St. Louis Monster Jam
One of the biggest shows of the winter season and for sure the biggest on my schedule is the Monster Jam at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2003, I got my first look at a huge stadium show other than the Silverdome and I loved it. Last year's show was quite a journey and this year proved to be much of the same. Up's and down's, twists and turns, racing and wreckage plus some unexpected events made this a trip to remember.
I started the day fresh by leaping out of bed at 6:30am with a big, bright smile on my face...........or not. I dragged my dead carcus out of bed and fumbled around for a half hour before leaving to meet up with Dane at his place then over to the new Gateway R/C location which has exploded in membership. We all piled in vehicles and caravaned a whole 20 miles over to the dome to give everyone time to setup and prepare trucks to run. I on the other hand had zero trucks to prepare as I couldn't figure out how to work one of those dang trucks if USA-1 returning to the circuit depended on it. I roamed the pit area and first checked out some of the new looking monsters for this year.
First on the viewing list were Bad News Travels Fast and King Krunch. Bad News went from mild to very wild with this new paint scheme. The detail on it is amazing up close but from a distance its too cluttered and hard to make stuff out. Plus the Bad News name hardly is noticable. In all my years of attending monster truck events, I never got the chance to see King Krunch. My time had passed for seeing Scott Stephens behind the wheel, but instead it was rising new comer David Smith. The new Krunch looks awesome from top to bottom. But the best looking new design in attendance belonged to Destroyer. I must have been drooling too much to even remember to take a picture of it. The new flame design is a perfect fit right down to little flames on the color matched shock towers. The re-tooled looks on Bounty Hunter and Scarlet Bandit are also good, gives them both more of a "mean" look and I like it. Shots of them coming in the pit party.
There were also two brand new trucks, just not bodies. Those would be Grave Digger 19 and the new Wild Hair truck of Jason Witte and yes that is me in an old Bounty Hunter/Scarlet Bandit shirt walking towards Wild Hair. Nice shot Dane :-) The new Digger with Anderson behind the wheel have had some great runs but also some ones that he'd like to forget, what would St. Louis bring? The new Wild Hair is flat out stunning in appearance. Witte had a lackluster performace last year in racing and was a one hit wonder for freestyle I'm sure he would like to rebound and break in the new truck on a good night in St. Louis.
After checking out the trucks, Dane and I headed to the track to
see the layout. It would be the same St. Louis style course as last year but there were
extras all around. Lots of different sized dirt hills were around the track as this night
would also feature a round of Pro Quads. Last year in the middle of the track was the
Demolition Man stunt setup, this year it was a Hot Wheels High Jump! No vehicles were
placed in the middle of the jump but it still was a huge launching ramp for any truck that
ventured up in during Freestyle. There were two pyramids this year as well. First being a
car-van-van-car pyramid on one side, then a car-van-bus-van-car pyramid in the spot where
it was last year. Then, lining the pit entrance tunnel, was a junkyard of stuff for
freestyle. 4 more cars, a camper, the shuttle bus from last years pyramid and a 1976 Dodge
van ice cream truck! Wait...a what?
A 1976 Dodge van...JACKPOT! As soon as I saw the van I wanted to start ripping stuff off it for my van. In case you've lived under a rock, I own a 1977 Dodge van and its the same styling as a '76. The van had some front end damage and the inside was gutted and in really bad shape. But I had to find something. I sprinted back to the pits and begged Jason Witte for a screwdriver. I proceded to snatch every possible light fixture off the front and sides of the van I could, hey, got to have spare parts! As I was doing so I was not only being taunted by the Gateway R/C members but guys from the Grave Digger crew came by and said "hey, save the electrical for us!" I tried and tried to get the hood to open but it was smashed in pretty well and the latch was gone from the interior. I would've got in the thing and started unbolting engine parts but the interior was full of dangerous pieces and broken glass. So if you happened to be at the event and noticed stuff missing from the front of the van...its in MY van now!
Hours rolled by and it became time to start setting up the Gateway R/C area for the Pit Party. Last year we were up by the entrance tunnel but this year we were given a prime spot dead center of the track right by the Pro Quad hills. This would allow some pit party demonstration of the lower powered trucks so none of them went sailing into the fans. This spot was great for attracting people but not great for what I had planned. I was going to have a tv/vcr setup showing old monster truck footage plus have a table for WMTRL stuff. Instead, I had to really condense it down to no tv and just a small table to sit some flyers on. As you can see, it was a rather large scale setup for the team.
The monster trucks were also being put into position for the pit party and the drivers took part in the pre show meeting.
As the Pit Party was getting ready to begin, I got in the Grave Digger line as I knew it would fill in a hurry. I got Anderson's autograph on a photo from last year and made my way around to some other drivers before giving up, realizing the lines were getting way too long. I decided to just get the rest back in the pit area later. I took a walk around snapping some shots instead.
