Springfield, MO 2004
7:00AM, May 1st--"Dear Diary, I awoke early to hit the road to Springfield for the monster trucks but was greeted by rain upon leaving my apartment. I thought to myself, "Hey its only a little rain" and began my journey. If only I had known how very, very wrong I was about the rain...."
The big kickoff to the outdoor monster truck racing season is the
annual Springfield Jamboree and I would be attending for my second year. After being stuck
indoors through the winter months, I was ready to break out and see the best kind of
monster truck racing there is. But the hope of sunny skies, short shorts and super slap
wheelies were drenched in a heartbeat and turned into dreary downpours, double layers and
dreadful drag racing.
After leaving Edwardsville at around 7:00am Saturday morning, it was a good 3-hours plus drive west to Springfield and the entire way I was hit by rain. Now of course I checked the weather report and I knew there was a chance of rain but it didn't say anything major and not like a little rain has stopped me before...I.E. Monroe, Rockford, Valpo, Kane County etc. I rolled into Springfield around 10:30am and after going back and forth from registration tent to ticket windows I finally found my tickets (THANK YOU DOC RILEY!) At this time, yes, it was still raining and you might as well keep that in mind for, oh...the whole time you're reading this but don't worry, I shall be reminding you. With the rain was driving winds and a temperature in the low 40s and since I thought summer was in order, I left my heavy duty coat at home, whoops.
I sloshed and splashed my way into the fairgrounds and headed to the Big Dawg pit area to say Hi and found everyone huddling under a tent and shaking from the cold. I had planned on killing some time before the first show by checking out the Show N Shine trucks but with all the rain, no way I was taking the camera out. My next stop for shelter was the Team RAM merchandise hauler to chat with June Hall. I decided it was time to go check out the track so I headed to the enclosed tunnel/exhibition hall to get to the stands. I get inside and fine hundreds of people sitting in there. Why? Because it is heated. I warmed up then went to find a seat and see what was out on the track.
Rows 1-25 were soaked and after sitting in a few spots for a moment I said forget it and kept bouncing from seat to seat to find a dry place where I could actually shoot pictures. That place was the LAST row at the top of the stands. The Obstacle Course competition was taking place at the time and what a joke that was, no point in even explaining it. It dragged on so long that the monsters started over a half hour late. After sitting on a cold bench and shaking for an hour, finally the monsters were ready to roll and give me something to distract me from the terrible weather.
Bigfoot 15--Dan Runte
Big Dawg--Doug Noelke
Wild Hair--Jason Witte
The 2004 Special Events Jamboree monster truck races are ProMT sanctioned this year and Springfield was to be the opening rounds of the point series. But because of the horrid conditions, a full straight line track was not constructed, no timing lights were used and neither were lights at all. The course instead was to have the trucks start on the slippery concrete and then race over 4 cars. Not much for racing but over in the corner of the track was a huge and very ominous car-van-delivery truck-van-car pyramid with no dirt or anything supporting it. The trucks did not qualify in both lanes probably because there was no point. Yes, it was still raining.
Racing Round 1
Big Dawg vs. Predator-- With the concrete totally drenched and good sized puddles everywhere, the trucks were going to be spinning the tires like crazy and going no where. Both trucks did just that off the line and it was quickly apparent that whoever finally got some grip would win the race. Noelke got some traction going up the ramp and was able to get out in front of Predator over the cars for a 1/2 truck win. Winner: Big Dawg.
Wild Hair vs. Bigfoot-- First time for Wild Hair on the ProMT circuit as he is filling in for John Seasock's Sudden Impact. This was also my first time seeing the latest Bigfoot paint scheme in person. The big new Hemi in Bigfoot was turning all kinds of power off the line while the smaller engine Wild Hair spun and couldn't get much going. Bigfoot powers across the cars for the win. Winner: Bigfoot.
RAMinator vs. Avenger-- So far no one has been able to get some luck off the starting line but Mark Hall quickly changed that as RAMinator laid down some rubber off the line and shot over the cars in a hurry leaving Avenger in the dust. Dust? I mean playing in the puddles. Winner: RAMinator.
Racing Round 2
Bigfoot vs. Big Dawg-- In between rounds, the rain picked up even more leaving standing water on the start line. As the flag dropped, both trucks were smoking the tires but there was some extra dirt on the ramp in the near lane that Big Dawg got to first and that propelled him past Bigfoot for the win. Winner: Big Dawg.
RAMinator vs. Predator-- Pezo gets back in as the fast loser and will face off against the only truck that had any kind of traction in round 1, RAMinator. But this time the tables were turned, as it was Pezo getting a decent launch and getting out ahead. Hall was right with him but the slick ramp and cars threw the truck off the set and Predator moves on. Winner: Predator.
