Summer is coming, but before the heat comes in, there are still a few things that many are wanting to do during the spring season. May has been a wet month for most of the country, including the northeast areas of Ohio. What that normally means is that more rain is expected, specifically during one weekend a year.
As always, when Bonnier Corporation comes rolling into town to host their annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree showcase at the Allen County Fairgrounds in the town of Lima, it seemed as though Mother Nature circled the dates on the calendar. Three of the last four years have seen tremendous downpours, making the infield a quagmire of mud, slop, water and sometimes ice depending on the area. Many fans were thinking it would be more of the same, even after the dates were moves ahead after the 2017 season.
However, even Mother Nature decided it was time for a break, and the fans that came out on Friday were welcomed with something that has not been seen much…THE SUN. It was an absolutely picturesque opening day, and many fans were already clamoring to get a look at the monster field that were going after the General Tire Thunder Drags championships.
Five of the six trucks were familiar, with either a new look or a bit of a swap. Last year’s champions were all represented. The Hall Brothers brought back their General Tire sponsored truck, with Kurt Kraehmer again at the wheel. But, the co-champion from racing, the Raminator, was instead piloted by the second-in-line from the HBR camp, Mat Dishman, who competed here last year in the Rammunition machine.
Sharing that racing championship was the original team, the Bigfoot camp, and Christian Norman was back at the wheel of the #18 chassis with the Lucas Oil machine. But, his truck took on both a new look, with a subtle ode to the past.
Gone was the golden look, and instead returning was the red, white and blue colors that ran on the truck dating back to 2014. Yet, the painters at the shop decided to deck out the 2019 Ford Raptor with a very subtle hint to a past champion from the Foot organization. The scheme took a very honorable ode to the 1993 scheme that Hall of Fame driver Andy Brass piloted when he was at the wheel of the then-new Bigfoot #11. That truck wasn’t blue, but instead carried a teal, white and yellow scheme that represented many new innovations to the truck, which for the jamboree tour was named Wildfoot.
Even Norman got in on the fun, using Instagram to say he was “Rocking a WILD looking FOOT in Lima.” It seemed to fit, because many caught on and decided to call it the “Lucas Oil Wildfoot,” and it seemed to stick.
The veteran of the field, Mike Vaters, returned with his Black Stallion, and was joined by his son and defending freestyle champion on the tour, Mikey Vaters, in the Overkill Evolution Super Duty, ready to tear up the infield. But, the sixth truck in the field was a true newcomer to the tour, but he already had a solid reputation coming in, and was not laying down for anyone.
The lone Chevrolet in the field, Brandon Derrow finally got to fulfill a dream he had as a kid, running the jamboree tour, and he was doing so in Bad News Travels Fast.
Just as classic as some of the trucks have been for the jamboree tour, once again the WHR Motorsports crew put forth an excellent Penda-style track to race on, meaning reaction time, control, and horsepower were going to be key. Along with that, the entire infield had a few tough obstacles to use for freestyle, including the jumps for the tough trucks, the turning tires, but also a wheelie/popper bump on the frontstretch made with loader tires, and a pair of tall, almost 10-foot quad jumps that could be hit from all sides that could lead to wheelstands and sky jumps. Not one car was set up for use, meaning the track would hold up to the abuse that was coming.
After enjoying the sun the entire day, the crowd came to the grandstands and saw the field of trucks roll out, and all were ready for competition to start not just the weekend, but the entire season.
Round one had the strong matchups that were expected, thanks to the draw for positions, but it had one upset as in his first race on the tour, Derrow hooked up strong and moved into the second round, taking out Vaters Jr.
Dishman and Norman moved on, with Vaters Jr. getting the nod as fast loser, but it was Dishman who made the big move as he took the Raminator to the finals after eliminating Derrow. Norman fell out after a close loss to Vaters Jr, setting up a matchup that took place three different times last year, Raminator against Overkill Evolution.
Both trucks hooked up hard, especially since Vaters Jr. had a scare when the truck wouldn’t fire up in the pits. But each kept it close, coming to the final jump even. But the near lane with Dishman seemed to hook up better, and the Goodyear cleats he was running proved it, as he edged out the Super Duty for the opening win of the season, something he has done two years in a row and hopes will lead to more.