In the meantime, the crowd around the Gateway R/C display was HUGE! People never ceased to not be there. There were literally hundreds of people watching the trucks run up and down a few jumps and had surrounded the tables too.
I gave away about 100 total WMTRL/MidwestMonsters flyers which was a plus, hopefully got some visitors. Not many people asking questions which was a bummer. The 2 hour pit party flew by and it was time to tear it down. Everyone made their way back to our pit area in the back and more work on the trucks began while I fumbled with my camera.
Around 6:30, the preshow activities began and after the ProQuads
took a few runs around, the R/C's got to come out and tackle the huge open track. I played
truck flipper, running all over turning trucks back over after they took a tumble. All the
guys enjoyed getting to finally cut the trucks loose and the crowd loved it as always. Now
things got interesting.
As we're leaving the track a guy stops me and says "Jason! How's it going?" I looked at him with a blank stare thinking "ok, I know you but I can't think of your name..." I felt like a friggin' idiot as it was Mike McFarlin from Clear Channel. Mike and I have met before and talk occasionally and he was at this event directing the Speed tv crews. He said "You want to get on the mic and plug anything?" I dropped my jaw and then said "nah I can't do that." But Mike is a persistant kind of guy and kept pushing me "C'mon! Plug your site talk with Scott about the R/Cs, then plug our site, 5 minutes that all it takes, c'mon!" I bent and finally gave in. Oh God was I ever shaking at first but got used to it quickly. Scott Douglass and I talked on the mic to the crowd first about who the hell I was, then about old school monsters, then about the R/Cs and who we were, then finally about the event and what to look forward to. It was awesome and I could get used to doing that. Big thanks to Mike for that chance and to Scott for making my time in the Hot Seat an easy one.
As showtime arrived I left the pit area and raced up the 3 flights of steps to my seat which was back about 20 rows from last year which kinda stunk but free is free. So enough drama and making you wait, its time for the monsters!
Grave Digger 19--Dennis Anderson
Maximum Destruction--Tom Meents
Hot Wheels--Phil Foster
Bounty Hunter--Jimmy Creten
Scarlet Bandit--Dawn Creten
Bad News Travels Fast--Bruce Haney
Wild Hair--Jason Witte
King Krunch--David Smith
When Maximum Destruction was introduced, Meents blasted out of the tunnel and charged for the cars as quick as possible and launched off the fresh red set of cars. Keep in mind there are 8 other trucks sitting around the track which I thought was kind of reckless. Meents parks his truck and out blasts Anderson in Digger and he goes even more nuts and takes on the cars several times then slides to a stop right in front of Meents. Crazy opening.
St. Louis style track of course which is having the trucks start in front of the cars, jump them, then into the turn, down a flat stretch, take a turn to the start line and finish over the same cars. Each truck has their own lane. I didn't keep track of all the times but Digger and Destruction were the fastest as Anderson took the number 1 spot by just two tenths. David Smith in King Krunch had a very smooth run and ended up in the third spot. The standout moment of the round though was, my pick to win the event, Phil Foster in Hot Wheels. Around the second turn, he took it way to fast and tight and rolled the truck over. There was a pretty good chunk of damage done, 3/4 of the body gone and wheel/axle damage. Crews tore into the truck and had it ready for Round 1.
Racing Round 1
My crappy seat location resulted in some very crappy racing pictures for wanting to get both trucks in the shot. Therefore, some races are limited on pictures and some will only have one truck pictured. Thanks to Doug Welker for providing me with some shots to fill in the gaps.
Wild Hair vs. Destroyer-- The hot looking new Wild Hair with Jason Witte got the early lead and held it into the turn as Evans rocked up around the pole. Wild Hair extended the lead down the back stretch but Destroyer rebounded was closing in. Smooth turn for Witte and he gunned it to the final set a couple truck lengths ahead of Destroyer. Winner: Wild Hair.
King Krunch vs. Bad News-- Another first round battle of the independents. For both these drivers, it was their first big go around season of the large stadium shows but Bruce Haney would have the edge in this one as just a few weeks prior he made it to the semi-finals at the RCA Dome running on an identical track to this one. Haney though was not the first off the line as Smith took an early lead over the cars and into the first turn. Krunch rocked up a bit but Smith brought it down and still had a slight lead over Bad News. Haney was keeping it smooth and made a nice and conservative second turn and it paid off as Krunch had trouble again around the poles. They charged the cars nearly even but it was Bad News edging out King Krunch. Winner: Bad News Travels Fast.
Bounty Hunter vs. Scarlet Bandit-- These two met in the finals out in Phoenix a few weeks prior and Dawn won out as Jimmy lost control on the J-hook course. Now they meet in the first round on a much longer course. No big lead either way off the line and over the cars. Jimmy went harder into the first turn and came out ahead as Dawn took it a bit slower around the cones. They both roared down the stretch and the distance stayed about a truck length between them. Jimmy made a great turn at the end and had to do it as Dawn stuck with him. Jimmy got it back in line first and sailed across the cars beating out the wife in Scarlet Bandit. Winner: Bounty Hunter.
