Article By Ross Z. Bonar - March 13th, 2008
Everett Jasmer has
invested almost 30 years of his life into monster trucks. Jasmer believes
that the sport reached its pinnacle in 1988, not because the USA-1 team
had just won the first national championship, but because he believed the
sport had taken the first step toward developing a legitimate racing
series for this, previously entertainment-only sport. But as Everett sees
it, the last half of that 30 years has been spent going backwards.
So every day for the last 15 years, Everett Jasmer has reported for work
at the USA-1 shop in Ham Lake, Minnesota. Every day Everett has worked the
phones from morning until evening, doing everything in his power to see
his dream of a legitimate racing series become a reality. Every day,
trying—trying to push the industry he helped create to realize its true
potential. But now, after those 15 long years, Jasmer has come to a
realization of his own—his days of trying are numbered.
Jasmer has been here before. Four years ago he thought he was done. The
search for a buyer for the operation began. But another door opened and
Everett was able to embark on a new mission, emboldened by principle and
faith. Using the famous USA-1 monster truck as a draw to promote the
values he holds dear—messages like “America Needs the Spirit of Christ”,
“Pray for Our Troops, They Protect Our Freedom”, and “One Nation Under
God, Let’s Keep it That Way”—has been an incredibly rewarding experience
for Jasmer. But Everett has not been able to find financial backing for
this mission and can no longer afford to continue it out of pocket.
And so he is now back on the verge of ending his career in monster trucks.
The search for a new home for the USA-1 operation is back on in earnest,
and there doesn’t seem to be another door to open this time. The only door
left is the exit, and sadly that appears to be where one of the monster
truck industry’s founding fathers is headed.
TMB: Thanks for taking the time
to speak with us about your situation Everett. So you have indeed decided it is
time to hang it up and sell the entire USA-1 operation?
EJ: Yes, it’s a difficult decision that I’ve had to make out of
necessity, certainly not out of desire. The ideal option would be to find
someone who could buy the entire operation—the trucks, the name, the trademarks,
all of it. Whether or not that’s possible remains to be seen, but the prospect
seems ever more unlikely as I move forward on this. This isn’t exactly a new
thing, I’ve been kind of feeling out the market for some time now, but its only
recently that this is becoming more of a necessity for me personally.
I guess I don’t really expect anyone to be able to buy the whole operation,
lock, stock, and barrel even though I would like to see that happen. I’ve given
thought to selling pieces, starting with the older trucks as part of history,
even auctioning them off if need be. I’ve given thought to selling the USA-1
name rights and the trademarks individually if that’s what it comes to—if I have
to, I have to—but the bottom line is that I’m looking at all avenues right now
based on what a potential buyer might like to purchase.
TMB: The next big question is of
course, how great is your concern for how the USA-1 legacy would be represented
by a potential buyer? Many of the original names that have been transferred to
new owners have met a fate unbecoming of their history and legacy. Would a
potential sale focus more on the buyer and how you feel they would represent
USA-1, or more on being able to get the price you’re looking for?
EJ: That’s a difficult question to answer. In all honesty, I would
have to say that if someone were to come along and have enough capital to buy me
out completely, my concern for the future use of USA-1 would be less. Under that
scenario, I would no longer have any direct affiliation except emotional and
But based on the odds of that not being real likely, were I to still be somewhat
involved—see, I’ve imagined numerous ways and scenarios in which this could be
done, and the most likely would be that someone acquires parts of the operation
over time. With that scenario, I would still be involved in a greater capacity
than just my emotions or sentiment, and thus would be much more cautious about
who I would sell, lease, or partner with. The ideal situation if I were
still involved would be to put together something similar to what Randy Brown
and I did back in 2001 when the ProMT series was running. We worked a deal
to run a USA-1 body on his Pure Adrenaline truck, and he actually went out and
won the Darlington race.
Obviously I wouldn’t want anyone to damage the 30-year image and reputation of
USA-1. But once again, if someone came and bought everything and I had no
further ties to the operation, then I guess—I mean, emotionally I wouldn’t want
to see anything detrimental happen, but I guess I would have to let go at that
point. However, with the likelihood of that happening being low, there would be
a lot of consideration that went into any partial transaction.
TMB: You did mention that this
isn’t the first time you’ve attempted to get the ball rolling on a sale of the
operation; specifically I believe that was back in 2003 before you embarked on
USA-1’s new mission. What was the response like at that time in comparison to
EJ: Yeah, that was around the time I wrote letters to TruckWorld
expressing my feelings about the current state of the industry. The reaction to
a potential sale around that time was actually mostly from fans more than
anything. Fans writing in to express their feelings for USA-1, encouraging me
not to give up and continue trying to make something happen, etc.
