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.
 

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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 sentimental ties.

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 now?

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 independent owners.
 


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 season?

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 the 80’s.

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 involved in.

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 anymore.

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!
 

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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.

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