By Lauren Z. Bonar


Probably the biggest show we get to attend each year is the Phoenix Monster Jam at Chase Field. We were definitely looking forward to the event this year as we made the trek down to Phoenix. Arriving at the gate to check in with Live Nation, I felt more comfortable than I have ever felt before. Our good friend and Monster Blog Special Contributor Andrew Palochko is now working for Live Nation and would be at the Phoenix event. A big thanks to Andrew as he helped coordinate as far as getting checked in and receiving our media credentials. Unfortunately, we did not get to see Andrew or visit with him as he was hard at work making sure the show went off without a hitch along with the rest of the LN crew.


I do want to thank Live Nation for their time and courtesy getting us checked in. Checking us in was Shirley Reeves at the counter (pictured below). Shirley got us all ready to go and we were very happy to learn that she visits The Monster Blog very regularly, along with her mother who is a huge monster truck fan. Walking in we also spotted some of the monster truck haulers which are pictured below.





Walking through the gate, the first person we see is Rod Wood, our good friend who is the owner and sometimes driver of McGruff. I like to think we have become very good friends with Rod, Karen and Murphy. Traveling with the McGruff team this weekend was Rod's two sisters and good friends, the Lyon's--owners of the AZ Dust Devil which we had seen in action only a week before in Aztec, NM. So we were able to visit a few and talk about the previous weekend’s event. Rod then unveiled a big surprise on the front of McGruff--a Monster Blog decal!!  McGruff now joins Unnamed & Untamed, Nasty Boy, and Nitemare who have all been great enough to make stickers for us and put them on their trucks. We cannot thank Rod and the McGruff team enough for their support!!

The Pit Party was huge, just like last year. Lynn and I were looking around when we spotted Daron Basl, driver of El Matador. Daron was kind enough to let us get a head start and signed our programs while we visited. Lynn and I then spotted David Smith, driver of King Krunch, visiting with Jack Koberna, driver of Cyborg. They were also kind enough to take time to visit and sign for us. But wait a minute...we are not standing next to Cyborg; Jack is driving his other truck, Tuff E'Nuff this weekend.

About this time, we looked up into the stands; the gates had open to the fans with Pit Party tickets. They were literally running down the stairs. Jack laughed and mentioned that they were all headed to get in line for one truck--I then knew Adam Anderson driving Grave Digger was in for a very long Pit Party!!  Lynn and I missed our chance to visit with the Andersons and get their autographs.


Lynn was able to visit with Courtney Jolly of Pastrana 199 and get her autograph. I walked over just to say hello to Linsey Weenk driver of Iron Outlaw, Jimmy Creten driver of Bounty Hunter and Dawn Creten driver of Scarlet Bandit. I then met up with Lynn and we stood in line to meet Chad Fortune driver of Superman. We just let Chad know who we were and who we were with. Chad had not heard of the Monster Blog, so we gave him Ross’s card and he said he would check it out.

We had said hello to everyone we could get to, meaning everyone but the Andersons and Grave Digger. So we headed up into the stands to get a soda, when we spotted a young man and his girlfriend coming down to join the pit party. What made this young man stand out?  He was wearing a Monster Blog shirt!  How cool is that?  We introduced ourselves and found that his name was Danny Villa from Tucson, AZ, along with his girlfriend Jessica. Danny received the t-shirt free as a result of being one of the winner's of last year's Fantasy Monster Truck Series here on the site. It was a pleasure to meet them both. We also ran into our friends and fellow Monster Blog fans, Jeff and Dora Johnson. Always good to see Monster Blog fans!!

Lynn and I went into the stands to get a bite to eat and see what it was like outside. The pit party was packed, after climbing the endless stairs, there were lines everywhere and the gates were only opened to Pit Party ticket holders so far. The souvenir stand line was long, as well as food lines.



As show time grew near we headed on up to our seats to settle in and get ready for the show. The track setup included some decent sized hills for the trucks to tackle in freestyle, and the trucks would be running a St. Louis-style-esque course for racing.



























The lights went down and the announcer began to introduce the trucks as they rolled onto the track. Tonight's headliners Grave Digger and Bounty Hunter roared out, making a few hits on the cars before stopping head to head. After the National Anthem, it was time to get down to business and do some racing!!










Qualifying would be the first order of business, and the first two trucks out would be teammates Jimmy Creten in Bounty Hunter and Linsey Weenk in Iron Outlaw. Creten served notice right away that he would be one of the trucks to beat.

