"BOOKENDS"

By KYLE DOYLE - 12/22/05

The months of January and December are pretty unique, if you really think about it.  They are so far apart, yet so close; they signify the end of one year, and the beginning of a brand new one.  While these months are most often recognized for their religious and holiday-related importance, it should be noted that they are much like a pair of bookends.  While ďreal-lifeĒ bookends help keep your books from falling over and causing you much grief, consider my metaphor; January and December hold between them all the events, happenings, and goings on of a yearís time.  The are the proverbial bookends of the calendar which we all follow and plan our lives around.  In light of all of this, Iíve decided to take a look back at 2005 in brief, at the places Iíve been and the things that Iíve seen.  It certainly has been a memorable year for me, probably by far the most fun-filled year I have ever had.  I feel that as a mechanic, crew member, driver, and family man, Iíve come many steps forward from where I started back in January.  And now, as a new January looms just around the bend, I look back at 2005 and outline my hopes, dreams, and expectations for 2006.


January


The first month of 2005 would start off with a bang, in Colorado Springs, CO for the first event of the 2005 Monster Nationals series.  The event saw the restructuring of the Monster Nationals point series, which would now allow for both a racing AND freestyle champion.  Hopes were high that our trucks could claim both titles, though wins by Big Dawg and the freshly-debuted Summit  Bigfoot made clear the fact that both titles would be hotly contested.

 

Colorado Springs.  Raminator vs. Bigfoot.  Hall vs. Runte.


Cleveland, OH proved to be probably the lowest point in the winter season for us, as we struggled to build momentum.  The Ford teams once again prevailed in racing, and the pickings were slim in freestyle as well.  Rammunition broke off a rear wheel while racing Bigfoot during the second Saturday show, making for an even longer night.
 

Cleveland Wheelie Contest.


In Battle Creek, MI, the tides would turn as we buckled down and returned to our winning ways, as Raminator and Rammunition both returned to the spotlight capturing the checkered flag and the fansí admiration as racing and freestyle victories were finally clinched.  With the scent of victory fresh in our faces, it was on to Wisconsin.
 

Making some time out for a young fan in Battle Creek, MI.

 

Battle Creek - Let it Snow!


The chilly climes and high piled snow drifts are trademarks of the Madison, WI event.  Inside, however, Mark Hallís Raminator was nearly too hot to touch.  The broom was thrown out on the track Sunday afternoon, as Mark and the rest of the team were able to put the red truck in Victory Lane for each of the three racing programs, and the fans saw to it that Raminator was crowned freestyle champ each night.  The road to the Mansfield finals was still a long one, but now the way was brightly lit.
 

Madison:  Trucks can fly!!

 

Mark in route to a Sunday freestyle victory!!


After Madison, Travis and I went on a non-MT errand, as we ran the NASCAR Craftsman Truck that we use for displays down to the St. Louis Auto Show as part of the Mopar / Dodge exhibit.


February


Why some of the smallest races on our schedule are some of the most important is highly ironic, as it is well known in the MT industry that Raminator and Rammunition prefer the large expanses of outdoor tracks.  That being said, the presence of the many Dodge executives and VIPs who attended the East Lansing, MI Monster Nationals weighed heavy on our minds that cold night in February.  The tight confines and slippery floor of the Breslin Center haunted us in 2004, but thankfully the team made an impressive turn around for 2005.  Mark Hall and Dale Benear were able to rout the competition, with Benear finding himself in victory lane in front of a warm Michigan crowd and lots of happy sponsors.
 

Dale performs the "Triple-T" dance after winning in East Lansing.


While the Monster Nationals (and Rammunition) in Columbus, OH rocked the OSU Schottenstein Center, Geremie, Mat, and myself fought frustrating breakage intertwined with sweet success in Asheville, NC at an independently promoted show.  A misaligned bell housing from the manufacturer would lead to the destruction of a clutch assembly, flywheel, and two transmissions.  Despite that, two freestyle wins and a racing win were still in our back pockets as we left town.