Maximum Destruction vs. Bulldozer-- Both of these trucks had problems with rocking up on two wheels around the turns in qualifying so I viewed this race as the win going to the driver that didn't screw up the corner. Meents was off the line in a hurry as Dozer pulled a wheelie on his start. Meents was quick in and out of the corner this time staying on all four. Wood had problems big time in his turn as the truck got all kinds of out of shape on two wheels. Wood recovered very well and still was in the hunt. Wood tried to catch Max D but smooth turns will beat out bad ones any time. Winner: Maximum Destruction.
Grave Digger vs. Hot Wheels-- Hot Wheels certainly was not looking to hot as it pulled to the line against Digger. But the truck was together, the question of it holding though was still a mystery. Foster did not show any signs of weakness as he drilled Anderson on the line and cleared the first set with a big jump and a hard landing. Anderson was perfect in the turn but so was Foster. Digger pulled ahead down the stretch and entered turn 2 first but Anderson went in way to hard and rocked Digger up on two wheels and did a 180 turn on them to save the truck, great piece of driving but it opened the door for Foster who made his turn fine and flew across the finish victorious. Winner: Hot Wheels.
Racing Round 2
Scarlet Bandit vs. Hot Wheels-- Scarlet Bandit got back in as the fast loser and got matched up with the truck that everyone was pulling for and not to mention my pick to win it all, Phil Foster. Pretty even start for both with Dawn staying the smoothest into the turn but again took it rather slow around. Foster used that to pull even and then take the lead down the stretch. Foster made an excellent turn and pulled away from Scarlet Bandit and cleared the cars for the win. Winner: Hot Wheels.
Bad News vs. Wild Hair-- Good performance from both trucks in round 1 and it would do wonders for either of them to get into the semi-finals. The light went green and Wild Hair's tranny went to pieces. Smoke poured from the rear of the truck which never even made it to the cars. Bruce Haney went about his run and saved the equiptment and took a free pass into the semi-finals. Winner: Bad News Travels Fast.
Bounty Hunter vs. Maximum Destruction-- A rematch of the World Finals 3 championship race where Meents was victorious by about a truck length thanks to Creten having a slight bobble in the turn. Huge holeshot off the line to Maximum Destruction, don't know where Jimmy was at. Big lead for Meents into the turn where Creten did not take his smoothly either. Meents was starting to pull away towards the second turn but he fumbled the final turn a bit allowing Creten to really close in. It was a drag race to the finish with Meents just barely eeking it out. Winner: Maximum Destruction.
Maximum Destruction vs. Bad News-- Haney makes it to the semis for his second time this year and must face the guy that beat him previously. Meents took the early lead with a hard launch and was not going to let Haney get anywhere near him. Haney ventured away from his smooth and consistent turns and probably got a bit anxious and overdrove the first corner putting the truck up on two wheels. Meents poured it on and Bad News just couldn't travel fast enough to catch Max D. Winner: Maximum Destruction.
Bounty Hunter vs. Hot Wheels-- Dawn got the fast loser break, now Jimmy would profit from it. He almost profited from a free ride to the finals as Hot Wheels nearly didn't make it to the line. Meents crew worked into the 2-minute staging clock and had whatever problems there were fixed in time and Foster was scrambling to get the truck moving. He made it out of the pits with only a few seconds to spare and had the crowd roaring in delight. Foster was off the line first and started with a big jump, nosing the truck down hard. So hard that the right front wheel snapped off and went slamming into King Krunch in the pits! Foster got the truck stopped and the wheel did no damage to King Krunch thankfully. All the work put into Hot Wheels to get it to the line was in vein as Jimmy Creten still got the free ride into the next round. What a crazy night for Phil Foster but I do believe he just gained a whole bunch more fans. Winner: Bounty Hunter.
Intermission took place in between these rounds and the Gateway R/C guys were scheduled to take the track for 10-15min. Well with the track crew still cleaning up and moving stuff around from the Hot Wheels crash, the R/Cs were not allowed onto the track until they were done. I was down in the pits waiting to go out with them to help flip trucks back over but time was running short and it seemed they were never going to get to go. I decided to go back up to my seat and as soon as I got there, here come the R/Cs....dangit!
Bounty Hunter vs. Maximum Destruction-- Ah a rematch of the rematch! A different outcome or a mirror image of the semi's? It certainly was a different starting line launch as they were in unison over the first set of cars. A rough turn for both trucks but Meents pulled ahead as they reached turn 2. Meents made a perfect turn while Creten couldn't get the truck straightened out nearly quick enough. Meents blasted away from Bounty Hunter and took the win. Winner: Maximum Destruction.
Racing was pretty solid with some surprises and suspense but also left some trucks in pieces. Who would return and wouldn't? Find out on the next page as it's time for Freestyle!
St. Louis Monster Jam Freestyle