By Ross Z. Bonar - December 12th, 2007

TheMonsterBlog: Tim, thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with us about Hall Brothers Racing’s plans for 2008. There have been a lot of rumors floating around, so let’s start by giving you a chance to address the status of the Dodge sponsorship for next year.

Tim: Well, as any one who watches the news these days knows, the U.S. auto industry is in a state of economic flux, if you will. This is a different time than has ever been seen in the past, and the automakers are responding to the new situation. We have been privileged to have a great relationship with Dodge Motorsports over the years and when Cerberus took over Chrysler, the word handed down from the new owners was that all of the racing programs would continue to exist in their current state. The plan was to keep the programs about the same with little change for the upcoming year. But as things developed with the new ownership group taking control, something did change. Not really sure what that was, but they ended up taking a lot harder look at things and as most racing fans have heard about, Chrysler has made a lot of changes in scaling back the Dodge Motorsports programs.
Everything up to even the Nextel Cup program has been affected, a good example being the traditionally Dodge-sponsored #9 and #19 cars now carrying Budweiser and Best Buy respectively next year. One of the NHRA teams is no longer part of the picture, and unfortunately we weren’t immune to the cutbacks either. In fact, initially it was thought that our program was being cut out completely to the surprise of not only us, but all of the folks we work with up Chrysler as well. But we ended up being able to work out a new deal that will allow us to continue our dealership program with support from Chrysler.

The relationship with Chrysler is being kept going and we’ll still be doing stuff with them in addition to our dealer program. Mopar is staying on as an associate sponsor with us, and we’re going to be helping them promote their brand new 572 cubic inch crate Hemi that is coming out this year. We’ll be doing appearances for them and for Dodge, and we’re really glad to be keeping the relationship going, there’s a lot of great folks up there.

Another exciting thing is that the all new Dodge Ram is coming out in 2009, and we’ll be sporting the brand new body on
Raminator and Rammunition as soon as it becomes available.

TheMonsterBlog: So then the Rammunition identity will indeed be returning for 2008?

Tim: Aboslutely, Raminator and Rammunition are going to keep on trucking this year just like they always have. We are downsizing a little bit, but our trucks are going to be just as strong as ever on the race track. All of our cabinets are full of parts and all of our guys are fired up and ready to race.

TheMonsterBlog: It had been reported on (we’ll touch on that more in a second) that the Executioner name might be making its return this season?

Tim: Yeah, we’re working on that right now. To take a couple steps back for a second, when we thought the Chrysler deal was completely going away, we figured we might need to resurrect that. So we started looking at the possibilities of, what if we were to bring that back. We weren’t real sure that we wanted to, but thought we might need to, so now that the topic has been kicked around, we’re still toying with the idea of the name making a return.

Raminator and Rammunition will be the primary names that will be on our trucks in 2008, with the possibility of a special appearance of Executioner. We’ve had some discussions with LiveNation about running that name in one of the old USA Motorsports markets, but in all honesty, I’m just not sure that resurrecting it is the best thing to do.

Let me put it this way, with the situation in the world being what it is, I’m not real sure that the Executioner name is as appropriate as it once was. When we used to run that name, the situation in the world was very different and running that name was fine, but now things have changed as we all well know, and I’m just not sure that it brings forth a positive association.

So I guess to really answer the question, the best I can say is that we’re talking about bringing it back for a couple of special appearances, but we haven’t decided anything for sure yet.

TheMonsterBlog: Well, while we’re on this topic, some of the biggest news of the offseason is that Hall Brothers Racing is going to run some Monster Jam events this year. Tell us a bit about how this came about.

Yeah, that opportunity has always kind of been out there. Keith Speller with Live Nation is a big drag racing fan, as are Mark and I, and occasionally we’ll run into each other at the drag races. Every time that’s happened over the years, the subject has come up and the consensus was that whenever the time was right, we would see if we could do some stuff together. As this year grew later, we figured alright, let’s go to some of the Monster Jam events and race. I’ve been watching some of their race tracks and find them pretty interesting. You know, most of the competitors that race there are folks we race against at other events anyway, so that part of it isn’t really going to be that different. They’re in some markets we’d like to be in and everything worked out to do a few events, so here we come.

TheMonsterBlog: It’s going to be great for the fans to get to see Raminator and Rammunition matching up against some of the best Monster Jam has to offer. We’ve seen that Raminator will be a part of the lineup when the series returns to the Superdome in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. High profile event, and the thought of maybe getting to see Mark match up with Dennis Anderson is pretty exciting.

Yeah, that’s going to be really neat. We haven’t raced at the Superdome in probably 10 or 15 years, so it will be great getting to go back there and compete. There are some great racers in that series with top notch equipment and lots of experience, and we’re really looking forward to racing them.

