When I was speaking to Jeremy Slifko of the Backdraft team this past week, he told me something very interesting that made me think about freestyle–“Sometimes, to run like the best, you’ve gotta crash like the best.” What Jeremy meant was not, “I have to wreck my truck to win,” because that’s never what he or most teams are about. The point Jeremy brings up is the risk-taking mentality of monster truck freestyle that is a necessity in order to get a win, particularly on the larger stages in the sport.
I find this particularly interesting because I always enjoy seeing a good save as opposed to a nasty wreck in freestyle, but the line between the two is becoming more and more blurry. Even independents like Slifko are forced to walk that tightrope every week if they want to win, and on a limited budget. In Detroit, for example, Slifko didn’t let a blown tire stop him, continuing to rocket all over the track and earning a top-five finish in freestyle (see above), but there were a couple moments in that freestyle that could have been disastrous. Slifko is one of the best in the business, and everyone here at AllMonster has been touting his exploits on our Beyond the Lens podcast for awhile now. Without a doubt, a bigger budget affords more chances taken. It’s interesting to consider Slifko’s point in context–what would happen if an independent such as himself was driving, for example, a Grinder truck for a weekend? That doesn’t mean that any particular “group” of drivers over- or under-achieves with the budget they’re given, but the fact remains regardless–if you want to step onto the winners’ stage at an event, you’d better be a dice-roller.
The point can even be illustrated on a week-to-week basis. Chad Fortune has been turning heads with his racing in Captain America so far this year, but his freestyle in Atlanta really surprised me. There were risks taken and potentially disastrous moments recovered from with driver input, and I like to see that. And let’s be honest–a lot of times, luck does play a factor in any run. Tampa, however, was a different story. Fortune got caught in a bad situation after a big wheelie and rolled over early, but the risk had to be taken if he was to get a win that night.
Speaking of risk-takers, how about Tom Meents in Maximum Destruction? He has been his usual aggressive self on his tour stops and for the most part, his equipment has followed suit, allowing him to put down a fantastic run in Detroit. Combine that with Neil Elliott’s outstanding run in Tampa, and team Maximum Destruction had a pretty successful weekend. They are in a different budget bracket than the Slifkos of the world, but Elliott especially stands out to me as someone that puts it on the edge and brings it back intact regularly. I loved watching him attack everything in Tampa and end up on all fours.
I would be remiss if I didn’t end this week’s column with a couple of nods to drivers that I saw continue great starts this week–Adam Anderson and Lee O’Donnell. The focus (deservedly so) has been on Ryan Anderson’s four freestyle wins in a row in Sun-Uva Digger, but Adam had great runs in Atlanta and Minneapolis for televised shows, then followed it up with a Double Down in Tampa, showing no ill effects of a foot injury suffered the week before. O’Donnell has been winning all over the place, most recently in Milwaukee. This is shaping up to be his best season behind the wheel. Parity in the sport has never been higher, and with more drivers taking risks, regardless of budget, it’s shaping up to be a year where a lot of drivers run like the best.
This week, I’m off to Orlando, Florida to take in more of the famous “I Love Florida Tour.” Thanks for reading!