Route 66 Raceway
Summer Monster Mash
May 15th, 2004


Home Sweet Home. What a bunch of crap that line is.
The last coverage from Springfield, MO was my final weekend down in Edwardsville and within days I was packed and headed back to Batavia for the summer off of school. When I left the St. Louis area, it was a steamy 85 degrees. When I rolled into B-town I needed a winter coat, as it was a ridiculous 50 degrees and getting worse. Welcome home and welcome to summer, yeah right.
The weather problems and scheduling difficulties I always run across in the summer season were getting a head start this year as the forecast was sunny but cold for this year's Route 66 show and it also fell on the same weekend as the Lima Jamboree. I chose Route 66 for the proximity mainly but also because I had just seen the Lima line up a week ago in Springfield. Plus, at Rt66, you're guaranteed a crazy track and a great mix of trucks from all over the country. This year was no different as the anticipation was high heading into the event and I took off to the track Saturday afternoon to see what was in store this time.

A big crew of online monster truck fanatics would be taking in the show as well and I decided to take the van to the event this time to show it off and have a spot to hang around after the race possibly. It didn't take me long to find Jeremy Dawson & Josh Rhodes as they followed me in from the interstate. I got inside the parking lot and went to will call to get my ticket and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night.  The will call people were all screwed up and had lost pretty much everybody's tickets. It took a half hour to sort out 15 customer's tickets and needless to say, people were pissed. As was I because the pit party was going to be ending and there I was stuck in line. They showed no record of my purchase either so I chewed 'em out and said its one lousy ticket, give me it and be done.
I finally made it into the pit party and started making my way around to the trucks and drivers.

Jim Koehler was back at the track but with a different name on the truck. The Route 66 Truck S-10 body would be on the Avenger chassis for the night. Yes, that is a Dodge sticker on the front too; Route 66 wanted a Dodge body.

Mark Schroeder in Devastator was making his first appearance at Route 66. Mark ran extremely well on the Monster Jam winter circuit and was perfect for the long tracks in this venue. Devastator was the surprise on the night as Destroyer was the one advertised but obviously another mix-up/typo with the lineups.

The Exhaust Works truck, which is the Brutus chassis, accompanied the Route 66 Truck. Exhaust Works is a huge Route 66 Raceway sponsor for all their events. Frank Krmel would get the driving duties on this night. But his focus was more on what the speedway had to offer if you catch my drift...

The beautiful Lone Eagle truck from the Pezo stable was going to be driven by Larry Jarzel. Larry pointed out the new eagle design on the tailgate, which compliments the already great look of the truck.

Without a doubt, the best looking truck at the event was Backdraft. Rich Blackburne was running the Backdraft body on his new truck for Rick Disharoon at a few events this year. A killer looking setup and winning combination.

This hot rod Mystery Machine van was also on display from Discovery Channel's Monster Nation show. They were at the event doing some taping as well. I would like to take that on a spin for sure.

I strolled the pit party for a while and ran into Andrew Pellegrine and he was nice enough to snap a picture of Amber Sky Walker and I. Oh, wait, that's right, the nimrod deleted it!!! No, I haven't forgotten that blunder Andrew! He said the track wasn't too extreme as during the week the area was pounded day after day with horrible amounts of rain which left the track crew little time to prepare a race course. I went up to the stands to investigate and found an Oklahoma Style racetrack laid out as well as some big objects for freestyle.

Oklahoma style is similar to Chicago except there are more sets of cars involved. Look at that previous picture and I'll describe the course. Starting on the right side red set, the truck there would go over that set, down to the end of the track and make a turn around the tires, head back over the blue set to the left, then another turn at the other end and head for the top side blue set to complete the run. A very long track that would level the playing field for all trucks, driver skill will take the win every time. Along with the monsters we were forced to sit through several episodes of FMX (yawn). The show was running a little behind schedule and as the trucks were brought out, the sun was going down fast and it was getting cold in a hurry.

Truck/Driver Lineup:

Route 66 Truck--Jim Koehler

Exhaust Works--Frank Krmel

Lone Eagle--Larry Jarzel

Predator--Ron Nelson

Devastator--Mark Schroeder

Wild Thang--Dave Harwood

Backdraft--Rich Blackburne

Boogey Van--Amber Sky Walker


This session was suppose to be a feeling out process for the drivers to see what it was going to take to get around the long track quickly. But instead, this turned into a plague of breakage. First truck out was Exhaust Works and after getting lost around the track, Krmel had a really decent run and looked strong, but upon pulling back into the pits, a huge bang was heard and smoke poured from the truck. The engine had exploded a rod through the engine and into the oil pan. Exhaust Works was now a boat anchor.

Exhaust Works though wasn't the only truck with problems. Boogey Van was not shifting right at all and had Amber fighting the controls around the track. Predator would not start for his run but finally did and limped around the track. The bright spots during qualifying were the fast times of Koehler and Schroeder with both of them having no troubles on or off the track. After sitting through 20+ minutes of mind numbing FMX crap, I had put my big coat on because it was getting down right cold with the wind kicking up as well. Racing was finally ready to begin but not everyone would show up. Exhaust Works was toast along with Predator who never started back up. Paul Shafer brought Frankenstein out on the track but did not run it for racing.