But the thing they don’t understand is what it costs just to hang on to all of
this—just this building alone to run the USA-1 operation out of costs me an
incredible amount of money each year, whether I do anything or not. But yeah,
the biggest response was from fans expressing their feelings about USA-1 and
that has been about the same this go-around too.
I did have some calls back then, and have had some discussions here recently. In
all reality, this has been something I’ve been exploring, at least casually,
since the mid-nineties. The thing is that with most potential buyers, the story
has been the same—lots of interest, but no money.
And that’s not even their fault necessarily. There’s people who possibly could
afford to buy something but quite honestly, with the market being controlled by
the promoters and there not being a legitimate racing series (which obviously
has been my objective for many years), it leaves people with just good
intentions. Maybe even some folks have the money, but there’s no guarantee they
would be able to recoup their investment in USA-1. Promoters aren’t paying
“names” the same way they used to, and that would probably be the case with the
return of USA-1.
A lot of that has to do with the sport having one major promoter that has their
own trucks, their own names, their own sponsors, etc. They’re shrewd business
people and I can respect that, I have no problem with them running their
business that way. But I continue to sincerely believe that until there is a
legitimate racing series, there’s probably no real potential for individual
owners to build a truly successful business—and that’s not just me who feels
that way, there’s plenty of other people in the business who agree. Until there
is racing which will attract sponsors, there just isn’t a lot of hope for
TMB: Let’s take a step back for a moment. For the fans who aren’t
as familiar with your current situation, give us a timeline of what Everett
Jasmer and USA-1 have been up to since you were last regularly seen on tour in
the early 90’s.
EJ: OK, well let’s actually go back a little further than that
then—let’s talk about what was nearly 20 years ago to the date now, in about
1988. The TNT Motorsports racing series was starting, and it was the first major
racing series in the history of monster trucks—and it is still the closest thing
to legitimate racing our sport has seen. I was so excited about it, as I had
been hounding promoters for years to try this, and ironically, the opportunity
finally came about and I was unable to get in on the first three months or so of
the new series.
We had made some commitments to Chevrolet with the new ’88 truck and had to miss
out on the first part of the series which was very disappointing. We jumped in
as soon as we could right around April, and with a lot of hard work out of the
team, we were able to come from behind and win the first national championship
of monster truck racing.
But as excited as I was about winning that championship, I was more excited
thinking that we had created a new motorsport with endless potential and that it
would continue on far into the future.
Sadly though, it was quite literally the beginning and the beginning of the end,
as in 1989 and on into the early 1990’s things began to change, moving away from
the legitimate racing and into what I’ve called “professional wrestling on
wheels”. And that’s not to say that the promoters shouldn’t have been able to do
that. Its just very sad to me that all of my fellow drivers and teams who had
said they wanted to see real racing continue at that time, would later on down
the road not support my efforts to bring about a real racing series out of fear
that they would lose bookings from promoters as a result.
Ultimately the promoters ended up controlling the whole industry. There has been
a few attempts to bring back real racing, from the PENDA series to the ProMT
series, and a couple of other shots we had at it in there, but nothing has been
successful. That’s because the market, well the fan base has changed—we have a
generation of new fans who don’t know anything different than what they see at
the stadium shows every weekend. Their parents may remember monster truck racing
from the late eighties, but every year that goes by, it becomes more and more
difficult to recapture what it was all about.
Even in the mid-nineties when I was working on putting together a racing series,
I would come across potential sponsors for the series who would look at it real
hard as a concept, and then come back and ask where we were going to get trucks
from, with everybody doing this “professional wrestling on wheels” stuff. The
only response I had was of course, to quote that
baseball movie, “If we build
it, they will come”, but I couldn’t prove that
until the series was done,
and the potential sponsors couldn’t risk doing it and not having enough trucks.
So I personally have continued to struggle along on my own over the years doing
smaller events. Thanks to previous sponsorships, I still had a lot of Tru-Value
stores and Chevrolet dealerships that would call and have me come do small,
promotional events, but steadily that even dried up as our visibility dropped
off. I did those smaller events when they came up and have done a fair amount of
small events as part of the new mission, but most of the time was spent in the
office on the phone trying to figure out a way to reconstruct the industry and
bring back racing.
TMB: Now, during this time were you still operating your 4x4 shop
to supplement your income?
