take the lead. But would that lead be safe with the resident Rockford Speedway psycho Rich Schinderling up next? Schinderling blasted into the ramp with a ton of speed and absolutely launched his Chevy Corsica into a violent triple rollover that landed him back on all fours almost up into Turn 1 of the track! Awesome roll that had to leave him with some pains he'd feel in the morning. Even after the nasty hit, the car kept running too! He brought it around for another shot but the steering was going away and he was not able to line up for the ramp correctly. He hit the ramp crooked and nosed into the ground. The hit snapped the front axle and he was done but his 12 point roll was good enough for a tie.
Finally, the time had arrived for Spectacular Drags! The field was loaded with all kinds of vehicles from true junkers to tuned up "Ricers" to several pickup trucks including my 1997 Dodge Dakota. As we sped out onto the track, I was following a Ford Ranger and sped up to get past him on the front stretch to ensure I'd be next to him in the staging and hoped I'd be able to race him. But, there was also a huge Dodge Ram 2500 dually diesel truck near us so I figured I would be in good shape and be up against a truck in the first round.
As a few races went by and we slowly rolled through the field, the Ram and the Ranger ended up being paired next to each other in the staging and were brought to the line to race! I was ticked as I'd be stuck against a much quicker car...or so I thought.
Out rolls this piece of crap GMC Safari minivan with spray paint all over it and I instantly knew this could not be good. As you can see in the picture, I went to take the outside lane and there is a trackman up to my window telling me that, and I quote, "Don't take the outside lane, he'll push you into the wall." I was like "Excuse me?" At that point I was like you've got to be kidding me and did not want to be taking any chances and what I should have done in retrospect was to back up and refuse to race, simple as that. But, stupid me backed up and moved to the inside lane instead.
We pulled to the line and I was ready for the flagman's signal. The flag dropped and I was not taking any chances on this guy and floored it for all the truck had and launched to a truck length lead when what do I see out my mirror? The guy cut a hard left and tried to take me out!! If not for some seriously good acceleration out of my truck, I would've been side swiped for real!
I was flippin' pissed off inside my truck and slowed down into the turn to watch where this guy was going. And he went across the damn grass!! I'm sorry to be so harsh with the language but this was absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for. This jackass was there to screw someone (me) out of their livelihood and ruin their vehicle, period. I let him take the lead down the back stretch and started to speed back up just to get around the track and get this over with.
But what does he do now? HITS THE DAMN BRAKES!! As you can see, both our brake lights are on going into the turn and now he wants me to rear-end his van! I was completely pissed off at this point and was not going to let his piece of garbage have his jollies with me so I went to try and beat him at his own game and again in retrospect was not such a smart idea. I cut down into the grass out of Turn 4 and tried to cut him off.
But he had too big of a lead so he made it back first for the "win" if you wish to call it that. From there, this got completely insane. As I crossed the line on the inside, he tried to hit me again!! I floored it past him and now was headed for the concrete barriers on the infield! I swerved away from them and back to the center of the X towards the rest of the cars and had no clue what was coming next or what I should do. The jackass in the van follows me over there and rolls the van right up next to my truck and just stops. I open my door and start lashing into him and waiving 1/2 the peace sign around clear as day for everyone to see. Finally some damn track crew gets their butts over to his car and have me back away as they tell him to get off the track.
I ripped into the track crew guys and told them that was complete bull crap and he should've never been let in to race, ESPECIALLY, since I found out that they KNEW he was going to do this and had done it before!! Complete crap on behalf of Rockford Speedway officials! After a hair-raising few minutes, I was still going crazy in my truck and could not settle down after that. I watched the moron in the van make his exit by ramming into the monster truck crush cars on the back stretch before finally leaving. I was informed that security had forced him to leave the venue but I had no reason to believe it at that point.
As I was sitting in the truck recounting the insanity that just went on, Jeff Perrin comes running up to my truck and starts asking me what the hell was going on and I had absolutely no answer for him. I was freaked out and he was speechless at the crap that went on. It is now an event we seem to discuss all the time when we cross paths.
