2005 MTRA MEETING & BANQUET
DECEMBER 10, 2005 - HOWARD JOHNSON - ST. LOUIS, MO
Welcome to another MONSTER BLOG coverage, this one not from a Monster Truck competition, but from the 2005 Monster Truck Racing Association Meeting & Banquet!! Getting to attend this event was very exciting for me for a large number of reasons, including the chance to meet many of the Monster Truck drivers and crews away from the track, make some important contacts, learn more about the Monster Truck industry, and also to meet in person many other folks who I may previously have only talked to on the internet or over the phone.
In addition, this would be my first chance to use my brand new Nikon D50 camera for the site!! As you can imagine, this being the first time out with a new camera, I was a little nervous, because there is always that fear of ruining all the pictures the first time out. Thankfully, this would be a much lower pressure event as far as taking pictures go compared to the stress that will come when the camera gets its first in the field test at Indy. All in all, I feel like the shots came out pretty good, and you all will have to give me some feedback on what you think.
Another cool thing about this event was that this would be the first time I would get to meet one of the guys that helps me out with the site, Chris Kaelin. Not long after I met Chris in person, I was already putting him to work, making him take the videos of the award presentations and acceptance speeches at the banquet! All in all, I think we made a pretty good team, and I hope you all enjoy the coverage that we have put together for you of the event!!
Before we really get into the weekend's event, I would like to take a moment to tell everyone a little bit about the MTRA, and how I became a member. Starting with a little bit of history of the MTRA, from the MTRA website:
In 1981 the first car crush took place in a stadium show. It didn't take long for others to follow in Bob Chandler's foot steps and create their own monster trucks. Once you put two high horse power vehicles side by side you create an atmosphere for competition. The monster truck industry was growing fast and the trucks were getting faster and faster. Monster trucks, in the mid 80's, were large cumbersome vehicles with stiff suspensions and huge engines. It became obvious that it would be necessary to institute regulations to help put together a safe environment for not only the competitors but for the fans too.
A letter was drafted by Bob Chandler and George Carpenter inviting monster truck owner/drivers to a get together in St Louis in September 1987 that was to take place in conjunction with a local show. Eleven drivers attended the meeting at the BIGFOOT shop where initial discussions took place. An interim board was selected that included George Carpenter, Danny Tassone (Star Monster) and Denise Robinson (formerly of Clydesdale).
Three months later (12/07/87), the first official MTRA meeting was held. 49 owner/drivers attended and an official board was voted on.
The first board members of the MTRA:
Decisions made at this first meeting:
The monster truck owners/drivers were very excited about the future of the monster truck industry and felt that the MTRA would only enhance its longevity by helping produce a safe environment that will help draw the growing fan base.
All major promoters soon supported and used the MTRA rules. Promoters have even come to the MTRA and requested to use (copy) the MTRA rules as part of their rule book for their activities. Promoters can and have been encouraged to participate in the MTRA as associate and board members.
Since 1988 there has been an annual MTRA meeting.
The MTRA has been innovative in developing and establishing stringent safety guidelines required by all members, some of which include the following:
Truck Inspections: Initial inspections would take place upon enrollment. In 1989 a training session for inspectors was added as part of the annual meeting. MTRA members interested in becoming certified truck inspectors are required to attended this 4 hour technical training session. At the end of the training session a thorough test is administered which members must pass to become certified. Members must be recertified each year.
MTRA is very positive about the future of its organization and the Monster Truck industry as a whole.
Hopefully for some of the folks out there who don't know a lot about the MTRA, that will give you a quick overview of how it all came together. Yes, that excerpt is borrowed from the MTRA website, and while I really hope some of you will take the opportunity to check it out, learn more, and maybe even become a member, I did want to include it for informational purposes.
The reason that I joined the MTRA is because I believe in the concept of the organization. Safety is the most important thing when it comes to a motorsport like Monster Trucks, and continual improvement is key. The entire focus of the organization is to protect the fans and the drivers, and to advance the Monster Truck industry, and that is a noble cause. Having started The Monster Blog and built it to the point is at now, we are slowly becoming a known quantity in the Monster Truck world. I feel like it is important for it to be known that we are strong supporters of the MTRA, and we will be getting involved in the organization further over the coming year.
I realize that the MTRA is not the perfect organization, and there are detractors out there, just as there are many supporters. But this is the group that is striving for progress for the sport that we all love, and while its easy to sit on the fence and complain about what the MTRA is or isn't and should be or shouldn't be, the only way to make a difference is to get involved. The MTRA is run by its members, and that is exactly what the purpose of the yearly meeting is: to talk about the burning issues in our sport, talk about ways to make advancements in safety and in the industry, choose the folks who will be leading the organization in the coming year, and allow the membership to voice their opinions and make a difference. That brings us to this year's meeting!!
