As the indoor season for a majority of the monster truck tours draws to a close during most of April, the spring season officially means outdoor venues get to prepare for some faster racing, some bigger obstacles, and the drivers get to “stretch the legs” of these machines. Although many stadium events are showcasing a lot of fast action, there’s something about being at a fairground or speedway that feels so different to these teams.
No tour has taken note of how major these venues are than Bonnier Corporation’s 4-Wheel Jamboree series, which again is headlined by title sponsor Lucas Oil.
The other title sponsor that headlines the jamborees, General Tire, has returned once again to showcase the best that the jamboree has to offer in monster truck racing, and freestyle. A year ago, an extremely stacked, powerful, and intense field of drivers and trucks gave many highlights that fans still remember a year later. But, the season also ended with a bit of controversy, and maybe confusion.
Everyone is ready for a new year, a fresh beginning, and zero doubt as to who will be the best at day’s end.
What the folks at Bonnier Corporation, with the help of WHR Motorsports, did for this year is not only bring back the reigning and defending champions, but also bring back some drivers that have long been favorites of the crowd. Maybe that is lucky, because the field for this year’s jamboree season is an odd number, with seven powerful, driven, and no-nonsense drivers and trucks, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.
Let’s take a look at this year’s competition:
Lucas Oil Bigfoot
2019 Ford Raptor Trophy Truck
Driver: Christian Norman
Headlining this year’s jamboree tour once again is always the truck that began the industry, and even it’s creator has said the jamboree shows themselves have helped shape the team into what it is today. For the 31st time, a Bigfoot truck will be in attendance at the jamborees, chasing after a championship.
According to the Bigfoot website, the man that will be having the duty of defending the racing championship from a season ago is the same one who was not only a rookie with the team in 2018, but also was competing for the first time at the jamborees. Christian Norman surprised everyone with how smooth he could handle the #18 chassis from the Bigfoot team, and it led him all the way to Indianapolis with a chance to win a championship.
In the end, he did that, although he settle with splitting the racing title (more on that in a bit), but this year, Norman has been standing tall in his own right. He’s been very successful driving on the Hot Wheels tour, and is ready to let this truck show what it really can do in a big environment.
The original monster truck is ready to turn it loose on the field in 2019, and Norman is no rookie any longer, but a polished driver with proven equipment, and he wants his title outright.
2018 Ram Heavy Duty
Driver: Mark Hall
As stated above, last year’s General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags ended with a bit of controversy. The biggest reason: two drivers tied at season’s end, meaning for the first time, co-champions were crowned.
Along with Norman, the other man that relied on consistency to achieve a title is no stranger to holding a championship. Although, he returned to the jamborees after one year away. This time, he’s returning, just like Norman, to achieve a championship outright, with no doubts.
It certainly helps that Mark Hall has been a rival to the Bigfoot team for many years, although it has been a rivalry of competition and respect. The man at the wheel of the 2018 Ram Heavy Duty has seen a lot of action in the last several years with the jamboree tour, including a very scary and violent roll last year at Bloomsburg that saw the truck destroy the body. He showed how strong the equipment was by coming back and winning the racing bracket that day, but during the week Hall was sore from the roll, even with the safety equipment doing its job. But, he recovered and came back like the Phoenix to achieve a title.
For 2019, he will return to the jamborees hoping to prove that he is dominant, and leave little doubt as to what the HEMI-powered Raminator is capable of.
2019 Ford Super Duty
Driver: Mike Vaters II
There was controversy surrounding the racing championship a season ago, which this writer admits was partially of his doing, but there was never any doubt as to who the dominant truck and driver was when it came to freestyle. With a world championship to his credit already, it was already known that the skill set of Mike Vaters II was second to none, but for the first time he got to show off that skill set in front of the jamboree crowds.
Whether it was hammering off a combine tire, taking a splash in a pond, or sliding his machine to create a cloud of dust, Overkill Evolution was not to be denied. Vaters II was outright dominant from the first event to the last, leaving officials little doubt as to who the best truck was all year long. It was as if the truck not only took the punishment, but was begging to have more abuse.
The only breakage that seemed to slow Vaters II down a bit was at the final weekend when the team had to rebuild half the suspension overnight just to make the show, but he did just that and closed out the season on top.
Team Evo is back for 2019, heading in as the lead favorite to back up the freestyle title, but he too was in a spot to win the racing championship, so he could ultimately pull off a jamboree sweep in 2019. With the ability of the driver, the excellent skills of owner/builder Marty Garza, this team will have many eyes on them this year.
2008 Ford F150
Driver: Mike Vaters
Wherever Overkill Evolution goes, chances are the Black Stallion is not far behind. Already a hall of fame member, Michael Vaters is back at the jamborees for a second year in a row, ready to make his truck make some noise.
His entire team is going through a lot of changes this summer, some big changes. It was revealed on social media that team driver Matt Cody, driver of Blue Thunder and Iron Warrior, is in the process of getting a brand new chassis under him. It will be the first new chassis in the Vaters camp since the mid-2000’s when Vaters’ current chassis made its debut. The truck itself will have a chassis similar to that of Overkill Evolution, however it will be set up to Cody’s liking.