Racing Round 1

Route 66 Truck vs. Lone Eagle-- Some how two of the better running trucks from qualifying get stuck racing each other. Koehler drilled Jarzel off the line and jumped to a big lead quickly over the first set. Jarzel stumbled a bit in the turn and Koehler continued to pour it on as Lone Eagle continued to slow. Koehler took the big final turn and flew over the last set to an easy win. Winner: Route 66 Truck.

Devastator vs. Backdraft-- Devastator was a little faster in qualifying and was much faster off the line in this race as well. Schroeder covered Blackburne by two trucks lengths out of the hole and was into the first turn quickly. Schroeder opened up a giant lead over the second set while Blackburne was trying to keep pace. Schroeder took the final turn easy and cruised to a win with Backdraft several lengths behind. Backdraft did not have a slow run; just Devastator was awful fast this time. Winner: Devastator.

Wild Thang vs. Boogey Van-- With two trucks out, these two teammates had to face each other in Round 1. Amber had big problems with the truck in qualifying while Harwood was blazing the track. The same thing happened in this race as well. The start was even and Boogey Van actually had a lead off the first set but the truck wouldn't turn well for anything around the big tires. Harwood was flying over the second set with a huge jump landing nearly at the next turn. He could've lapped Boogey Van with another corner or two as Amber had to limp it around the rest of the track. "The motor right now is running like crap and my front steering cylinders were bad so I was battling to even hit the cars straight. My truck was geared badly too. I've never run out of gear before hitting the first set of cars, it sucked," said Amber after the show. Tough break for the usually strong running Boogey Van. Winner: Wild Thang.

The temps continued to fall and with the wind chill it was now around 40 degrees and as if that wasn't bad enough, it was another 25 minutes of crap-tastic FMX. But get this! The crowd has not extended any effort whatsoever to cheer for the monster trucks so far, yet, they go frickin' wild for FMX?!!? What the hell?! Its 5 guys doing the same lame jumps you see at every show and on tv! GO AWAY FMX!! Note to Rt. 66: Do a separate FMX show from the monsters! It's obvious people like it, so make one that actually counts and most importantly, get it away from what we were all suppose to be there to see: MONSTER TRUCKS!
I headed to the bathroom and on the way ran into Steve Maver down buying some hot food and trying to escape the cold. His comment on the show so far was somewhere along the lines of "What is this crap?"

Racing Round 2

Route 66 Truck vs. Backdraft-- Backdraft is in as the fast loser from Round 1 but would get stuck up against the quickest truck in the field, Route 66. Rich stuck it to Jim on the line and got the lead over the first cars heading for the turn. But a slow turn for Backdraft allowed Koehler to catch up and regain the lead as he launched over the second set. Koehler took a crazy bounce, which then allowed Blackburne to get back into it and catch up. They headed into the final turn almost even and down the stretch they went with Koehler gunnin' the Route 66 to a big leap over the final set to take the win over Backdraft. Winner: Route 66 Truck.

Devastator vs. Wild Thang-- The two most consistent runners so far would square off for a shot in the Finals. Harwood got the hole shot and held it into turn 1. Schroeder cut a great turn to pull even but it was Harwood faster on the gas and he kept the lead over the second set. He went way wide in the final turn and Devastator pulled even again and Mark slammed the pedal down but the truck was aimed the wrong way and he skimmed the side of the damn FMX hill and then hit cars crossed up while Wild Thang scorched the back stretch and launched huge off the back set to take the win. An excellent fast paced race, best of the night so far. Winner: Wild Thang.  No shot of the final jump for some reason, I think I forgot to wind the camera after getting caught up in the excitement.

Racing Finals

Route 66 Truck vs. Wild Thang-- Rightfully the two fastest and most aggressive trucks on the night met in the finals. They are also about the only two to survive trouble and breakage. In the back of my mind I saw Koehler winning this race but Harwood has been very strong all night and I was definitely pulling for the upset victory. They both rocketed off the line and it was Harwood coming out ahead over the first set. Around the tires they went with perfection and to the second set both trucks launched incredibly far and had to recover quickly to setup the turn. Koehler stumbled slightly while Harwood flew around it beautifully. Harwood stabbed the throttle for all the big skull was worth out of the turn, as did Koehler and they barreled towards the finish line full tilt. Both trucks soared across the cars with huge jumps but it was Dave Harwood in Wild Thang pulling the upset of the night and sticking it to Koehler in the Route 66 Truck by a half truck length. Another stellar race that easily qualifies for Race of the Year. Winner: Wild Thang.