We arrived at the meeting about fifteen minutes before it was scheduled to start, and there is when I first met Chris. We talked for a few minutes, and once we got registered and signed in, we went ahead inside the meeting room. We chose a couple of seats in the very front row so that we would be able to get some good pictures. The meeting was started off by none other than the creator himself, Bob Chandler. The MTRA Chairman of the Board got the meeting started, and after thanking everyone for coming out to the meeting, he handed the proceedings over to Tim Hall, the President of the MTRA.
Bob Chandler, owner of Bigfoot 4x4, and 2005 MTRA Chairman of the Board.
After taking over the floor, Tim Hall introduced the current Board of Directors, which included: Jeff Bursey, Andy Hoffman, Bobby Holman, Doc Riley, and John Seasock who was unable to attend. Nigel Morris, President of the MTRA Europe was also on hand.
Tim Hall of Hall Brothers Racing, 2005 MTRA President.
Jeff Bursey, owner & driver of Towasaurus Wrex, 2005 MTRA Director.
Andy Hoffman, owner & driver of Nitemare, and 2005 MTRA Director of Special Projects.
Bobby Holman of Beast Motorsports, 2005 MTRA Director.
Nigel Morris of Bigfoot Europe, 2005 President of the MTRAE.
Tim Hall next took the opportunity to share with the membership details of a recent meeting of SFI Foundation that he attended, and some of the issues that were discussed. SFI is a non-profit organization established to issue and administer standards for the specialty/performance automotive and racing equipment. You can learn more about SFI by visiting their website, http://www.sfifoundation.com.
Motorsports organizations of all kinds are members of SFI, and this meeting was an opportunity for the MTRA to share with others some of the things that they do in the name of safety, and also to learn from what other racing sanctioning bodies are doing. According to Hall, some of the other organizations were interested in the process that the MTRA uses to certify its technical inspectors, and there were discussions about the types of fire suits that are used in the various forms of motorsports that were represented. This led to some open discussion of the MTRA required fire suit, and whether or not some of the drivers were using the right one.
After MTRA Secretary & Treasurer Robyn Brow finished her report on the Treasury and it was approved, it was time for a lengthy and detailed discussion on whether or not chain drives would be approved for use in 2006. Notable contributions to the discussion were made by Shane Smith, driver of Venom, and Jeff Perrin, owner of Lil' Miss Dangerous, both of whom run chain drives on their trucks. The main reason for the current rule of not approving chain drives stemmed from an incident a couple years back when a chain drive broke on a truck, entering the stands and injuring a fan. Obviously an incident like this shows the possible dangers that could be incurred from a chain drive.
When Team Beast acquired the Venom truck, it came with a chain drive. Their first inclination was to switch out the chain drive for a drop box, but they decided to leave the chain drive in to test it and learn more about it. This allowed Shane Smith and Bobby Holman to contribute much about their experiences with the chain drive to the discussion. Jeff & Jocelyn Perrin were in attendance, as they are currently preparing to run the 2006 Monster Nationals series for George Eisenhart's Image Promotions. As George is a Promoter Member of the MTRA, and uses only MTRA trucks in his series, it was necessary for the Perrins to attend and look into becoming members. However, they have run chain drives in their trucks for the last 20 years, and according to them, they had never had any issues.
A sample piece from one of the chains question that was supplied by Team Beast.
Next up, Scott Bryant, author of "Monster Trucks: 500 Series" gave his view on the chain drives issue, complete with some extensive research and testing that he had done. In the end, the consensus seemed to be that the main issue with the chain drives was containment. In the event of a chain drive failure, there must be an adequate shield around that part of the truck to keep the chain from flying up into the air where it could injure someone. And of course, as with any other piece of equipment, proper maintenance is necessary to help avoid chain drive failures.
Scott Bryant, author of "Monster Trucks: 500 Series", gives his view on the chain drive issue.
In the end though, after a very informative discussion, the decision was made to approve chain drives for the 2006 season with the main focus being on containment in the event of a failure. This is exciting, as this rule change could result an increase in membership due to a number of trucks out there that use chain drives now possibly being able to join. One of those being Lil' Miss Dangerous, which should be MTRA certified for the 2006 season.
Next up, it was time for the membership to make their nominations for the 2006 awards. Leave it to me, I forgot to write down the who all was nominated for each award, so you'll just have to wait to see who the winners ended up being later in the coverage. There were a couple of interesting notes from the nomination process. First, Shane "Air" Blair of Bigfoot was nominated for Rookie of the Year, but his nomination was held for next year due to the very few events he had competed in this year. Based on his showings in the events he did run in though, I would have to say that he has to be considered the favorite to win the award at the 2006 banquet.
