Orlando and January in Monster Trucks

tom meents maximum destruction new orleans

Tom Meents continues to wow in Maximum Destruction, and teammates Neil Elliott and Kreg Christensen won this weekend as well. (photo: Jeremy Verret)

The last weekend in January for monster trucks proved every bit as exciting as the promise, with several shows enjoying what I call defining moments–those ones where you’re just happy to be a monster truck fan and realize you’re seeing something special. A lot of these moments were provided by the Maximum Destruction team, with all three drivers–Tom Meents, Neil Elliott, and Kreg Christensen–picking up sweeps on the weekend. Meents has been hammering Maximum Destruction around especially hard this year with his updated chassis, but it was Elliott who I was most impressed with this weekend. On a night where Adam and Dennis Anderson looked ready to win racing, Elliott kept his cool and made his final pass his best one, edging Dennis by .03 to ruin Grave Digger’s Orlando racing win streak (three Orlando events in a row coming into this year). What I noticed is that Elliott races with a unique style. Going into the turns, he uses the rear steer first, then the front steering as a correction. Not every driver does this, but the Meents team makes a habit of it, something Guy Wood referred to in a television interview after taking out Anderson one year. The thrills didn’t end there for Elliott, though.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again–Elliott deserves a spot in the World Finals. I don’t care what truck or what it takes to do it. The fact of the matter is that the man can drive, and drive very well. Orlando was a perfect illustration of that. Yes, some luck is to be had in every freestyle, but Elliott did everything he could and more to keep Maximum Destruction on all fours, pulling off a run for the ages that ranks as “the best freestyle all year” according to many, including Dennis Anderson in his post-race interview. Elliott forced everyone after him to break or roll over trying to outdo him, one of those rare “no doubters” in freestyle. Now that Elliott has a brand new chassis, it’s clear his confidence (and Maximum Destruction) is soaring.

I would be negligent not to mention two more names in discussing Orlando–Steve Sims and Stone Crusher, and Chad Fortune’s Captain America. Sims had a rough start in Orlando, battling battery problems, then went out and had a career-best freestyle run, refusing to quit despite a broken axle suffered in a rollover-save combination and running well past his two minute time period. Sims had Stone Crusher flying all over the Citrus Bowl, with big air, saves, the aforementioned flip save, and more. Crew Chief Tommy Powers and the rest of the Monster Trucks Unlimited team always keep Stone Crusher and Monster Magic in top-notch condition, and the fact that Sims can go out and rock the house is not only a reflection of his development as an elite driver in freestyle, but on the crew the team has as well. Keep an eye on Stone Crusher as the year goes on.

I’ve mentioned Fortune, and I’ll mention him again if he keeps doing what he does in racing. What Fortune is doing in Captain America is winning. Coming into the season, I didn’t know what to expect from Fortune in his new ride after seeing him pilot Superman so long, but he’s answered his critics yet again with another semifinal racing appearance (three in a row at major stadiums, including one finals appearance) to go with his fast qualifier this time. After that, it was another solid freestyle. Fortune is on his game this year.

Eradicator Andy Slifko New Orleans

Andy Slifko has enjoyed a great 2012 in his 15th year behind the wheel of Eradicator. (photo: Jeremy Verret)

Another guy that’s on his game this year and may be flying under the radar is Andy Slifko and Eradicator. Slifko put the truck into the finals of racing in New Orleans after battling back as a fast loser, then let it all hang out in freestyle, catching some nice air and eventually rolling over at the end of his run. Team Slifko has been rocking the house wherever it goes, and there may be a breakout performance from either Backdraft or Eradicator coming in Tampa this weekend.

Tampa is where I’ll be headed again this weekend, with a new racing course and plenty of new trucks to check out. E-mail me at rhaught@allmonster.com with your comments, and thanks for reading!

About Robert Haught

Robert Haught has been a fan of monster trucks since age 3 and now works with them in nearly every capacity possible, from designing web sites to crew work to photography and more. Always available to help any team in the industry; he can be reached at 513-383-9293.

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