Coverage By Bryan Wagner, Photos By Johnel Everett - 05/17/06

(Please be patient as this page loads, there are a lot of great pictures to view!!)

It is so nice to come to a venue that you are already established in.  The growing pains of the first year of the Southern Monster Truck Showdown are fading away, as this time when we rolled into Eustis, Florida, a lot of the foot work done by Orville & Gale Hill was already completed from last year.  One quick phone call to Gator Harley-Davidson and they were eager to jump back on board, as was The Daily Commercial, Advance Auto Parts, and many of our other sponsors from last year.  Still, much of the foot work must be done every time you come back to a venue, as we had 4 different vehicles patrolling the central Florida area handing out flyers and posters to local businesses promoting the event.

Wednesday we arrived at the Lake County Fairgrounds to begin preparation to the facility.  When we arrived all of our vehicles were already set and ready for prep.  Myself and one of our Assistant Track Officials, Johnny, stay behind to work on the cars, while Orville and our other ATO, Daniel, took the hauler back to Dunnellon to pick up all of the novelty material for the novelty tent.  To my surprise, Cookie’s Junkyard not only delivered huge wheelie cars, but most of the cars were over 75% pre prepped!  After the cars were finished we moved all of our trash cans into place, and then mapped out where fencing would need to be placed for the pit area and for the vendors.  We had to vacate the fairgrounds by 5 PM with the fairgrounds officials due to their policies in place.  Orville & Daniel rolled in around 4:55 and dropped the trailer.  All of us, including Gale, who was out collecting advance ticket sales went to dinner at a nice buffet style restaurant.  Once Gale left the table Orville put in a little prank by cutting Gale’s straw to her Diet Coke, so once she got back to take a sip of her drink she quickly realized she could not, and immediately shot Orville a look.  She had no doubt as to who pulled the prank.

Johnny and Daniel went to the hotel while I crashed in the motor home with Orville & Gale at an adjacent RV park.  We found the pool room open so Orville thoroughly cleaned my clock on the pool table before we retired back to the motor home.  We were told our TV Commercial was to air tonight on “Spike TV” between 9-11 PM, during the movie “Rising Sun”.  None of us were into the movie, and we waited it out until 11:45 when our commercial finally played so we could see it and head off to bed.

Thursday was an early start as we got to the fairgrounds at 6 AM to try to avoid working in the heat.  We immediately began work on the facility itself, hanging up checkered flags in the arena and putting up fencing to block off certain areas of the fairgrounds.  Soon there after over 100 Yodock barricades arrived and we placed them all around the arena as another level of protection between the action and the crowd.  With limited water outlets around the arena, the barricades had to be filled one by one which took most of the day.  Then what we did not count on occurred, rain.  About 2 hours of a steady downpour crippled our work day as we all took cover.

Once the rain subsided we tackled two major issues.  One of which was the arena itself was covered with a good 4-6 inches of sawdust from a horse show held in the arena a few weeks prior.  Obviously you can’t run monsters on sawdust as it will fling into the air, not to mention it still “smelled like horses”.  We could not set the cars on the track until the county came in with their own heavy equipment and removed the sawdust.  When they came in, they did one heck of a job.  Instead of cutting just to 4-6 inches off the top of saw dust, they cut about 20 inches off the top of the track and found us some nice tacky mud to run in, and then proceeded to haul everything away and even back drag the track for us.  Our second problem was the bleachers.  The arena only has (very nice) permanent bleachers on one side of the track.  The other three sides had temporary aluminum bleachers.  Problem being is that all 12 of the bleachers were all on one side of the arena and facing away from the track.  The bigger problem was that these bleachers were not portable, as the wheels that they were supposed to move on were not meant to roll on soft dirt.  We were told the bleachers were estimated at a value of $100,000, so we very carefully moved them around the arena with our forklift.  Thanks to Orville’s careful work, not a scratch was left on the bleachers.

Mac and Liz with the Savage ride truck rolled in and parked their rig, as did Ray Mowery and Bennett Clark.  While they rolled in we began to set the cars on the track and build racing ramps, until the rains came again as we called it a night.  Friday came and thanks to all the hard work put in, we could relax and get the final preparation done to the facility.  T-Maxx and the Gun Slinger team rolled in early, as did the vendors who we got into place.  Steve and Jack got out of school early and came to get the truck out of the trailer, set the valves, and tire up the Monkey truck.  We finished filling the barricades with water, and I hung banners all around the arena.

