“Five Teams to Watch-First Quarter 2009”-December 31, 2008
Welcome back, everyone! We have some big things planned for 2009 here at AllMonster, and before I get started, I would like to thank each and every person that has checked out the site over the years; it’s been a joy, and we are here because of you!
As the industry heads into the first quarter of 2009, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight some teams I have noticed over the past months as a way of previewing the coming season. What follows is a list of teams to keep an eye on for 2009, with the condition that these may not be the “obvious” choices.In other words, these are a few teams that may fly under the headlines at times, but are poised for breakout years, or in some cases, even bigger years than usual. I wish I could preview themall, but that’s simply too long a list! In no particular order,
here they are:
Parry, Robert Haught)
Domination-Charlie Pauken (Grave Digger) and Frank Krmel (Donkey Kong)-Pauken and Krmel both head into 2009 with fresh chassis at their disposal (Pauken was given the refreshed former Batman chassis, while Krmel receives a “Cohen” chassis from the Grave Digger shop). In addition, they have the returning Crewman of the Year, Erik Schweikhard, and have recently added former Air Force/Taz crewman Scooby Wells to their team. They also stayed fresh during the summer, with multiple shows both stateside and in Europe. Krmel had a nice winning streak racing in Europe as well as some of the biggest air a monster truck has seen in Arnhem, Holland (View
it by clicking here). Pauken is simply one of the best freestylers in the game, and he already has a show from November under his belt with his new chassis. With two top mechanics and top-notch equipment, in addition to a schedule that includes stops in Anaheim and St. Louis, Team Domination is poised for another great season—this time, with more television cameras following them before Las Vegas. Website-http://www.monsterjamonline.com
(photos-Robert Haught first three, Wrecking
Crew photo-Josh Rhodes)
–Team Scream-Jim Koehler (Avenger), Chris Bergeron (Brutus), Steve Koehler (Wrecking Crew), and Rich Hilgendorf (Spike)-I see nothing but big things in this team’s future, especially on Koehler and Bergeron’s end. Both have brand new equipment, and Bergeron in particular has taken to his RaceSource chassis immediately. He has picked up several racing victories over the summer and seems to enjoy having a new piece under him. Koehler’s piece had some shock issues to smooth out at the beginning, but his team has been hard at work improving his ride, and I expect him to push the truck’s limits as usual. The thing that has impressed me most with Koehler and Avenger is that even with the adjustment to the new chassis and shock issues (watch the truck’s rebound in the video), Koehler just took home a big freestyle victory in Minneapolis with this run:
They have an aggressive schedule for first quarter to match their driving styles. They will be joined by Steve Koehler and Rich Hilgendorf. Steve Koehler is nothing if not aggressive on the track, particularly in freestyle, and he is also one of the best mechanics in the business. Hilgendorf also knows his way around the trucks, and although his chassis has been put through its paces by Bergeron before him, he was the only truck of the four not to break in a Joliet show that included several smart racing passes and a solid freestyle. Expanding the number of trucks in the fleet is always a test to the team, but I believe that Team Scream can make it work. Website-http://www.avengerracing.com
-Team Slifko-Andy Slifko (Eradicator) and Jeremy Slifko (Backdraft)-Team Slifko is truly a family affair with the addition of Jeremy behind the wheel of Backdraft full-time this year. The truck will be debuting a body with a blast from the past for first quarter; keep an eye on the Eradicator site for more on that. Jeremy has shown nothing but promise behind the wheel in his summer shows, racing well and keeping plenty of momentum in freestyle. He is not afraid to push the truck, and with a top-heavy schedule that includes stops in Atlanta , Toronto , and Indianapolis , the team will get plenty of exposure. Andy is no stranger to that exposure, and he isn’t afraid to push Eradicator to and over its limits either. I see this being an especially potent team freestyle-wise, one that can push the “big guns” at the shows mentioned above. Website-http://www.eradicator4x4.com-Team Slifko-Andy Slifko (Eradicator) and Jeremy Slifko (Backdraft)-Team Slifko is truly a family affair with the addition of Jeremy behind the wheel of Backdraft full-time this year. The truck will be debuting a body with a blast from the past for first quarter; keep an eye on the Eradicator site for more on that. Jeremy has shown nothing but promise behind the wheel in his summer shows, racing well and keeping plenty of momentum in freestyle. He is not afraid to push the truck, and with a top-heavy schedule that includes stops in Atlanta , Toronto , and Indianapolis , the team will get plenty of exposure. Andy is no stranger to that exposure, and he isn’t afraid to push Eradicator to and over its limits either. I see this being an especially potent team freestyle-wise, one that can push the “big guns” at the shows mentioned above. Website-http://www.eradicator4x4.com
-Hall Brothers Racing-Mark Hall (Raminator) and Geremie Dishman (Rammunition)-This is the first year that Hall Brothers Racing is lined up for more than a handful of shows with Feld Entertainment, and there are many opportunities for them to shine on big arena floors. Hall is one of the best racers in the game, and Dishman will surprise a lot of people that have not seen him run before. I would not be surprised to see Hall in the winner’s circle at a stadium racing event this year, and I also see the team being consistent in freestyle. This is a chance for Hall to get a shot at some new competition on a regular basis, and I see him running with that chance.