Big Dawg vs. Predator-- They faced off in the first round and they'll go at it once more. Noelke stuck to the near lane where he's had the most luck and it paid off again. Pezo was even with him the whole way till the ramp when Big Dawg got an extra leg up over the cars and narrowly got past Predator. Much closer than their previous battle. Winner of ProMT Round 1: BIG DAWG.
I pretty much explained the track situation in regards to what was out there but one other point of note. Of the two sets of cars, only the near set had the rear ramp removed to give the trucks a fresh hit on a car. Besides that car and the pyramid, that would be the only metal they would be hitting. But plenty of slick track for donuts and a hill for slap wheelies if anyone would be able to pull them off. The third car in the set with the ramp removed was also right inline with one of the grandstand polls so you'll see that lovely structure in several (what would've been) great shots.
Wild Hair-- Jason Witte was first to get a shot at the track and I could tell he was really trying to get a feel for what he could and could not do. He tried getting some air off the ramps but just couldn't get much with the tire spin on the track. The far set threw him off to the side on one jump but Witte recovered and pulled a really good long jump on the near set. As I said, the slippery track would provide ideal donut conditions and Jason got Wild Hair spinning pretty good while spewing up a layer of mud and water off the tires. With not much luck on anything else, the only thing left was the huge pyramid and Jason wasn't about to pass it up. Witte aimed Wild Hair up and went for it but didn't have too much speed. The truck got up over the car and the van then got hung up on the big truck and Wild Hair started to slide off the side but some quick thinking by Jason brought the truck down off the pyramid in one piece. The pyramid is very slick and it will take a lot more force to get over it successfully. Jason parked on the cars and waived to the crowd to finish off the run. Score: 4.
Bigfoot-- Dan Runte flew onto the track next and immediately launched off the near set with a good long jump. He skidded Bigfoot around and went for the fresh car but even that proved hindering as he wasn't able to muster up much of a sky wheelie. Runte spun off some donuts of his own and went after the cars again and this time got the truck up in the air a little better. Short run for Bigfoot. Score: 3.
Predator-- Allen Pezo had some excellent freestyle runs here last year but that was in much better conditions than this ice skating rink on concrete. Pezo stuck to the near set of cars for all his jumps and came off with two pretty good sky wheelies on the exposed car. Other than that, the trucks don't have much to work with, period. No one wants to hit that suicidal pyramid. Score: 3.
RAMinator-- No truck has been able to keep up any good momentum during a run so far but that was about to quickly change. Hall got up a ton of speed right out of the pit area and blasted off the near ramp with the biggest jump of the event so far. Hall found some open space and ripped off an awesome set of donuts that finally instilled some life in the crowd. Hall hit the near cars for a good jump off that side as well and concluded his run. Short but effective. Score: 6.
Big Dawg-- Racing winner Doug Noelke cranked up the freestyle momentum even more than what RAMinator did. Noelke flew over the near set of cars and once getting control of the truck, spun of some quick donuts and went right back to attacking the track with an excellent jump off the cars. He went back and forth again on the near set getting some more nice air and I figured he was probably done as everyone else has done short runs. But Noelke made is way to the open area on the far right of the track and went for some more donuts. The truck started spinning like crazy and Doug kept his foot planted and Big Dawg spun up into the barrier dirt birm and was shut off within inches of the wall! Incredible set of donuts and once again a truck has flirted with taking out that wall. Last year it was Carolina Crusher coming within a foot of taking it out. Score: 8.
Avenger-- Jim Koehler was heavily promoted as the former World Freestyle Champion and he wasn't about to let the fans down after that promise. Koehler launched up a gigantic vertical sky wheelie on the near set that sent a roar through the grandstands. Koehler brought the truck back around and nearly did the same thing again with another sweet jump. Koehler wanted to go even bigger and headed to the pyramid! Jim lined it up and hit the first car hard sending the truck up into a big wheel stand but killed all momentum he had for getting over the big truck in the middle. Avenger got caught up at the top of the stack and started sliding off the side but was now wedged on top of the stack! Avenger was stuck. Koehler kept spinning and turning the tires back and forth to try and get the truck down but that wasn't going to happen. The crowd loved it none the less and a fitting way to end freestyle. Score: 6.
Avenger was left in quite a perplexing situation of just how to get the truck down. Over the 20+ minutes, crews and tow trucks tried idea after idea to get Avenger down. The end result was having one tow truck pull and one push the truck slowly, ever so slowing down the stack. One of the cars was pulled out to make it a little easier too. No damage done to Avenger and it would return for the second show.
The second show of the day would be over 4 hours later. So what happened in the mean time? Follow the links to Part 2 of the Springfield Jamboree coverage. Lots of stories, lots of rain and a thrilling end to the night are all ahead.
Springfield Part 2