The Pit Party went smooth and it was time to rock and roll on the event.  Dingus did his intro stunt where I decided to add a little twist and as Dingus came around a corner on his skies I nailed him in the face with a whipped cream pie!










The show itself was going smooth for a Friday night.  I lost battery power on my headset and had to run and get another one during the middle of the show.  Once the racing was done it was on to freestyle.  We were a bit frustrated that a fuel bypass fitting began to leak and stopped Monkey’n Around from freestyling, but we had to keep the show rolling.  I continued to patrol the pits as T-Maxx hit the floor.  Once T-Maxx caught his huge air off of the van stack towards the pits, myself and Joy Clark were standing next to each other and knew immediately what was going to happen.  Upon the landing T-Maxx lost the left front tire and it rolled right at us in the pits.  At SMTS events no one other than the driver and one crew member are allowed in the pits, and crew members must stay in a designated spot out of harms way.  All of us were able to easily side step and get well out of harms way as the tire rolled to a stop.


Here are some photos from the Friday night show, courtesy of Johnel Everett!!





















That concluded the show as all of us gathered around and ate some of Grandma’s home cooked food and spoke about how thankful we were that safety was in place tonight.  The night was over for most of us except the T-Maxx crew who stayed up for awhile to fix the broken spindle.  The next day we were up early once again to prepare for the Car, Truck, & Motorcycle show from 9-3.  We had a lot of great contestant with beautiful machines roll in.  10-year-old Travis Mowery, son of Wild Hair’s Ray Mowery, actually got to enter “Pond Scum” in the “Other” category in the Show N Shine and won!  The Monkey’n Around team began their work on the fuel bypass crack, as they sent a crew member to drive two hours north to Gainesville FL to get the part magnesium welded so the truck would be ready to run.  Meanwhile track preparation went standard as we removed and re-set the track with fresh cars and fresh paint.  Trucks Gone Wild came in with their entire film crew to film the event, and Matt Steele was our special guest announcer for the evening.  When we saw people lined up before the gates opened on Saturday night we knew it was going to be a big crowd, and as the pit party ended at the “Outta Control” R/C club went onto the floor for their pre-show demonstration we saw the stands begin to burst at the seems!  The hard work seemed to be paying off!



The show went off great, I was so proud when Steven Hill won the final round race.  After Steve-O cut a donut on the floor I ran up to the truck and caught him when he climbed out to tell him to go do his winners circle interview and gave him a quick congratulatory hug for winning.  Jack, Kevin, Missy and the entire Monkey’n Around Pit Crew were amped up in the back.  Freestyle came and it was time to pull out all the stops.  We brought out a boat along with a car-van-car stack for the drivers to attack. T-Maxx was fourth out again and went big over the van stack and landed hard on the rear end and lost another tire.  While Teddy Wallace, former Wildfire Motorsports driver, hopped on the forklift to drag T-Maxx off the track, I got into the front-end loader to get the tire.  Well we learned a lesson that night, never put Bryan in equipment during the show.  For whatever reason I was having a heck of a time working the bucket and eventually we aborted the loader and picked up the tire and rolled it off the track.  I was given a well-deserved ribbing by Hartsock after the show about my heavy equipment skills.  We set the motor home on the track for Steven as he was the racing winner.  I had a bag of flour left over from laying down the start/finish lines so I figured I’d surprise Steve a little bit by pouring the entire bag of flour across the top of the motor home.  Sure enough when Steve went right after it, a cloud of white blew up when the motor home went down.  It was the most aggressive run I’ve seen Steve lay down in freestyle and he took the freestyle lead until Hartsock came out and once again showed why he is one of the toughest trucks on the SMTS circuit, laying down a brilliant pass and taking the freestyle win.


























We all celebrated another great show by eating some home-made fried chicken from Grandma in the back before heading off the bed.  Mother’s day was tear down day for us, but we did have some flowers and a card we gave Momma Monkey Gale and Grandmomma Monkey.  We worked through the heat to pick up trash both on and off the track, tire down the truck and pack up the remaining novelties.  Overall it was probably one of the most intense shows SMTS has ever put on.  When we said we were planning on raising the bar for this event, we meant it!!

Bryan Wagner - Monster Blog Special Contributor

Special Thanks to Johnel Everett for Use of His Great Photos!!