So, after all of this, I was into the second round and would have another race and this time against a real vehicle, a 2004 Dodge Dakota. This Dakota definitely was not stock or they made some serious engine upgrades on the stock motor from 97 to 04 because he blasted off the line and left me a length behind as we were into the first banking.
He pulled away some more on the back stretch and held onto the lead to the finish for a two truck length win. That truck actually went onto to beat several cars and made it to the Final 4 before dropping out.
I really didn't care at that point about the race and was more than happy to get the heck off the track before something else happened. I parked the truck and headed back to the seats and everyone of course was freaking out about what happened. My Dad and Jackie were upset but definitely not nearly as much as I was. I couldn't talk right, didn't know what to say, and did not give a damn about anything after that horrifying experience. You can watch video of it all in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre.
I understand there is a risk of crashing or damage to my vehicle in this kind of spectator racing, I've known that each and every time I've been out there and have had no problems with any of my races in the past. But, this was no ordinary competitive race. A cheap little thrill was nearly turned into a thousands of dollars catastrophe. I was and still am sickened by thinking of it and having to relive it all in my mind. It is a night I will never forget and for all the wrong reasons. The idea of a good time in Spectacular Drags is over forever because of this. No way am I going to risk my vehicles on a track were there is no sense displayed by the speedway personnel and where I am financially and physically threatened. And to that minivan driver: You are a complete piece of SH^T and a true skid mark on all of society for your pathetic acts of complete disregard for the well being and safety of other people. I hope you truly burn in hell.
A round of auto-football was scheduled next but I was not in the stands for it. I went back out to the parking lot and moved my truck back to the pit area so it would be in eyesight of the pit office at all times incase that psycho decided to pull some more crap and vandalize my truck. Jackie videotaped the auto-football so here are some more crappy movie captures from it. I do not know who won and from what I was told and from what the video shows, it looks like it sucked pretty bad anyway. They should stick to school buses for this.
After taking some deep breaths and trying to chill out in the stands, finally a real race to take my mind off the bad situation of the night. The world famous Gauntlet Race was set to rock and after what was, in my mind, the best Gauntlet Race I had ever witnessed exactly 1-year prior, this race was going to have to be incredible.
Seven laps of auto wrecking hell were underway with the beautiful (for Rockford standards) looking mini school bus leading the pack of 5 cars that were out to stop it by any means necessary. The all-time score in the Gauntlet Race from the events I have covered is Vehicle: 5 Cars 7.The first lap flew by without much incident, only some light hits to the back of the bus and it was going to take a heck of a lot more to stop it. All the vehicles picked up speed into lap 2 and once they made it to turn 3, two lead cars ran right up the back of the bus and started to get it fishtailing but there was just too much weight there to shove. Instead, one of the cars tried to go in front of the bus to box it in but got spun around hard into the infield for the trouble.
Onto lap 3 and still no sign of the bus slowing down. The cars mounted some more offense on the back stretch but the bus kept moving and the cars ended up taking out each other. Finally, right on the front stretch, the bus was spun completely around but it hardly phased the driver and he was back under way into lap 4.
The cars once again attacked out of turn 2 and got in several hard shots but those hindered the cars as well as front ends started to crumple. One car got in a stiff shot on the rear wheel and it broke a huge chunk of the exhaust system out from under the bus. At first we thought the part hanging down was the drive shaft on the bus, but when it ripped off, the bus kept moving so obviously that was not the case. A great hit, but the car that unleashed it was now dead in the water. The bus was nearly spun around again out of turn 4 but the driver held it straight and forced three of the attacking cars to end up smacking each other along the way.
The attack cars were down one vehicle but regrouped quickly and nailed the bus again coming out of turn 1 and caused a big spin out right into their fallen team member. The cars did not follow up with more hits though which allowed the bus driver to swung it back around and after ripping up some of the infield grass, was back on his way and up to full speed as he led the 5 attack cars into the always dangerous lap 6. If you've followed the Gauntlet Race coverages in the past, you know that nearly all of the attack car victories have come on lap 6!
The cars did not get the lap off to a good start and could not spin the bus out again on the back stretch. Instead, the bus was doing the hitting and put two cars up into the wall. Another offense was mounted by the cars near the end of the back stretch as they tried to muscle the bus sideways from the back end but were not successful and yet again took each other out.
