Much is the case every year with every jamboree, Saturday’s festivities draw out the largest crowd, and often cause the largest anxiety among competitors. There’s more to do, not as much time to repair, and there’s never any time to relax.
The Allen County Fairgrounds began to really hustle as the gates opened at 9 a.m. for the second day of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree June Nationals. The second day this year stunned all the patrons right away when they walked in, but it wasn’t because of what was there, but more what wasn’t. Luck has blessed Lima this year as the skies had some slight cirrus clouds, but the sun was shining bright and looking spectacular. Although the temperatures were a little high, the spirits matched it.
The track crew was hard at work trying to get things ready for the afternoon event of the General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags, while the crews were busy doing some adjustments, and repairs, from the day before. Team Evolution, specifically for the Overkill Evolution Ford of Michael Vaters Jr, had the front clip off the truck as they were making some changes in the suspension from the day prior. Teammate, and father, Vaters Sr. had his own power jack out, but instead decided to try and get some better grip on the loose dirt as he swapped the front tires side-to-side, pointing the tread in reverse.
Everyone else in the field seemed satisfied with what they had, and they rolled out to the infield for an early afternoon performance, with a packed crowd in the grandstands to match.
The blind draw setup a heavyweight face-off right away with Vaters Jr. taking on the previous day’s winner, Mat Dishman in Raminator. But, a quick reaction time put the Ford on the trailer. At the same time, Brandon Derrow moved forward in Bad News Travels Fast to the second round, while Christian Norman seemed to enjoy his newly-bodied Lucas Oil Bigfoot, as he moved ahead as well taking out Kurt Kraehmer in the General Tire machine.
Unfortunately, the first round wasn’t without casualties, as in his first-round loss to Derrow, Vaters Sr. pulled off the track to the gate ready to head to the pits. The problem was, his truck wasn’t under power at all. A quick word during a break in the tough truck competition revealed that the Black Stallion had lost a transmission, and they needed to push the truck down the hill, before pulling it back to the hauler.
Back on the track, Kraehmer got a reprieve as he came back as the fast loser, only to lose again to Norman. Dishman, meanwhile, advanced to the finals for a second day, and was ready to go full-tilt against a rival team.
The final round had the crowd split, and both drivers left the line hard, but the RAM was pulling just a bit harder, and nipped the Ford at the line, giving Dishman his second consecutive racing win, and giving him a healthy point gap heading into the next bracket.
Fans stuck around and were excited to see the newly added best-trick competition to the action, but what they didn’t expect was the eventual winner. However, it was bound to happen to the jamboree rookie. After having to watch Kraehmer do a strong set of donuts, and Vaters Jr. make a pair of attempts at a popper, it was Derrow’s opportunity to shine. His Bad News Chevrolet looked like it wanted to stand on the back bumper, and on his second attempt, everything bounced just right.
The black-and-yellow machine stood straight up on the wheelie bar, and slowly walked right down the front straightaway to almost the end of the concrete barriers.
Not even a solid attempt by Norman, and both a donut-wheelie combination by Dishman was enough. For the first time in his career, and with his dad watching in the stands while also on the headset plus his girlfriend, Ashley, and his two kids looking on, Derrow had a jamboree victory to his credit.
All that was left for the afternoon was freestyle, and that was when things heated up with performances that were career-bests, and breakage that could have been chaotic. Kraehmer started things off with a strong outing, including a pair of solid wheelstands that he was trying for the last couple years at this show to accomplish. Derrow then followed his victory with another excellent freestyle that included a few walking wheelstands over the racing lanes, and a few big hits off the two quad stacks in the corners.
Then, Vaters Jr. hit the track, and he was putting on a run that was going to be hard to top.
Big hits on the stacks, pulverizing the turning tires for the tough trucks, and even knocking over the dividing concrete barrier for the tough trucks were part of his run. He kept going full-tilt with each hit, until one suddenly let off a loud shot of air. Everyone thought a tire had popped, but in fact the issue was the cap on one of the rear shock accumulators had shot off, knocking the safety guard for the accumulator cap right onto the track. Immediately he pulled around and headed to the pits, but not after a solid outing.
Norman then came out wanting to go even bigger than what had just been thrown down, but on his second hit he launched the #18 chassis to the sky, but on the landing the truck had a pronounced lean, and when he went to spin around at the other end of the track, lead track official Lee Collins hit the remote shut-off, as a broken sway bar put a halt to his performance.
Dishman, try as he might, could not put up a run that could match, and yet with a broken truck, Vaters Jr. took his first freestyle victory of the 2019 season.
