USHRA THUNDER NATIONALS!!
FEBRUARY 10-11TH, 2006 - UTC MCKENZIE ARENA
another MONSTER BLOG coverage, the second one this year to be completed by
our very own Tommy Lee Byrd. Tommy did a very nice job with this
event, attending both the Friday & Saturday shows, so be sure to check out
his coverage of both days of USHRA Thunder Nationals Action!!
- Ross Z. Bonar - The Monster Blogger
Friday night, I made the quick decision to head down to the UTC Arena in Chattanooga, because it looked like we were gonna get a few inches of snow on Saturday. I didn't want to miss out on all the monster truck action this weekend, so I hopped in my truck and made the trip down there.
After being hassled by security people and escorted out of the building by a "rent-a-cop", I finally found out where I needed to be. Once I got down on the floor, the USHRA officials were very nice and co-operative. I didn't have any time to chat with the drivers or anything because it was 7:40 by the time I got all that mess straightened out. So I found a good place to take my pictures and got settled in.
While testing my camera out, I noticed that the lighting in the arena was very poor. The fact that the arena had tall walls didn't help any either. Another complaint I have about the show, was that they changed the format. This year they did the Wheelie Competition, then Racing, and then Freestyle instead of the normal Thunder Nationals format. But, that's enough complaining, let's get on to the show!!
THE LINEUP OF MONSTER TRUCKS
BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST - BRUCE HANEY
DEVASTATOR - MARK SCHROEDER
BLACKSMITH - AARON BASL
PREDATOR - LARRY JARUZEL
GRAVE DIGGER 16 - PABLO HUFFAKER
THE WHEELIE CONTEST
First up tonight would be the Wheelie Competition. This event was also going to set the brackets for the racing part of the show. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of the first two competitors because they left the lights dim from Introductions and just put a spotlight on the trucks. Those trucks were Bruce Haney in Bad News and Mark Schroeder in Devastator, who both did pretty good wheelies but nothing really spectacular.
After they started bringing the lights back up, Aaron Basl in Blacksmith came out and did a great wheelie, but, again, I didn't get a picture of it either. When Aaron began to back Blacksmith into its stall, the front tires were just spinning and the rear end had locked up. But, the truck could pull forward so Aaron just pulled in to his stall instead of backing. After talking to Aaron Saturday, I learned that it was a bearing that let go in the rear differential, which let the pinion gear move and it ended breaking the ring and pinion.
Next up would be Predator. Larry Jaruzel stood the truck up and did a nice rolling wheelie, walking it all the way across the cars. Then Pablo Huffaker in Grave Digger came out and Pablo got a good run at the cars, floored it, and got the truck completely vertical!! The top of the rear of the truck hit the cars!! I noticed that Pablo's rear steer wasn't coming back to center, but it was just a rear steer hose and they got it fixed and ready to race.
Directly after the Wheelie Competition was Racing. First out to race would be Bruce Haney in Bad News and Larry Jaruzel in Predator. Bad News got the whole shot and took the win. Predator did a pretty nice wheelie on his run though. Pablo Huffaker in Grave Digger was supposed to have a bye run because he won the Wheelie Competition, but raced Mark Schroeder in Devastator because Blacksmith was unable to get repaired in time for Racing. Grave Digger pulled the wheels off the ground on the start and blasted to the finish line for the win.
The first half of the Semi-Finals put Haney in Bad News up against Schroeder in Devastator. Bad News stayed low and took the win, moving on to the Finals. The other half had Grave Digger doing battle with Predator. Pablo was quick on the light and beat Predator to the finish. So, it would be Grave Digger and Bad News in the Finals.
The Finals was going to come down to lane choice (which went to Grave Digger) because the blue lane was really mashed down and the driver could keep the truck low and fast. The two trucks lined up and Huffaker took off like a rocket, beating Bruce Haney in Bad News.
Two events, two wins for Pablo and Digger thus far, but now it was time for Freestyle!!
BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST
Bruce Haney and his Bad News Travels Fast machine would be the first truck out. Bruce kept good momentum through his run, got some pretty good air, and pulled off some good donuts. There was nothing really spectacular, but it was a very solid run that would receive a score 18 from the judges.
Mark Schroeder in Devastator came out next and was blazing around the arena during his run. Mark got some good air and really kept some good momentum. Again, nothing spectacular but a good run, that would also receive a score of 18..
Aaron Basl and Pablo Huffaker thrashed all night on the Blacksmith machine and got it ready for just in time for Freestyle. They took the rear drive shaft out and ran it in front wheel drive only. Aaron had a great run considering it only had the front wheels pulling, but it wasn't quite up to the bar set by the previous two runs.
Larry Jaruzel came out in Predator and had a great run. He got more air than anyone so far and had some wild hits. One hit in particular was a little too wild and did some serious damage to the truck. See the Saturday coverage on the next page for pictures of this damage. He continued the run, at the time not realizing there was any damage. Larry did a good job during his run, but would also receive a score of....you guessed it, 18.
So, with a three way tie and only one truck left, it was time for some Digger Freestyle!! Grave Digger came out and hit the cars wide open. Pablo was slinging the truck around and getting some good air off the cars. He hit the cars more times than anyone else and even hit them sideways. He started to do a donut and the truck rocked up on two wheels but let out of it a little and then finally got it to take a set, and he pulled off some good donuts. The judges awarded Pablo with a perfect score of 30, and the night's Freestyle win for the clean sweep!!
THE FINAL WORDS
Overall, the show Friday night was pretty good. I had fun and I know the rest of the crowd did too. I was a little unhappy about the format change, because it made the Racing and Freestyle not as good. By the cars being sort of fresh, it made Racing slower. Then by the time they were done racing, the cars were so flat that they couldn't get any air in Freestyle.
Nonetheless, I hope you all enjoyed the Friday night coverage, click below to see what happened on Saturday night!!