-Monster Trucks Unlimited-Steve Sims (Stone Crusher) and Rickey Ownley (Mopar Magic)-Monster Trucks Unlimited won the “Team of the Year” award at the Monster Jam awards banquet in March, and for good reason. Sims is a rising star, and Ownley had several fantastic freestyles during the season as well. Both trucks are well taken care of, as former Grave Digger crew chief Tommy Powers handles the wrenches, in addition to many members of Sims’ family, among others. After his first appearance in the Monster Jam World Finals last year, Sims is looking at several televised shows to further his exposure this year. It is rare to see him finish a freestyle run before his allotted time is over, and that will benefit him greatly in that portion of competition. Ownley returns to the seat after a summer hiatus, and he showed great promise, especially in freestyles in Atlanta and Jacksonville. With a schedule that has a lot of big-exposure shows on it, I look for the team to continue their rise toward greatness in the sport.
Some of the great group we have at AllMonster decided to throw in their picks as well, and they follow:
Chris Kaelin: (all photos
by Kaelin unless otherwise noted)
–Team Scream-Both Jim and Chris have new machines for this year, and both have already found success with them. I’m a little unsure as to how Steve and Rich will do, but I expect big things from Team Scream.
–2Xtreme Racing-A lot of changes at 2Xtreme this year, with Dawn Creten taking some time off, Kreg Christenson leaving to drive Maximum Destruction, and most importantly, long-time sponsor CSK Auto Parts leaving the team. I look forward to seeing how former crew member and part-time driver Darren Migues does behind the wheel of the second Bounty Hunter. I will also be interested in up-and-comer Joe Miller in Iron Outlaw, who has previously worked with Mitch Tulachka of Get-Er-Done. Joe has driven Outlaw at several events out west and looked very impressive.
–Hall Bros. Racing-A lot of you may be asking why I’m picking Hall Brothers Racing, and the answer is quite broad. Mark Hall and Raminator can win on nearly any track he races at, whether it be a small arena or a stadium turning course. I was really looking forward to seeing his results last year at the Superdome after he beat Marc McDonald early on, but he was unable to continue due to breakage. The same can be said for Geremie Dishman and Rammunition, as he is proving quite the racer also. Freestyle-wise, I think they should be fairly competitive as well. With a full first quarter with Feld Entertainment (including several stadium shows), I would not be surprised at all to see a Ram in Vegas.
–Meents Racing-Plenty of change this year for Meents Racing, as Neil Elliott has left the team, and replacing him in the second Maximum Destruction is Kreg Christiensen, who drove for 2Xtreme last year. I think this is going to be a good deal for all involved, but I think it may take a few events for Kreg to get the hang of the Willman chassis. I also look for Chuck Warner to really have a breakout year; he’s been performing very well for the past few years, and I think he’ll elevate his game. As for Tom Meents, the man is a threat to win anywhere he goes, and I look for the Grave Digger-Max D rivalry to intensify even more this year.
[photos-Robert Haught (Air Force), Andrew
–Team Air Force/Taz-Damon Bradshaw and Adam Anderson. Perhaps the quickest rise to stardom in Monster Trucks the past few years is Damon Bradshaw in Air Force Afterburner. Like so many motocross racers before him, Damon has found near instant success in other forms of motorsports. His rookie season in 2007 provides an example, with his fiery freestyle win in Jacksonville . Damon’s just as good in racing, and I expect him to win at least one TV event this year. Defending World Finals Freestyle Champion, Adam Anderson in Taz definitely came into his own last year. His fearless driving style has brought him a great deal of success. Combine that with the Paul Cohen-designed chassis and the unique suspension of Taz, and you have a truck/driver combination that is one of the best in the business. Adam’s a guarantee for several stadium freestyle wins, but I also see him getting a few big racing wins this year as he gets an even better handle on his truck.
Josh Rhodes: (all photos from Rhodes unless stated otherwise)
-Hall Brothers Racing
-Monster Trucks Unlimited (Mopar Magic photo-Robert Haught)
-War Wizard Racing (Randy Moore)
Dustin Hart: (all photos by Hart unless stated otherwise)
-Monster Trucks Unlimited
-Team 2Xtreme (photo-Josh Rhodes)
-Hall Brothers Racing
Aaron Cromer of Anger
Management wanted to weigh in with his thoughts as well:
-Joe Sylvester-Bad Habit
-Kreg Christenson in Max D
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Team Meents and Team 2Xtreme as well, each for the same reason—personnel changes. Each team has newcomers to big-time seats for the new season, and those teams should have eyes trained on them throughout the year also. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to read your comments about the site and column! E-mail me at RHaught@allmonster.com.