TheMonsterBlog: Now, the opportunity to race Monster Jam came about mainly due to the fact that Raminator and Rammunition are not running for the Monster Nationals championship this winter?

Yeah, we won’t be running their primary indoor series this year, although we’ll probably do some of the outdoor events this summer. George Eisenhart and I are very good friends, and he tries to change up his lineup for the Monster Nationals every couple of years. Raminator and Rammunition have been regulars for a number of years, and we’ve been very fortunate to enjoy great success over there, winning five championships in a row. We’ve had a lot of success in those markets and we’ve had a lot of fans sending us emails, asking why we weren’t coming back this season.

We certainly wanted to come back and we would still love to come back at a later date, but George wanted to change up his lineup and with our sponsors, we aren’t in the position to change our identities that easily. So his decision was made to go with some different trucks for 2008, and we’ll hope to race again in that series at a later date. Hopefully we’ll be able to pick up where we left off!

TheMonsterBlog: Where else will we see the HBR trucks running this winter?

It seems like we’re going to be running for just about everybody at this point. We’ll be running some for Checkered Flag, some for MEGA Promotions, a few Extreme Monster Truck Nationals events, and the USHRA events as we discussed.

Originally, we weren’t planning on running any winter events. Instead, we were going to focus primarily on doing Dodge dealership displays through the winter months. This is the hardest time for dealers to get people on the lots, and the plan was to be out there helping them sell as many cars as possible. But plans change, and so we’re booking some indoor events and we’ll be working with dealers at some of those events, trying to help them sell cars that way.

TheMonsterBlog: Well, we’ll be glad to see you guys out there competing. You mentioned downsizing previously—will the team be going to just two race trucks, or will the third still be appearing from time to time?

For the most part, we’ve cut back to two. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about our personnel changes. Two of our crew guys, Kyle Doyle and Travis Howard, both wanted to come in off the road and explore some new opportunities. You’ve got to understand, with the way our team was setup, we were racing a good number of weekends and whenever we weren’t racing, we were doing appearances for Dodge and for dealerships those weekends. Those guys didn’t get a lot of time off, and usually it would only come on a week day. It was also hard to schedule, never as simple as being able to have, for example, every Wednesday off, it was usually a day off here and there whenever it could be worked out. So I definitely understand where they’re coming from.

So with that said, we decided to cut back a little bit and slow down. We’re going to run two trucks primarily and the drivers will be Mark and Geremie. We’re going to run a third one every once in a while when Dale wants to go out and race. He’s going to stay mostly back working in the shop, he’s got two little boys at home and wants to be with them as much as possible. Pretty much when he wants to race, that’s when we’ll book the third truck.

TheMonsterBlog: So will the plans for the summer season include returning to defend the team’s streak of Special Events titles? How will the new MLMT series factor into your scheduling, assuming everything comes together there?

We are going to do the Special Events Jamboree series again with Raminator and Rammunition and run for another championship. We’re looking forward to racing MLMT again, as soon as their final schedule is announced, we’ll see events we can run. I really enjoyed those events, they were first-rate from top to bottom, and we were lucky enough to enjoy some success there. I really, really enjoyed them, so I hope that they can get everything firmed up pretty soon because we’d like to race as many of those as we can.

TheMonsterBlog: Hall Brothers Racing really did have an incredible year in 2007. Two championships, nearly a 70% win percentage with Mark’s team, truly a force to be reckoned with on any track. Great job to you and the team this season.

Well, I really appreciate that. It really is a tribute to our whole team, the guys here, all of them work so hard to make sure that the trucks are ready to go for every event, that they run good, that they look good. We were really fortunate to have a good year with parts. In 2006, we were developing some new drivetrain components and were breaking a lot of parts here and there, but it definitely paid off in 2007 when all those parts were fully developed and in place. Drivetrain failures were nearly non-existent and the trucks ran very well. Our drivers did a great job, the crew guys did a great job, and it just all came together for us.

Efforts like when we had to change an engine in one truck and a rear end in the other in between shows in Cleveland, those are the ones that really stand out in my memory. Our guys are the best.

On another note, I hope we were able to silence some of our critics this year, the folks who say things like “Raminator can’t win on a turning course” or “Promoters only do straight line racing because that’s what the Hall’s want”, stuff like that. I think we proved this year that it doesn’t matter what track we’re running on, we can still contend for the victory. The best example, I think, was the MLMT event in Kentucky. Right as we went to make our first qualifying pass, we had an input shaft break, really a pretty rare failure for us, and Mark didn’t even get to run the track before the first round. Hadn’t even been on the track and had to face the #1 qualifier in the first round. Not only did he win that match-up, but he went on to win the whole race. I think that’s a testament to what a great driver Mark is. Between that event and the one in Nashville, I think we showed that we can win on a turning course.