For Vaters, that means he will have to push himself even more to show that even though his piece is nearly 15 years old, it can still get the job done. After all, he’s still a capable driver, with 37 years experience at the wheel, and is no stranger to the jamboree vibe.
2018 Ram 1500
Driver: Kurt Kraehmer
The other rookie driver last year on the jamboree tour had a lot of pressure from the moment he stepped into the roll cage. Kurt Kraehmer was taking over not just as the man with a title sponsor on his truck, but also was taking over the chassis that holds a world record.
It turns out, he was more than up for the challenge. Kraehmer put the Ram 1500 General Tire machine through it’s paces, pushing the deep cleat tires through mud, water, dirt and grass to show that he is a capable driver at the wheel.
With more seat time over this winter, his ability has been exceptional, and the fans are enjoying seeing the young man put on a show. This year, he gets to do so again with the General Tire monster, literally. Since the new graphics for this truck were debuted in 2016, it seems to have been given a more aggressive and meaner look. It has certainly helped in sales for the tire brand, as I can attest to since I bought my second set for my current truck last year. It has been a great partnership that continues to be strong for all involved.
Once again, Kraehmer will try to put this machine in victory circle, but now that he’s gotten his first win under his belt this winter, his confidence is high and he’s ready to make an impact.
2018 Ram 1500
Driver: Dave Radzierez
Since 2016, there has been one team that fans have been wanting to see back on this tour. It was posted beginning when the lineup was listed, fans have been asking to “bring him back” to put on a show. The reason, they know what the truck and driver can do. He has no plan except turning on the truck and hitting the loud pedal.
Well, after three years, the time has come. He’s back, the man that started a new revolution in monster trucks is back with a familiar chassis, a familiar sponsor, but a new look, and a new power plant.
Dave Radzierez is officially back at the jamborees, and he’s bringing his Xtreme Diesel. Last time this truck, at least chassis, was at one of these shows was back at the Bloomsburg jamboree in 2016, where he shattered the rear suspension but made it back in time for the final show. A year later, he went away from just showing the XDP name, and unveiled the Xtreme Diesel look, but ran an alcohol engine. Last summer, the original “Diesel Dave” returned with a brand-new 2018 Ram 1500 body, but more over, an entirely new engine.
His truck is now powered by a common-rail Cummins engine that is running cleaner, smoother, and with practically no smoke. It has already made a major impression, running indoor shows this winter without any side effects. Now, this new machine will be making a major impact outdoors for sure.
The fans wanted, begged, and hoped it would happen, and now…it’s a reality. Although, the other reality is that Radzierez will only compete at Bloomsburg, meaning that fans who want to get “Xtreme” will only have one opportunity to do so.
Bad News Travels Fast
2008 Chevrolet Silverado
Driver: Brandon Derrow
NOTE-Lima and Indianapolis ONLY
Every year for the last three seasons, at least one new face entered the field to compete at the jamborees. For 2019, that continues with a driver that got into the sport by purchasing a well-known truck from a driver that was calling it a career, and has since made it his own identity. All the while, honoring the truck’s past, while looking to the future.
Young Brandon Derrow has shown a lot of skill at the wheel of “Bad News” and seems to have caught the eye of many. He’s consistently been skilled at the indoor events, but has always enjoyed letting the truck show off what it can do at a big venue. The chassis he runs is nearly 20 years old, and it still is winning events.
All the while, Derrow has said he’s been wanting to run at the jamborees, especially since he has memories as a kid watching the shows on TNN, something that this writer can relate to. The history of these events is what made him want to be a part of them.
Finally, the opportunity has come. Someone can, and likely will, say they “lose to Bad News” on the tour this year.
Derrow, his dad (also his crew chief), and girlfriend, Ashley, are all excited to finally run on the tour. Unfortunately, the Bad News team will only be able to run two of the three events on tour. But, that means that Derrow will push this truck harder, and make a bigger impact since he will have less opportunities to do so.
There are two guarantees, however, that will come when Derrow takes to the track. The first: no driver should think he’s an easy opponent in racing, because he will surprise the opposition. The second: Derrow will put that truck on the wheelie bar every chance he has, because Bad News loves to freestyle, and specializes in the wheelstand.
We are just over two months away from the opening event of the season, and many fans are ready and eager to get back to what is normally their spring or summer vacation spots. Many are also hoping that the beginning of the tour avoids the havoc that Mother Nature has seemed to dish out for what seems to be every year since 2015. The sad part, Mother Nature is unpredictable, and seems to not care what day it is, nor what events take place.
In any case, the 2019 General Tire Monster Truck Thunder Drags will still take place, rain or shine. Tickets will soon be available online, so visit 4WheelJamboree.com to get all the event info, along with ordering those tickets. Schedule of events will be posted prior to each show, letting all fans know exactly when their favorite event will take place.
2019 4-Wheel Jamboree Events
June 7-9: O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Ohio Nationals-Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH | See Details >
July 12-14: A&A Auto Stores 4-Wheel Jamboree Summer Nationals-Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA | See Details >
September 20-22: O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Fall Nationals-Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, IN | See Details >