EJ: No, I actually had sold that off in about 1993 because at the time, I
really truly believed we were going to be able to find a way to bring racing
back. That was around the time that for me, racing really ended there when the
PENDA series went away. I wanted very much to put all my efforts into the
monster truck thing and try to make something happen. In retrospect, had I had
foresight maybe I wouldn’t have done that. The thing was, I just wasn’t as
interested in the 4x4 stuff and really wanted to focus all my efforts on making
the racing series happen, but as you all know, it just didn’t work.
TMB: In all your efforts to bring about a racing series, did you
ever come close?
EJ: I probably had one or two times I got real close, had major
corporations interested, but there was just no way to close the deal telling
them that, as I mentioned, if we build it they will come— there was simply too
much risk on their part. I just couldn’t convince them, and in a way, I didn’t
really blame them because at that point we had already had a 10-year track
record of drivers and owners who weren’t willing to take a risk and make a
commitment. The vast majority of monster truck owners now have grown up not
knowing anything different than getting paid to come put on a show. That’s not
necessarily bad, that’s what we did in the early days, but in 1988 I thought we
had taken the next step going toward a real racing series.
Now just so people understand, I don’t believe and I’ve never believed that this
should be a “one or the other” situation. I’m a free market guy and I’ve always
believed that the promoters should be able to do whatever they want with their
events. I just believe that if there were enough of us who were willing to
participate in an organization sanctioning racing events, the two types of
events would complement each other.
I don’t believe that the majority of promoters feel that way however, but I do
still think that there could be two types of fans—those true motorsports fans
who would be more interested in the racing series and those who would be more
interested in the entertainment industry-style events. I think there would end
up being an overlap and that one style would bring fans to the other and vice
versa, but I’ve never had the chance to prove that.
TMB: While we’re on topic of a racing series, how familiar are you
with the new Major League of Monster Trucks series that is set to debut this
EJ: I’ve become familiar with it over the last few months, and have
even had the opportunity to speak with CEO Joe Froome to hear more about his
vision for the series. A number of people have contacted me to let me know about
MLMT and actually, one or two team owners have inquired about purchasing or
leasing the USA-1 name to run in the series. That’s actually what spurred me to
look into a bit more. There are things about MLMT that I don’t particularly care
for including the inclusion of freestyle, but the series taking off would be
good for the sport.
I sure wish Joe the best and they seem to have great intentions, but at this
point I don’t see anything solid that suggests the series will happen as they
would like it to happen. Obviously I don’t even have a truck to run in it, but
if and when it happens I will throw any support I can to it. If they are able to
get the major sponsors and the TV that they need, I’m sure that one of these
teams interested in the USA-1 name could utilize it in that series.
I think we’re past the point of Everett Jasmer getting back into racing, but I’d
sure like to see someone get the USA-1 name back into competition, whether it’s
completely in their hands or if I’m still partially involved. Personally, I just
think that a real racing series is the only salvation for the sport, in terms of
people being able to run a successful team and make money like we did back in
TMB: Let’s take a second to talk a bit more about why you believe
in a series that involves only racing. For example, when you guys were first
starting out in the early-to-mid 80’s, it was all about exhibition and some
would say that is what freestyle is all about—showing what these trucks can do.
EJ: Well, that’s the natural transition of things. See, back when
we first started there were only 4-6 of us in the country, and you couldn’t
really have racing because of that. The trucks were new to people, they were
big, unique, “freaks of nature” if you will. At that point we had probably never
even conceived of racing and even if we had, there weren’t enough trucks to do
any kind of racing series.
Heck, when we first started out, we were hired just to come out at intermission
or before the show with the flag and simply parade around at pulling events or
mud bogs. That started to transition into some exhibition car crushing, mud
runs, etc. But again, the natural transition of things—as there became more and
more trucks, the idea of some kind of organized competition began to come about.
As an old drag racer myself, when the TNT series came out, that was it, that fit
my own personal preference perfectly.
The vast majority of the TNT races were straight-line racing, and most who know
my opinions are aware that is a personal preference of mine, but that’s another
topic. The bottom line is that, yeah, we ran mostly exhibition stuff in the
beginning—and don’t get me wrong, exhibition style events were great, they were
what allowed us to get started—but I firmly believe that exhibitionism can only
go so far. To this day, I will say that what is being done by promoters with
freestyle has already pretty much reached the point of “how much further can you
go?” Don’t get me wrong, the fans still love it and are turning out for it—more
power to these promoters, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.