Sioux City, IA would be the final race for the Valentineís month.  This particular event is the perhaps the greatest war of attrition we fight on the Monster Nationals tour.  Destroyed wheelie bars, smashed body parts, broken axles, troubled engines, and seemingly unfixable gremlins haunt the teams that race in the Tyson Arena.  Team Bigfoot found themselves hauling a replacement truck for Dave Harkey after he ripped a four-link mounting plate off of Bigfoot 14ís rear axle housing during an early round of competition.  While a total sweep wasnít the end result for us, more victories were reeled in on our quest for the MN title.

 

Mark starts the weekend off with a bang - Sioux City.


March


Our love-hate show of the year is the University of Illinois Assembly Hall Monster Nationals, held in our hometown of Champaign, IL.  Since 2003, wins, an success in general, have been harder to achieve than nailing jello to a wall.  The size of this building rivals only the largest tennis court it seems, though the action reaches levels unthinkable to most fans that havenít attended the event.  Sadly, Mark Hallís Raminator fell victim to a broken pinion early in freestyle, but the demise of one Ram only fuels the passion of the next.  Dale Benear continued his impressive winter season as he wowed the predominantly Chevy-biased crowd as he aired his way to a freestyle win.  Relentless in pursuit and ruthless in execution, Rammunition visited a place that was starting to become familiar: the winnerís circle.
 

Rammunition knocks off Bigfoot in Champaign finals.


My winter race season was essentially done after Champaign, as the weather around the country was improving enough for the Raminator R/T to come out of hibernation.  Trips to Holten, KS; Fayetteville, AR; and Shallotte, NC rounded out the month of March for me.  It felt really good to be back in the seat of something with big tires, and as the weather improved I began to acquire more seat time behind the wheel of the Freightliner Century that we use to haul the R/T around the nation.


April


The trip home from Shallotte, NC to Champaign was a hurried one, and time was short for me once I was home.  Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas was only days away, and there was little time to get the R/T cleaned up, perform routine maintenance, and reconfigure my hauler to make room for Travisí Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The trip to Vegas with Travis was long and short, so to say; it was fun the entire time, however.  The Mopars at the Strip event held at Las Vegas Motor Speedwayís famed ďThe StripĒ drag way was as close to heaven as a Mopar fan can get, short of attending the Mopar Nats.  Between being treated like royalty by the event staff and fans, presenting the American Flag for the National Anthem with the R/T, and seeing Kenny Wayne Sheppard play a private concert at the Cannery Casino, Iím pretty sure this trip was the most fun I had all year.  And since all of this took place in Las Vegas, NV, I really canít complain.
 

The sign says it all.

 

Travis and I with the beautiful Nevada desert in the background.


After a good five or six (maybe seven?) days in Vegas, it was off to east Texas, Longview, to be specific.  The Dodge dealer in town called upon the R/T for its services, and to help counter the display the GM folks across the street were putting on, with King Krunch and El Matador.  We had fun talking and hanging out with the Flame Motorsports guys, and ultimately the fans in the area really were the winners.

From Texas it was off to the East Coast for my first Dodge Dealer East Coast swing of the year.  Albany, NY; Sussex, NJ; and Turnersville, NJ made up the schedule for the last days in April.

I took the chance during all of these road trips to catch up on some much needed reading.  I enjoy reading everything from aviation technical guides to science fiction novels to political thrillers to Calvin and Hobbes comic books.

 

May


The Lima Jamboree stands as the most significant date in the May calendar book.  Despite heavy rains, we managed to win two final rounds and place runner-up in the third.  Thanks to the heavy rains that seemed relentless, the entire infield became horrifically slippery.  I determined, through very scientific research, that the infield was actually composed of axle grease, goose droppings, WD40, cooking oil, and some green textile resembling grass (but much much slipperier).  This ominous combination of ingredients added to the rain dropped by what must have been a medium-sized tropical storm made for, shall we say, less than ideal racing conditions.
 