Round 1: Raminator def. Black Stallion; Bad News Travels Fast def. Overkill Evolution; Lucas Oil Bigfoot def. General Tire.
Semi-Finals: Raminator def. Bad News Travels Fast; Overkill Evolution-FL def. Lucas Oil Bigfoot.
Championship: Raminator def. Overkill Evolution.
After racing, the tough trucks got in a few qualifying rounds, as they were setting up their elimination bracket to take place on Sunday afternoon. But, the crowd then got a surprise, that not even the photographers expected that were standing along the fence line. For the first time ever at the jamborees, the crowd was getting a chance to decide a winner, as they were going to determine the first-ever winner of the General Tire Best Trick competition.
Each truck got two hits to try and impress the crowd, and it seemed in the beginning, wheelies and donuts were going to be the way to go.
Derrow seemed to think that as he tried to get the Bad News Chevrolet to hook up a pair of times, but only managed to get the wheels up to about a 50-degree angle. It was Dishman that seemed to then stand the crowd up on its feet, pulling off a bar-dragging wheelie and a very fast set of cyclones to put him in the lead.
But then, Vaters Jr. hit the track.
What he did was decide it was time to up the game, and he lined up at the backside of the final racing jump, and crawled to put the wheels on the edge. A burp of the throttle brought the rear wheels up, and the grille to the ground, and right away grabbed reverse to walk the truck backwards in a perfectly executed popper-stoppie-moonwalk. He did it once, then twice, almost putting the truck on it’s side, but the crowd certainly seemed to enjoy it, as he handily took home the first-ever jamboree trick competition.
Once the infield got cleared out of all the crews and officials, it was time to close out the evening with freestyle, and the crowd was in for a treat.
The newcomer came out in mid-pack, and Derrow finally got to show what his seasoned chassis was capable of. Despite not being able to do so in the trick competition, he finally managed to get the Chevrolet Silverado to drag the wheelie bar across the dirt, not just on the front stretch, but also thanks to a huge rebound from the quad jump in turn three that allowed the grandstands to see the underside of the truck. It was evident he was ready to play on this day, putting down a run that gave him the early lead.
Norman then came out and got to show his wild side in Bigfoot, and he put on a run that was one of the best he had on the outdoor tour. It included a pair of launches over each quad plateau, but after finally getting the shocks set up where he was comfortable, he pulled a pair of bar-dragging wheel-stands down the front stretch that dug up the dirt and gravel.
The crowd saluted the man at the wheel of Bigfoot, or as he was hinting, “Wildfoot,” and left it up to Vaters Jr. and Dishman to top him.
The Overkill Evolution crew saw the nose of the truck get torn up a bit after the trick competition, so when it came to freestyle, he was missing the front clip, or “dog house” as the late Gary Lee always said, but he still came out and made a decent run, yet it seemed to be a performance where he was saving his equipment for the next day, as he rolled back to the pits seemingly unsatisfied. Then, it was up to Dishman to see if he could double up on the night.
He had a strong run going, including a strong set of donuts and another wheelstand, but he had to tone it down as during one of his late hits, a wheeze of air could be heard from the truck. It was discovered when his run ended, the left rear tire appeared to get dirt caught between the tire and the rim, causing air to slowly come out. Although these tires are only inflated at 10-15 psi, a low tire, just like in a passenger vehicle, can cause it to handle differently.
A strong run by the HBR racing winner was not enough, and the fans plus officials agreed that it was Norman making the crowd react the best, as he took home his first win of 2019.
Day one for Lima has ended, but day two is filled with an enormous amount of activities, including a pair of appearances by Captain America. But, the monsters have a pair of events to satisfy the fans, starting with a 1:30 p.m. racing, trick, and freestyle program. Then at 6:30 p.m. the crowd will get to enjoy a freestyle-only night to close the festivities.
Tickets can still be bought at the gate, so get out and see for yourself what these drivers can do.
POINT STANDINGS (1 of 9 Events)-Wins in Brackets
Raminator – 160 
Overkill Evolution – 120
Lucas Oil Bigfoot – 80
Bad News Travels Fast – 80
General Tire – 40
Black Stallion – 40
Best Trick: Overkill Evolution - 1
Freestyle: Lucas Oil Bigfoot - 1