More FMX? No, thankfully as now it was time to move some stuff around for monster truck freestyle. Too bad only 1/2 of the original crowd would be there to see it. Lots of people had already left because of 1. The lackluster show and 2. the freezing temperatures. Several loaders and bulldozers took to the track, dismantling it and then rebuilding obstacles for freestyle. Problem was, the stuff they were building was pretty big and intimidating for most of the trucks here. There was that 4-van ramp jump, the FMX hill, and two double stacked car pyramids that stood nearly as high as the trucks themselves! Two sets of cars were left intact plus one car was used as a slap wheelie jump. Exhaust Works still out, Predator still out, Frankenstein in.


Frankenstein-- Shafer had Frankenstein sitting in a hauler and had brought it out to the track earlier but seeing as how he wasn't paid to be there, was not going to race it if not required. He came out for freestyle though and went for the near set of cars first and hit a nice sky wheelie to open the run. He slowly circled back and hit the same set again to close the run. No, I'm not kidding thats all he did. Ooooooooook, whatever. Score: 1.

Boogey Van-- Amber rolled onto the track next and took the same route the boss did a few minutes prior. As stated before, Boogey Van was running about the worse I'd ever seen it and there was nothing Amber could do but hit the cars a few times and call it good. She's now in the Kid Rock/Kevin Harvick #29 truck but still battling mechanical woes. Score: 2.

Backdraft-- It was up to Rich to instill some life into this freestyle show and he did a good job of it. Lots of hits on the cars getting some alright air both on and off of the ramps. He tried several times to get a slap wheelie going but just couldn't, his many tries was the only thing hurting this run. Also the only truck to throw a donut into the mix. Good debut for the DemonDraft team. Score: 5.

Devastator-- Very good performance in racing for Mark and his freestyles this year have been awesome as he's become more accustomed to the new truck. Mark did not go after any of the crazy stuff laying on the track but did get the best air so far off the cars. He almost rocked up a slap wheelie a few times but that single car wasn't getting the trucks high enough. But Mark did figure out it worked great for sky wheelies going the other way and stood the truck up nicely a few times. A good run but not the style anyone was looking for and the people that were left were getting restless with no trucks hitting the big jumps or doing anything great. Score: 6.

Lone Eagle-- Larry Jarzel gets passed over for recognition of racing and freestyle skills and I was hoping he'd bust out with a great run here. He faltered in racing with unfamiliar truck and it being affected by the cold. After a good start on the cars, Jarzel went for the FMX jump and wheelied up and off that nicely and I thought that maybe things would start to get interesting. Jarzel went for the cars some more then went to the 4-van jump and hit it from the ramp but not very hard and just rolled across them and off. Some more good air off the FMX hill and that was all. The engine was smoking pretty well at the end. Score: 6.

Wild Thang-- Harwood was smokin' in racing but could he pull a double victory? He kept up good momentum and attacked the cars harder than anyone so far. The big stacks of cars though were out of the question because of their shear height. The front end of Wild Thang would've plowed right into the cars. Instead Harwood found success popping some nice wheelies over the single car and up the back of the FMX hill. A short run for the racing winner but still a good night for Wild Thang. Score: 5.

Route 66 Truck-- Only one truck left to try and get some sort of excitement out of the crowd and maybe make it seem like this was all worth suffering through. Koehler blasted onto the track and went right for the 4 vans and tearing through the first one and down the ramp side cleanly. Good way to start and he followed with a big jump on the near cars. Koehler took flight off every ramp in the place with great leaps off the van ramp, FMX  hill and the crush car ramps. He eyed up the ominous car pyramids and slammed into the first one knocking the cars almost off but he stood the truck up and over the cars smoothly. He turned the Route 66 Truck around and went for the other pyramid and this time hit the cars and let out causing the truck to stand completely vertical and nearly rolled over backwards before finally getting back in the throttle and powering over the stack. He had figured out how to attack those cars and took on the first pyramid again with a sweet jump. Koehler ripped through the row of vans again and the finished off with another hit on the car pyramid. Awesome run that should have every other driver there embarrassed. Score: 10.

Before Jim was even done waiving to the crowd, I was headed out of the place. Forget sticking around any longer, I was frozen and the quicker I got the heat on in the van the less pissed I'd be. This show was a real let down and it was hard to even sit in the stands and watch it at points. Too cold, too slow and no action. The cold temps obviously took their toll on the equipment and the fans. At times it seemed like the drivers weren't putting forth much effort to try and please the people that were there and sticking out the cold. Another note to Route 66: Stop having shows in May and October! This is Chicago not Florida! Why do we want to sit out in a windy field and freeze our butts off for a show? Probably a good reason why attendance has sucked and it's going to be even worse come this October after this mess of an event. Its not like Team Demo Derby occupies every single weekend in June-August, the dirt track is only booked with a handful of other events for the year. Instead of two shows where the timing and weather are terrible, how about just picking one weekend in July and calling it good!? Drivers don't like running in this, trucks don't like performing well in this and fans obviously won't sit through it. I don't want to see what was herald as the new best place for monster trucks to get tossed to the bottom of the ladder because of poor planning. Hopefully come this October the weather will cooperate, the trucks will run and everything will work out for the best.
Thanks for reading and we'll be back at Route 66 in October!