Welcome to another yet another Monster Blog Coverage, this one coming to you from Kansas City, MO!! The decision to head out to KC for Saturday Night's Monster Jam event was very last minute, as I didn't end up deciding whether or not to go until about an hour before I had to leave to make it there in time. With us heading up to Indianapolis for the big Monster Jam at the RCA Dome the next week, I hadn't originally planned on attending this show. But the more I thought about it, and once I had taken a good look at the lineup, I had to go!!
Getting to the Kemper Arena would turn out to be much tougher than I would have liked, as my usually reliable MapQuest directions would be rendered useless by a highway closure. I was forced to take to the streets of downtown Kansas City, searching high and low for the Kemper Arena. It probably wouldn't have proven to be so difficult had it not been for mass construction going on in the downtown area. It seriously seemed that every other street was closed, one way, or some other dead end, lol. Finally, I found the right way through, and what a beautiful sight the Kemper Arena was after a half hour of searching!!
After getting parked, and going through registration, it was time to look around a little bit, as there was still about 2 hours before showtime. Thinking back, the last and only Monster Jam event I had been too previously was the one in St. Louis last year, and I was really excited to be attending another one on this evening.
The evening would also be made interesting as it would be my first night out with the brand new Nikon D50 that I had gotten over the holidays. You all have seen shots from the camera, as I used it to cover the MTRA Banquet in December, but this would be the first time I would be using it to try and get some good action shots!! I must admit that there was some pressure, and a little anxiety about using the new camera, as I really didn't want to have to come home empty handed (i.e., with crappy shots) after driving four hours up to Kansas City for the show, and facing the four hour drive back once the show was over.
The course was your standard small arena setup, with four cars in each lane, and a small tough truck course running around the outer lane of the arena. It would be interesting to see how the drivers would make use of the small arena during Freestyle.
I was very excited to see the #5 Wild Thing truck come rolling into the arena, with a sharp new paint scheme, nonetheless!! For those of you who follow the site fairly regularly, you will remember from the I-70 Speedway Eve of Destruction event that John Jungeblut was the man who took on the monster trucks in Freestyle, and won the event based on crowd applause after smashing through the mobile home!! Great to see the Wild Thing again, and was really looking forward to seeing him do battle against the rest of the strong tough truck field.
Without further delay, let's meet the stars of the USHRA Monster Jam series that would be competing tonight!!
THE LINEUP OF TRUCKS
This would be The Monster Blog's first look at Jim Bendzick's new Rolling Thunder paint scheme, and I must say, I was impressed!! Those of you who have read most of our coverages may remember that I am a big Chevy guy, and I absolutely love the look of this truck!! Tonight's event would also be the first time we have seen the Rolling Thunder truck in action, but after seeing some of Jim's performances on SPEED, I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do!!
Another new paint scheme for the 2006 season could be found on Jack Koberna's Cyborg monster truck. One of the things this truck is best known for is for being one of the only 2WD trucks that competes competitively. Props to Koberna for being unique, but it doesn't seem like the 2WD concept works very well when going up against the typical 4WD setup. Maybe Jack could prove me wrong tonight.
Another VERY sharp truck that I was really looking forward to watching in person for the first time. Daron Basl had an excellent year last year in this truck, and is trying very hard to earn an invite to the World Finals this year in Las Vegas. This being only the third week of the Monster Jam season, a good showing here could really help out a lot toward reaching that goal.
David Smith in King Krunch has been a strong performer for some time now, and really made his mark by making it to the Semi-Finals in Vegas last year. Along with strong performances throughout the year, including a memorable stop on the M.O.D. circuit in Texas, it was gonna be really fun to watch David take on the rest of this fabulous eight truck lineup.
BOB & TOM
The Bob & Tom monster truck made its debut at the Indianapolis Monster Jam last year, but that would be the only appearance for it during the 2005 season. The decision was made to step up the program this year, running the truck throughout 2006. Driver Guy Wood debuted the truck this season at the final Monster Jam at the Silverdome, but got shook up a bit in a roll over at that event, and the decision was made for Guy to sit out a couple weeks before the truck returned to its hometown in Indianapolis next week. Rookie driver Chuck Warner would be filling in, making only his first start in the truck the previous week. Tonight would be only his second time behind the wheel, and he would be going up against some of the best in the business.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE
Also competing in the evening's program would be Brandon Harrington in the fan favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle truck. This would be another truck and driver that I would be seeing for the first time. I can only imagine how much my son will like this truck when he gets a little older!!