There were a few humorous moments during the nominations for the "Weekend from Hell" award. One was a classic one-liner from Board of Directors member Doc Riley when MTRA Tech Inspector Tim Knerr spoke up to make a nomination. Riley said to Knerr, "Tim, we oughta nominate you because for you, every weekend must be a weekend from hell!" Of course, the comment was made all in good fun, and for those who know Tim Knerr from the Mayhem board, you are probably rolling at this point, lol. Another humorous story was shared by Jeff Bursey, when he said that he should be nominated for a weekend earlier this summer...the weekend he got married! No, not for that reason, lol, but for this one...Bursey and Andy Hoffman were out at an event and had some errands to run. So they hoped in Bursey's Jeep to go cruising around town without realizing that, on the Jeep in big letters was "Just Married"!! Needless to say, they got some interesting looks from fellow motorists while out and about, according to Jeff.
A new rule had been implemented stating that only MTRA driver / owner members would be allowed to vote on awards like Driver / Most Improved / Rookie of the Year awards. This caused a bit of a fuss as one of the primary benefits of being an Associate Member was being allowed to vote these awards. The rule proved to be unpopular with a majority of the members, so it was overturned and everyone would be allowed to vote for all of the awards.
After the nominations process was finished, it was back to the business at hand. Next up Nigel Morris, President of MTRA Europe, gave a talk concerning a test that was conducted overseas to see how long it would take for the EMS crew to remove an unconscious driver from the cab of one of the trucks, assuming it was still sitting upright. The height that the driver is sitting at when the trucks are right side up makes it very difficult for the EMS crew to assist them should they be knocked unconscious. Morris told how the test run took an exorbitant amount of time, and they discussed ideas on how to get access to the driver in these situations. Morris also discussed the incredible success that the Europeans were having with the Monster Truck Racing Promotions tour including their great attendance numbers and their new TV deal. Congratulations to them on all their success!!
A short lunch break was taken somewhere in this order of things, I can't remember exactly where, but upon returning from lunch, the meeting was back in full swing. Next up was nominations and voting for the 2006 MTRA Board of Directors. All current directors with the exception of John Seasock and Doc Riley would seek to retain their positions for the upcoming year. Some of the other folks nominated for a position included Rich Blackburne (Demon MT), George Eisenhart (Image Promotions), Mac Plecker (Ballistic MT), Destiney Conley (Vinyl Images), Doug Noelke (Big Dawg) (Noelke later withdrew), Ed Beckly (Checkered Flag Productions), Scott Bryant, and Greg Adams (Annihilator MT).
Later in the meeting, after the results had been tabulated, it was announced that all current members of the board who had run again had been re-elected, and the two newcomers voted in would be George Eisenhart and Scott Bryant. From hearing these two men speak at the meeting, I definitely feel the membership made the right choices.
As the meeting began to wind to a close and 4:00 approached, there were just a few items left to discuss. First of all, there was a discussion of some of the proposed rule changes so that when the Board of Directors met after the meeting, they could make the final decisions and announce the changes at the banquet. Also, Jason Twite of Midwest Monsters was invited to come up and speak on behalf of The World Monster Truck Racing League, of which he is Vice President. Jason talked a little bit about how the WMTRL is run and invited anyone who wished to have more information about the organization to catch up with him after the meeting.
Jason Twite speaks about the World Monster Truck Racing League.
A few more quick pieces of business taken care of and the 2005 MTRA Meeting was drawn to a close. I had a lot of fun at the meeting, and it was really neat to hear everyone getting together and talking about some of the issues facing our sport today. With the meeting ending on time at 4:00, we now had three hours to kill before the Banquet began. My wife Rajeana had been planning on attending the day's activities with me, but fell ill with the stomach flu the day before, and I ended up making the trip up by myself. Thus, I would be left to entertain myself for a couple of hours.
I started by taking my time leaving, talking to some of the folks still mingling around, including Kyle Doyle. It was great to finally meet Kyle in person, as he does such a great job of contributing to the site, and I really look forward to running into him again at an event one of these days.
While I was taking a look around, I headed on over to the raffle table to see what kind of cool stuff had been donated for later that evening. Bigfoot had some nice merchandise, and Vinyl Images had some awesome poker chip sets they were giving away. But the prize everyone would be vying for...you guessed it...a Sponge Bob toilet seat!!
AFTER THE MEETING
Being just a few miles down the road from the Bigfoot shop, I figured I would head on over and take some pictures with the new camera to kill some time. Though the shop was closed, I walked around and took some nice shots of Bigfoot 5 and the Fastrax. They also had a few of the haulers parked in the lot so I walked around and got some pictures of those too. Enjoy!
After the quick stop by the shop, I still had quite a bit of time to kill, so I headed over to the nearby Toys'R'Us and figured I would take a look around to see if any of the new Monster Jam trucks had been released for my little guy's collection. No luck with the Hot Wheels stuff, but I did come across a two-pack of Bigfoot Battle Beasts. Though they are a little silly looking, it wasn't a bad price, and I figured they would make a nice addition to the collection.
Next up it was over to the mall across the parking lot for some walking around and time killing. Finally it was about 6:15, and I headed back on over to the Howard Johnson to get ready for the banquet!!