Here are my thoughts and analysis from my first full Double Down experience yesterday (minus most of the sunburn)…
Last year was the first time I came out to the show (in a last minute fashion). My plane arrived at 4PM-ish, and we made it to the stadium in time for qualifying. This year I got the best Christmas present a 22 old boy could receive – 2 Monster Jam World Finals Double Down ticket packages for me and my amazing girlfriend. With a couple months in advance, versus 3 weeks in advance, we were able to plan our trip so we could get the whole World Finals experience. The BBQ was delicious, and free drinks included on a scorching hot day were a god-send. If only we got sunscreen too! The track walk was outstanding. It was great to see some of the track crew guys we know and love in the Northeast out here in Vegas doing their thing, but to stand on the track where Monster Jam history is made is a surreal feeling. Its one thing to look at the track from your seat, but it’s a totally different thing standing next to the obstacles, giving you a totally different perspective on the track (which I’ll talk about in a little bit). The whole experience was a pleasure, and one that I won’t soon forget.
So let’s talk about once the Pit Party ended, and the show began…
First off, congrats to Bari Musawwir for winning the young guns shootout in a wild finish! Great job and well deserved!
Todd Leduc is scary fast. I love what he’s doing in that truck and I’m thrilled to see he is driving in the big show, and I can’t wait to see how he’s going to do tonight. Pablo Huffaker is also scary fast, putting down some blistering runs as well. Don’t be surprised to see him charge through the brackets.
Round 1 has some nice races that will definitely be close. For instance: Monster Mutt vs Spiderman. Tingler was fast in practice, but truck issues prevented him from completing a qualifying pass. Two Digger drivers duking it out for a shot against Leduc in round 2 is going to be a dandy. Then on the opposite side you have Lee O’Donnell taking on Candice Jolly. Lee was another guy who was dealt some truck issues, so it’ll be interesting to see that matchup. And finally Captain America vs Wolverine is another matchup I’m looking forward to. Fortune had some rear axle issues it appeared in qualifying, so we’ll see what he can do against Blackwell when (if) that truck is 100%.
Then there are some potentially outstanding races depending on the outcomes from round 1. El Toro Loco vs Maximum Destruction, Grave Digger vs Monster Energy, and Son Uva Digger vs Bounty Hunter stand out in particular to me (if these occur – with each of the 3’s history and driving ability it’s hard to go against any of them in the first round). Marc McDonald knows how to drive that truck and he’s incredibly talented, and also just barely missing the top 8. With only 2 tenths of a second separating McDonald’s and Meents’ top qualifying passes any little bobble or tweek could result in who will be victorious. Dennis was the only driver to break the 17 second time mark in both mandatory runs Thursday night, and the track is getting faster based on times from yesterday. He only had 1 good go at the track yesterday with the truck issues, and I know Dennis wants to have an amazing showing for his 30th anniversary at the World Finals. Bradshaw was fast all night also, putting some steady runs in the mid-to-low 16 second range each pass. And then the heaviest potential matchup in my opinion is that of Ryan Anderson in Son Uva Digger vs Jimmy Creten and Bounty Hunter. Creten has that racing monkey on his back here in Vegas, and he’s looking to get rid of that thing. He’s had a phenomenal year in racing and has always had a historically good percentage of taking wins here in Vegas, but obviously hasn’t been able to capitalize that with a championship. This is Ryan’s first competing performance at the World Finals. He’s incredibly talented, has been on a tear in freestyle this year but he’s also solid in racing. His qualifying pass was very fast, and I think there’s room to improve also. The run that counted as his qualifying time can definitely be bettered. I believe his turn was a little on the slow side, and Ryan can definitely cut that more efficiently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan knocking on Pablo and Todd’s time of 16.201. Again, these races are contingent upon the results of the first round.
Let’s not forget about freestyle though! . There is a nice ratio of jumps that will produce length in jumps, with ramps that will be conducive of sky wheelies. One in particular is the 3-wide jammer stack. The two ends and the back of the jammer are your typical lead up for that style ramp, but the middle section of the jammer set is unique. They lengthened the lead up to the car portion of the jammer and reduced the pitch of the jump as well. This deadly combination will create a “snowboarding-like” style that I believe will result in shockingly big air and distance off the middle section of that obstacle. Also, that box car/semi-trailer monster of a stack is intimidating. That could be the difference in a winning freestyle run of being towed off the track. And can you say “backflip”? Or even easier, can you say “ouch”? The jumps towards the turns are also great, and will produce mixed results with hits on whether the trucks go skyward in a wheelie fashion, big air, or long jumps. It should prove durable and keep everyone on their toes all show long. Finally, I’m wary of the two obstacles in the middle on each side of the track. I wasn’t happy those table tops were there last year, and certainly not happy to see them again this year. They serve no purpose other than to fill up space. They’re momentum killers in my opinion. It prevents a driver from going full boar at a direct approach from either obstacle on either side, because they won’t have enough room to recover themselves after an impressive jump. It will limit the drivers to those type of jumps going into the middle area of the track, which in turn reduces the amount of lead up space to the jump producing a less spectacular jump than one at a direct approach. I’d describe the track as “cluttered” with those obstacles there. Anyone remember Adam’s winning run a few years back? That was a track where you could carry heavy momentum and put on a spectacular performance. Not that there won’t be spectacular performances on this track, but to carry the momentum Adam did in which I believe to be the best run ever in the World Finals will be next to impossible. The drivers will have to get technical with the track to sustain a high level of momentum, while also keeping the truck together, and seriously preplanning a risk-cost analysis on each hit during their run.
As for who to look for in freestyle, that’s a tough call. Nearly anyone in the field can win tonight, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Whoever wins will not only have to have their truck hold together, fill the regulation clock and bonus time, and sustain good momentum, but they’ll have to do it in a style that produces massive jumps, saves, and moves that wow the official Monster Jam judges who we can say have seen a lot of freestyle runs in their lifetime!
The World Finals is a whole different creature. There is no stage in the sport higher than the one built up in Las Vegas and each and every driver needs to bring their A-game and then some if they want to leave a champion tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Please note that all the information used in this article are based off my experience yesterday at the event strictly as a fan enjoying Monster Jam’s biggest weekend all year and also articles from www.monsterjam.com. Monster Jam has been doing a great job keeping those who couldn’t attend this weekend’s event in the loop with the latest and greatest news from the show. The Monster Jam media team that includes Scott Douglas and Brien Genslinger have had great articles, photos, and videos posted on the Monster Jam webpage, along with facebook and twitter that have been keeping everyone informed. I even got a text yesterday from my friend at home in New York telling me “Grave Digger has battery problems” and he got that kind of detailed information off the Monster Jam facebook page. I replied “ I’m here lol”.
Enjoy the show!