The white flag few and after a quite lap 6, the cars were going to need to crank up the intensity if they wanted a win. Into the first corner and the cars got to work with a good two-car powered spin out in the middle of the turns. The bus was stuck on one of the cars but wrestled free and was now headed down the track in the wrong direction!! The driver took the bus up the middle of the X and entered into turn 3. The cars were not having any of the games and spun the bus out and looked to have him blocked in. The cars started throwing some big hits and never let up as they literally pushed the bus all the way back around through turn 3 and into the infield.
Since these last couple laps have been filled with track shortcuts by the bus driver, might as well continue them as he managed to break free from the cars and headed towards the finish line through the X instead. The cars got in some good hits at the end but not nearly enough to stop the big red bus. The bus takes the win and improves the score to Vehicle: 6 Cars 7. A solid Gauntlet Race from start to finish, only real downfall was the lack of aggression out of the car drivers. The plan of attack needs to be full-on and full-force rather than just waiting for a couple opportunities at spinouts.
The final Hornet event of the night, The Swam feature race, lined up next with nearly 30 cars ready for battle. For some reason I do not have any pictures of this race but nothing too crazy happened anyway and the #316 car was the winner. Wow that was brief, huh. But, that only means the quicker we get to what I consider the main event of the night: The monster truck freestyle!!
Both Jocelyn and Mark would be on the track at the same time and had the four car set in the back as well as a fresh 3-car set in the grass near turn 1.
Jocelyn got the action started with a nice hit on the back set and she was followed by Mark with another good wheel stand. Perrin went across the infield to the fresh row of cars and popped Lil' Miss Dangerous up into a nice slow wheel stand and really smashed down the cars. Both drivers switched directions on their sets and nailed another jump almost in unison which meant I could not get a shot of both.
Perrin was liking the back set of cars and pulled her biggest jump so far and landed the rear wheels into the third car and bounced off. Schroeder tried to match her with a jump on the back set but did not get any air on his try. The same would not be said for his jump on the near set and grabbed some good air.
Perrin found a slick piece of asphalt on the back stretch and ripped off some awesome tire smokin' donuts while Schroeder aired out Devastator on the near set again. Perrin lined up the far set and unloaded her biggest jump of the night and easily cleared the cars and she was trailed by Schroeder who followed that up with a walking wheelie across the back set.
Perrin attacked the near set with another huge leap that cleared the three cars as Schroeder hit a bouncing wheelie across the back set.
Perrin brought the truck to the center of the track and with the strobe lights going she ripped off another great set of donuts that tore up the tires and spewed smoke everywhere. Schroeder nailed two more jumps as Jocelyn was spinning to finish his run as well.
The drivers brought their trucks up the wall to receive a big applause from the very happy crowd after two solid freestyle runs. Jocelyn definitely got the majority of the fan support and rightfully so as she had the bigger hits, the donuts and was the aggressor both times out on the track. You can watch some highlights for their runs in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre.
The final race of the evening was the Transit Terror School Bus Figure-8 race this time with the guys driving and a huge field of 13 buses!
After having his bus blow up last year in this race, Gary Oscarson was back in a brand new #66 bus and if this is anything like his earlier experience in the train race, we were in for a wild one.
The racing was incredibly close and hard the first few laps with some ridiculously close calls in the X with no one wanting to take it slow. Drivers were going neck-and-neck 3-wide in the turns and then pushing it full speed on the straight away through the middle. By lap 4 we lost two buses due to breakage and probably should've lost a whole lot more but amazingly they were not hitting going through the X.
The field had spread out by lap 7 but whenever a slower bus got in the way, the lead bus would make desperate attempts to get around including driving in the grass and running over the large boundary tires!
Two more buses dropped out near the end of the race but it did not matter at the Coors Light Silver Bullet theme bus took home the victory in a wild race to say the least.
Well, what is left to say. A great night of racing in all the divisions and the monster trucks left nothing to be desired. All together one of the better Rockford Speedway experiences to date...well, minus the whole trying to run Jason and his nice truck into a wall thing.
Thanks for stopping by again and if you want to check out the action at Rockford for yourself, check out RockfordSpeedway.com for a complete schedule.