I believe that a 100% true motorsports structure could continue on forever
because competition brings about innovation. You’ve seen it in every other
motorsport in the world; they are continuing to advance constantly. I’m not
saying this is necessary to continue the sport, because obviously the promoters
have been able to do that with lots of advertising, hype, and wild stuff geared
toward the youngsters. However a true motorsport requiring true competition is
what brings in the money, the sponsors, and TV, and it’s what allows the
competitors to make money and be successful.
TMB: So, once you got the taste of real racing, the racing for a
purse format rather than showing up and performing for a booking fee, that’s
when you reached the “point of no return” so to speak?
EJ: Well yeah, for me it was. Don’t get me wrong, I still did some
exhibition stuff with the trucks over the years from car shows to displays to
crushes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be a part of events that I felt
were, what I nicknamed in 1989, “professional wrestling on wheels”.
Heck, as I’ve mentioned, I even still do some of that exhibition stuff today as
part of the new mission of mine, from church displays and car crushes to support
the troops events, but in 1988 you could say I put 90% of my eggs in the basket
of a real racing series thinking that was the future, but sadly that didn’t
happen. At that point I just wasn’t willing to go along in the direction the
sport was headed with the rest of the crowd.
TMB: Now you’ve been criticized for that stance before, with folks
saying things like “you took your ball and went home” because you didn’t get
your way. I’ve never quite understood that attitude because being involved in
monster trucks is such a huge commitment, it takes everything—money, time,
energy, everything. Why keep up that commitment if it doesn’t make you happy?
EJ: Well that, and quite honestly, from a business standpoint, even
if I had wanted to stay in it—and I didn’t as a matter of principle—that wasn’t
the type of event my sponsors wanted to be involved with and I couldn’t have
asked them to support it. I wanted and they wanted a legitimate motorsport to be
As time has gone on, I feel like I’ve been proven right, because now the
promoters are the ones who benefit from the sponsorships, with a very few
exceptions. Had I decided to continue, it likely would have been out of my own
pocket rather than with the help of sponsors and I probably would have gone
broke ten years sooner.
Looking at the big picture, the bottom line is that the opportunity to make real
money and to get and/or keep real sponsors is gone from the sport in its current
state. Now I’m not going to say that they’re aren’t individuals who haven’t
figured something out, but what we had in the late 80’s simply isn’t there
TMB: We’ve talked a lot about “real racing” and making monster
trucks a “true motorsport” with “legitimate competition”. Let’s talk for a
moment about what those terms mean to you, and what Everett Jasmer’s ideal
series would be like.
EJ: In my world today, if I had millions of dollars or found a
sponsor with millions of dollars, and was given the job to setup a series, it
would have, first of all, nothing resembling a freestyle within miles of it. I’m
not saying freestyle isn’t good entertainment, but I think it would contaminate
a real racing series.
At the end of an NHRA drag race, you don’t see guys taking their cars back out
and destroying them to get the crowd hyped up. At the end of a NASCAR race, you
don’t see the guys going out in the infield and having a demolition derby to get
the crowd hyped up. If you have a legitimate motorsport and its good racing, you
don’t need to have cheap thrills to get the crowd excited, because true
motorsport fans will get plenty just from the racing.
And again, it wouldn’t be an either/or situation for monster trucks. Fans could
always go to the stadium and arena shows in the winter, or promoter events in
the summer, to watch that. But that is my biggest issue; I would not allow
freestyle at or near any legitimate racing event.
Next, and this would be a big risk on my part, but I would style the series
after what we did with TNT and make all the courses 100% straight-line drag
racing. The explanation for that is, after 20+ years watching monster trucks,
I’m convinced that straight line racing best lends itself to television. No
major series can take the sport to the next level without television, and I
would cater to that.
Straight-line racing is the best fit for television in that you can see
everything from start to finish, and you can clearly see a winner and loser.
Turning course racing on the other hand requires multiple camera angles and it
is not as easy to show trucks all the way through or to see a defined winner and
loser. I firmly believe that if there were a straight-line racing and a
turning-course racing series on television, one would succeed and one would not.
I think the straight line racing would prevail.
There are plenty who would disagree with me on that, but that is definitely the
direction I would go if I was in charge of putting together a series. A lot of
people accuse me of being biased toward straight line because I’m an old drag
racer (and yes, that is my own personal preference), but you’ve got to
understand that I’m talking about this from a business stance. If I believed
that turning courses were the way to go from a business stand-point, that is
what I would be advocating. I just don’t feel a turning course series could be
successful on television, but I do believe a straight line series would.