Round 1: Raminator def. Overkill Evolution; Bad News Travels Fast def. Black Stallion; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. General Tire
Semi-Finals: Raminator def. Bad News Travels Fast; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. General Tire-FL
Championship: Raminator def. Lucas Oil Bigfoot
The Saturday crowd made their way to the midway, and into the show-and-shine area to look at some of the stunning vehicles on display, while the entire pit area for the monsters had work to be done. For the Ram teams, they were good to go, as they just topped off fuel and checked things over. Derrow’s team looked at the rear end for a little while, however there was nothing to be of concern, aside from cleaning up the body.
Norman and his crewman, Bigfoot #12 handler Drue Epler, had a bit more work to do, but the sway bar replacement was a quicker fix for the team as it’s something this truck has experienced before, in testing no less.
But, an all-hands-on-deck approach came when it involved the Vaters’ trucks. The son had the shock removed, and all the teams were going hard at it to get the suspension fixed. But, with less than an hour until show time, the “Alien Nation” fan base was worried as the truck still had only the coil shock on the right rear, with the second shock on the bench vice. The truck had a high stance while being worked on, but it was overheard that at least for the night, the team was going to run the truck with only the single shock on the rear. How it would handle was uncertain, but they were going to try it if needed.
Black Stallion, however, needed more work than expected. Not only did the transmission need replaced, but the team also had to work on the transfer case, so the entire driveline needed to be either swapped or repaired, and it was clear he, along with his son, were not going to make introductions for the Saturday night event, a freestyle-only showdown among the trucks.
Yet, with all the odds against them, both the Vaters machines were rolling out during a stoppage in the tough truck action and headed to the pits. A six-pack of machines were going to go after the third freestyle title of the weekend. Vaters, and his son, asked to go first, that way they each could head back to the pits and if needed have the most time to do more repairs to their designated machines.
Father put on his best run of the weekend, as the F150 soared on a few occasions off the racing lanes before the rear steer seemed to not return as fast as normal. The son, however, decided that a single shock is all he needed.
After failing on his third popper attempt of the weekend, the former World Freestyle Champion began to drive angry, and if it was a hill, made of dirt, or was in his way, it was getting hit. The momentum the 2019 Super Duty held for an entire run was non-stop, and at a few points seemed as though it was not going to end well. At one point, the Overkill Evolution machine hit the side of a quad stack, but did so while cornering, getting on just one tire and still holding on to roar back in front of the crowd for a final salute.
Derrow repeated a strong performance in the afternoon, and even the best run by Kraehmer at a jamboree, could not top it. Dishman tried as he might, even with a slight puckering of rain falling, yet could not top the performance of the defending champion.
If one guy had a chance to do just that, it was the Bigfoot crew, and apparently the idea of the paint scheme on the Bigfoot machine lit a fire under last year’s racing champion. Everyone that has seen the Bigfoot team at the jamborees remembers the subtle hint at the paint scheme that was put on the truck this year, a flashback to 26 years ago when Andy Brass stepped into a then-new Bigfoot #11. But, without the Bigfoot name as his previous truck still had it.
One infamous wheelie run later, “Wildfoot” was set in granite. So, as fans began taking on calling it the Lucas Oil “Wildfoot”, Norman hit the track to close out the night with a freestyle that was nothing short of wild.
Norman skied out the Ford Raptor on both quad stacks, along with the tire bump down the front stretch. He nailed a wheelie that saw the wheelstand bar dig into the dirt, and almost cause him to roll onto his side. But, he brought it back and kept on hammering the beast across the infield. The only time he decided to call it a night came on his final sky shot on the racing lane, as when he landed the tie rod broke on the rear end, causing the right rear tire to point inward while the left rear was still functioning. That run, with a full clock and a crowd in a frenzy, made him two-for-three on the weekend, and showed that Bigfoot was meaning business in freestyle this season.
A final show remains this weekend for the monsters, as a 3 p.m. finale will have racing, best trick, and freestyle. The last show of the weekend has always been nicknamed the “go home” performance, because there’s no reason to play conservative any longer.
Can Dishman make it a sweep? Is Norman getting wild one more time? Will there be carnage? Could the weekend end without seeing the dreaded r-word? Fans can still get tickets at the gate and see this field tear it up one more time before the tour heads east.
POINT STANDINGS (2 of 9 Events)-Wins in Brackets
Raminator – 320 
Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 200
Overkill Evolution – 160
Bad News Travels Fast – 160
General Tire – 120
Black Stallion – 80
Overkill Evolution – 1
Bad News Travels Fast – 1
Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 2
Overkill Evolution – 1