One of the two headliners of this lineup would be Maximum Destruction, driven tonight by Neil Elliott. The last time we saw Max D was in St. Louis where Tom Meents put on one of the best Freestyles of the year. It would be interesting to see another strong driver in Elliott take the wheel behind Max D, and put on a show for the fans.
And of course, Grave Digger!! The Digger would be driven by Gary Porter in Kansas City. Seeing Porter in a Digger would be a first for me, as I still think of Carolina Crusher whenever I think of Gary Porter. My, how the times have changed. Nonetheless, from what I have heard, and pictures I have seen, Porter has taken to driving Grave Digger quite well, and I expected that myself and the Kansas City crowd would be in for quite a show from the truck that is "Bad to the Bone."
There would be no Pit Party before tonight's show, as the Pit Party was scheduled to be prior to the Sunday afternoon show. There was, however, a lucky group of fans that would be part of a "meet and greet" and would get a special chance to meet the drivers and get some autographs signed before the show.
Gary Porter stands with his Grave Digger monster truck.
Owner & Driver of Cyborg, Jack Koberna.
David Smith and Neil Elliott sign some autographs.
Gary Porter and Brandon Harrington also take some time out for the fans.
There would also be no qualifying for this show, as the match-ups for Round 1 of the Racing part of the show had already been decided.
There was still some to kill before the event, which I spent walking around, talking to different folks, and exploring the Kemper Arena. The drivers also took the time spent waiting for the show to start, just hanging out, and talkin' monster trucks.
As show time drew near, it was time to head on upstairs to find a good place to photograph from, and after some running around and scouting out locations, I finally settled on the lower level press box, which was mostly empty due to the media's lack of interest in events such as this one.
First up to kick off the show would be introductions!! Rolling Thunder, Cyborg, King Krunch, and El Matador parked in their spots around the arena and were introduced to the impressive crowd on hand for the show. Then, one by one, the other trucks roared out of the tunnel onto the floor for their introductions.
Chuck Warner acknowledges the crowd.
Brandon Harrington waves to the crowd from his TMNT ride.
Neil Elliott roars out of the tunnel in Maximum Destruction.
Elliott waves to the fans as his name is called during Intros.
Gary Porter spins Grave Digger around in the center of the floor.
The crowd goes wild as Grave Digger and Gary Porter are introduced.
With introductions and all of the pre-race activities complete, it was time to kick off the evening with the Wheelie Competition!!
Jim Bendzick was first up in Rolling Thunder, and did an excellent job of kicking off the show. Bendzick hit the first car hard, and popped the front end up for a solid sky wheelie that set the bar high for the rest of the field.
Jack Koberna would be the next to try for a good wheelie, but ultimately would not be able to do so, as he was unable to get much air under the front tires.
Next out to make an attempt was Daron Basl in el Matador. Basl hit the cars hard and got a good leap over the set, but the wheelie wasn't quite as good as Rolling Thunder's. In the opinion of yours truly, Jim Bendzick still held the lead.
David Smith in King Krunch would try a very similar approach as did his teammate. Working in the near lane, Smith got very similar results as well, putting forth a solid effort, but still not quite equaling that of Rolling Thunder.
BOB & TOM
Rookie Chuck Warner in the Bob & Tom truck was next to try his hand at the Wheelie Competition. Chuck hit the cars and launched the truck up and over, but was unable to get the truck to go vertical, resulting in only an average attempt.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE
Brandon Harrington in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would be next to give it a try, and he came out of his run with a very solid wheelie, putting in the same category of King Krunch and el Matador.
With only two trucks left, Jim Bendzick still had the best Wheelie thus far (even if the scores didn't necessarily reflect that...I wasn't paying attention to them for this first part of the show). Neil Elliott changed that though, absolutely launched Max D over the cars with the front end way up in the air, actually clearing the entire set, and landing on the back wheels!! Great sky wheelie from Maximum Destruction, and a very tough act to follow.
But if anyone was up to the challenge of following a tough act, it would be Gary Porter in Grave Digger. Digger pulled up to the cars and timed the accelerator perfectly, sending the truck vertical and, while not getting the air that Max D did, ultimately ending up with the best wheelie of the night!! Win of the Wheelie Competition, both in my estimation, and from the judges, goes to Gary Porter in Grave Digger!!
With the Wheelie Competition down, it was time for some Tough Truck action, and then the Racing part of the show!! Click on the link below to read on!!