TMB: One point I would like to touch on in regards to freestyle. It
seems as though a lot of your references to freestyle invoke thoughts of the
Monster Jam-style of freestyle, the destruction, carnage, etc. I would like to
mention though, that there are a lot of fans out there, myself included, who
love freestyle but don’t particularly care for that type of freestyle. Freestyle
is something unique to monster trucks because it allows these machines to do
incredible things—feats you can’t see in any other motorsport. Where else can
you see a 10,000 lb machine with 1500 hp doing donuts or pulling off slap
wheelies? Point being is that, although Monster Jam has caused a stereotype of
freestyle being all about destruction, freestyle competition is truly a test of
the skill of the driver and the abilities of the truck.
EJ: I can understand and respect that viewpoint. But I still
maintain that while there are plenty of places for freestyle, I believe that it
would contaminate a legitimate racing event. Once again though, this is just
Everett speaking. It could be me against however many other guys out there who
want to go racing, and it’s probably not a battle I will ever win.
I still maintain that you can go out almost any other weekend and see freestyle
at a promoter’s event—whether it be the wreck ‘em up Live Nation style of
stadium freestyle or the good clean freestyle you might see at a smaller event.
I just feel that the competition and action of a real racing series with purse
money up for grabs and points leading up to a season championship would provide
all the action and drama you would need.
TMB: I’m sure there are plenty of fans who would love a
properly-structured racing-only series. At this point though, after 20 years and
after the deep niche that the monster truck industry has carved for itself, do
you personally feel that there would be enough support from fans to make a
racing-only series could still work?
EJ: Oh, I’ve always believed that and still do. I just don’t know
that anyone will ever be able to find the financial backing to make it work.
That’s the problem. I think that if somebody wanted to do it and did it right, I
think it could be very successful and co-exist right along side the promoter
events. As I said earlier in the interview, I believe the two styles would
complement each other, as the racing series would bring in a whole new group of
racing fans to the monster truck industry. I think that the race fans would
check out the stadium and arena events in the winter, and I believe that the
promoter-event fans would come to races in the summer.
TMB: Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to see if that will work.
We’ve talked a lot about the past and about what you would like to see for the
future, but back to the present: what is the main thing you want people reading
this interview to take away from it?
EJ: I guess the theme of our entire discussion goes back to my
attempt to find a buyer for the USA-1 operation. I don’t relish having to do
this, but I don’t have any choice at this point. I’m going to have to do
something, because I can’t afford to hang onto all of this any longer. In all
reality, I’ve probably stayed around for about 10 years longer than I should
have, but the thought of selling it off piece by piece is really tough. But in
the end, I’m going to do what I have to do.
TMB: What would be the best way for a potential buyer to contact
you, should one come about from reading this interview?
EJ: My contact information is available on my website at
www.USA-14x4.com. I welcome anyone with a legitimate interest to get in
contact with me.
TMB: Well Everett, I want to thank you for taking time to sit down
with us and talk about your current situation. It was a pleasure and an honor,
especially for someone like myself who can remember being a little kid rooting
for USA-1 on TV. Best of luck to you in finding a buyer for your operation who
will carry on everything the name USA-1 has come to mean in the hearts of so
many fans out there. Keep us posted on your progress!
EJ: I appreciate the opportunity to bring some more attention to my
current situation, and to share my views with all of the fans out there. Keep up
the good work!
Fans should definitely take the time to check out
www.USA-14x4.com, where they can find an in-depth history of Everett
and USA-1, photos and updates from the truck’s most recent appearances, and much
more. Everett also has USA-1 hero cards and t-shirts available, which are a
great item for any USA-1 fan’s collection.
Here’s hoping that Everett will be able to find a buyer who will respectfully
carry on the USA-1 legacy, and that he can be properly compensated as reward for
all the efforts he has put into the monster truck industry in the last 30 years.
We would once again like to thank Everett Jasmer for his time and we wish him
the best of luck!
UPDATE: In the weeks that have passed since our initial interview with
Everett Jasmer, his financial situation has continued to deteriorate. As much as
the idea of breaking up the operation pains Jasmer, he is now seriously
considering placing the original 1970 USA-1 truck for sale in a national
auction. While Jasmer still holds out hope that a buyer for the entire operation
will emerge, time is running out. Soon his financial situation will leave him
without a choice in the matter. Any potential buyer with serious interest is
encouraged to contact Jasmer as soon as possible. Stay tuned to
TheMonsterBlog.com as we will bring you any developments in the transition of
USA-1 to new ownership.
All photos used with
permission of Everett Jasmer and USA-1 4x4.