Second pair to qualify was Jack Koberna in Tuff E'Nuff and David Smith in King Krunch.

The third qualifying heat featured Chad Fortune in Superman and Adam Anderson in Grave Digger. Anderson laid down a blistering pass and it was apparent that he and Creten were the cream of the crop in Phoenix. Adam Anderson has become a superstar driver since taking over in Grave Digger XX for his injured father Dennis Anderson. At the time of this writing, Adam Anderson is ranked 2nd in the Monster Blog's unofficial "Road to the World Finals" points standings, which measure the best performers in the current Monster Jam season. If this young man does not take home the most improved driver of the year award this year, there is something really wrong in award-land.

The next pair to qualify was Rod Wood in McGruff against Courtney Jolly in Pastrana 199. Going over the first set of cars, McGruff broke a blower belt and would be done until freestyle. Courtney Jolly on the other hand, laid down a quick run in Pastrana 199.

The final trucks to qualify would be Dawn Creten in Scarlet Bandit and Daron Basl in El Matador. El Matador made its way around the course smooth and quick, but Dawn Creten in Scarlet Bandit had a little trouble around the first turn. It looked as if Scarlet Bandit actually had a bit of a lead until that first hard right turn. Creten got the truck up on two wheels, and Scarlet Bandit went over on its side. The truck was brought back on its wheels and would be able to continue with minimal cosmetic damage.







The first race of the night is an easy one for Jimmy Creten in Bounty Hunter as he gets a bye run. Rod Wood, driver of McGruff is still waiting for a chance to work on McGruff, and would have to wait until intermission to do so. Live Nation Motorsports is very safety conscisous and does not allow drivers or crew members to work on the trucks while their is action going on on the track.

Linsey Weenk in Iron Outlaw takes on Courtney Jolly in Pastrana 199 in the first real match-up of the evening. This is a pretty close race until the final turn as Weenk starts to pull away. Jolly tried to make up a few feet, hit the cars hard, but Pastrana 199 veered to the right brushing the side of the FMX hill.


Jack Koberna in Tuff E Nuff had a very tough challenge on his hands, having to go up against Adam Anderson in Grave Digger. Grave Digger flew to victory as Tuff E'Nuff had the same problem as Pastrana 199, brushing the side of the FMX hill.


Chad Fortune in Superman wins the closest race this far as he narrowly takes the victory over David Smith in King Krunch. It was a close race, but yet again the truck in the near lane going over the cars brushed the FMX hill crossing the line. Seemed as though the drivers were having a tough time squaring up the final jump in the near lane.



In another close race, it was Daron Basl in El Matador taking the victory over Dawn Creten in Scarlet Bandit. Two very different styles made this race interesting. Basl took the turns wider and instead of high flying over the last jump, went low and straight for the first time on this side of the track. Dawn Creten on the other side took very tight turns and flew high over the final jump losing by only about three quarters of a truck length.







Jimmy Creten is set to take on the fastest loser from round one, and as it would turn out, that would be his teammate, co-owner of his trucks, and his wife--Dawn in Scarlet Bandit. WOW!  I would not want to be in Jimmy’s position here!!  Bounty Hunter took the victory easily as Scarlet Bandit did a little fish tail going into the final turn. It was Scarlet Bandit's first time in the near lane, Bounty Hunter had been in the far lane all three of his times out. So you did have an advantage Jimmy and you know it!!  lol


Linsey Weenk in Iron Outlaw now has the very tough task of taking on Adam Anderson in Grave Digger. This was another close race, the difference, in my opinion came down to lane choice. Making the final jump, Outlaw like those before him, veered toward the FMX hill while Digger flew high and straight to the victory. The far lane was definitely the one to be in this night.



Daron Basl didn't seem to be having any problems with the near lane, however. El Matador takes the victory over Superman  with his wide final turn as Superman tried the turn tight and couldn't carry as much momentum. But wait...Superman moves on to the next round as the fastest loser? What about Iron Outlaw, he appeared to be much faster with than Superman. Oh well, that's just the way it goes.


Before moving on to the Semi-Finals, let's do a recap. There have been eight races run so far. The right side of the track has had six winners out of eight. The only driver to win a race on the left side of the track has been Daron Basl in El Matador and he has won both his races on the left side. Jimmy Creten was the fastest qualifier as proved with his bye run in round one, and both he and Anderson in Digger are looking very strong. Click "Page 2" below for more of the racing competition!!

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