Rammunition makes a practice pass - Lima.

 

You can't stop freestyle, mud, rain, or shine.


Dealership gigs in Pampa, TX; Canandaigua, NY; and Milford, PA kept me busy the rest of the month, along with a very special visit from the R/T to the Thomasboro Elementary School in Thomasboro, IL.  The town of Thomasboro is where the Hall Brothers are originally from and have lived pretty much their whole lives, and it is unofficially the home of Hall Brothers Racing.  In lieu of this, we had the honor of giving students who had met their grade goals a special ride around the town in the Raminator R/T (with a police escort and RIIís, of course).  These kids had worked really hard to achieve their goals, and I like to think that they were well rewarded for it.
 

I'm glad the streets of Thomasboro weren't muddy like Lima.


I would also like to give a special thanks to the general manager of Milford C-J-D in Milford, PA.  He lets me drive the R/T wherever I want on their expansive dealership property, be it on pavement, their (once) nicely manicured front lawn area, or the awesome MX track in the back.  He also hooked me up with a pair of Dodge NHRA Funny Car 1:16 models, which I later had Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore sign.
 

June


June was a unique month, as it kicked off with a one day display in Frankfort, IN, backed up by a three-day visit to the Boyne Highlands Resort in northern Michigan for a Dodge dealerís regional convention.  A full-on Mark Hall freestyle, rides, and some [wacky] miniature golf made for good fun, and the steaks, awesome burgers, and to-die-for omelets made for good food.
 

Doin' the R/T thing in Boyne, MI.

 

Mark making it look easy - Boyne, MI.


I had a lot of fun in June, I must say.  I had the pleasure of pulling double duty in Richmond, IN, as I drove both the R/T and Mark Hallís Raminator at the local Dodge dealer.  Much thanks to them for providing me with acres of play space for the R/T and the race truck, not to mention the 17-odd cars they brought out.  Having been an MT fan since I was a very young child, Iíve always wondered what it would be like to drive one.  Though Iíve worked at HBR for now almost three years, Iíve always made it known that I enjoy being with the trucks and working on them more than anything, and that driving them would be an added bonus (not to mention a dream come true).  The R/T has been a blast from day one, and I have a lot of fun and take a lot of pride in doing well with it.  However, after doing my first car crush, a small bug bit me.  Iím pretty sure it is the ďI-want-to-do-this-a-whole-lot-more-cause-crushing-cars-is-funĒ bug.  Itís rare, but not unheard of.  My thanks to Tim and Mark as they have been great teachers all along, and to see Tim smiling at me when I was done and telling me that I did a great job was a really good feeling, one that Iíve been hard pressed to match since.
 

One of my first hits during my Richmond car crush.

 

Richmond - The feeling this jump gave me really can't be explained.

 

There's a happy man in there.


As though that werenít enough, the next day most of the team took a trip up to Rt. 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL to soak up the NHRA Car Quest Nationals.  The fun never stops, right?
 

Wrapping up the halfway mark in Chicagoland at the drags.


Adding to the busy list of to-doís in June would be a hot, but fun, Mopar car show hosted by the New Mexico Mopar Muscle club in Belen, NM, followed by a corporate gig with two trucks in Detroit at a Dodge R&D facility along with my second dealership car crush in Bellefontaine, OH.

Halfway there! 29 different gigs in 26 weeks.

Next week Iíll finish my look back at Ď05, as I make like a cheesy VH1 countdown and give you the low-down on July through December.  Until then, please enjoy your Holiday weekend.  Whatever you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, or a spiked bowl of punch, have the happiest in memory, and be sure to not forget our troops overseas who are doing their best to stand up for what our country is built on.  That being said, Iím going to find some egg nog and relax.  Thanks for reading.


- KD
 

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