TheMonsterBlog: Let’s talk a bit about freestyle for a second. I’ve been wanting to ask for some time, is there any chance we’ll see another one of those power wheelies like Mark pulled at the RCA Dome in ’05 again? That is one of the most unique freestyle moves we’ve seen, I think we’ve only seen one other truck pull that off before.

Yeah, that was pretty cool. You know, we can do that, but everything has to be just right for it to happen. The conditions were just right there in Indy that night, and if we can get the right dirt and get the clutch just right, the truck will do the rest. Often times at those indoor shows, with the dirt being brought in and packed down, it’s just the right consistency to be able to do that. Who knows, maybe some of those winter shows on dirt, we’ll be able to do one.

To address our feeling on freestyle in general, we are racers primarily, every time we come to the line, we are racing all out to win. That’s what we like to do, however we understand that freestyle is a big part of our sport. Monster trucks freestyle because they can and we know the fans get really into it. So we go out there and try to put on a good show for the fans, but I really draw the line at crashing on purpose and tearing stuff up.

I don’t feel like it takes any skill to just go out there and dump a truck, and there is some of that that goes on in the sport right now. As a fan myself, I like to see great saves and great performances, and that’s what gets me excited when I’m watching freestyle. Some of those top freestyle guys, watching them, some of the stuff they are able to do in these trucks is truly amazing. I just feel like some of the needless tearing stuff up is unnecessary.

We’re going to come out to those Monster Jam events and we’re going to go all out to win the races. Then, knowing that their series is more geared toward freestyle, we’ll go out there and make a solid run and get out of the way, watch with everyone else as those guys that are the freestyle champs do their thing.

TheMonsterBlog: So with all that said, what is some of the preparation that is going on at the shop over the next couple weeks?

We’ve got all of the trucks in the shop right now, we’re changing a few things, nothing really special, mostly just our standard offseason work on the trucks. Just going through and freshening everything up, replacing what’s worn out, making a few little changes here and there to make things better and keep the trucks in top condition.

Same thing with all of the haulers, working on them, getting them all stocked up with everything we may need during the race season. You’ll see some new trailer graphics on Mark and Geremie’s trailers, matching Hall Brothers Racing graphics. Dodge will still have a presence on the trailers obviously, but we’re going to give them a new look and that should be pretty cool.

On the office side of things, we’re still working with more companies on associate sponsorship deals, some of that I hoped to be able to announce here. However, there are still some details we need to get worked out, and hopefully we’ll be making an announcement as soon as we can on that.

TheMonsterBlog: And those deals could best be described as major associate sponsorships rather than, a full primary deal, for example?

Yeah, for right now, that’s correct. However, the interesting thing is that we have some potential full primary sponsors that will be our guests at some of the Jamboree events this summer. They want to look more at monster truck racing, it’s not something they’ve been involved with before, and so they want to come out, see the crowds, see what its all about. We know that monster truck fans are the type of people they want to be marketing to, but of course, they’ve got to come out and see for themselves. So the hope is that they will then want to come aboard for the 2009 season.

TheMonsterBlog: As long as we’re talking here, the Annual MTRA Meeting is on Saturday,--what are some of the things you as President, along with the other Directors have been working on this season?

Mostly just continuing to look for ways to advance the safety of the trucks. Every year, obstacles are getting bigger and bigger, and the trucks are getting faster and faster—it’s really a tribute to the truck builders who are making these things even tougher and more bulletproof than they ever have been before. Those advancements allow the drivers to push the trucks even harder and so we’re trying to make sure that driver safety is advancing on par with truck performance.

We went down to the PRI show in Florida to take a look at some of the safety items there, we also sat in on some meetings with SFI about some new safety developments. We’re going to be putting G-force meters in monster trucks, doing some testing this year along side folks from NASCAR and the IRL trying to develop seats and other driver safety equipment. It’s really interesting to me sitting in on these meetings, and finding out that other sanctioning bodies and safety organizations, some of the who’s who of motorsports, are looking to monster trucks because of some of the things we do. The trucks are big, they take hard hits, and they’re able to do it time after time after time. So some of the other folks are looking to our industry to try to learn some things from what we’re doing. I think that’s pretty neat.

But to address the question, there are some other ideas for improvements, some potential rule changes we’ll be talking about during the meeting on Saturday, and we’ll just have to see what the membership wants to do.

TheMonsterBlog: OK, well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you Tim, thanks for taking the time to sit down and share your team’s plans for 2008 with us and all of our readers. We’ll see you at the MTRA Meeting and Banquet on Saturday, best of luck in taking home some awards!

Thanks for helping us get this news out there, and hopefully we’ll have some official press releases coming your way soon. Look forward to seeing you Saturday, and hope to see a lot of fans coming out to see what the MTRA is all about too!


(Photos featured above courtesy Ross Z. Bonar & Kyle Doyle).