Son-uva Digger and Hot Wheels Take East Rutherford Monster Jam

East Rutherford Monster Jam 2016

MetLife Stadium once again played host to the stars of Monster Jam this past weekend as 20 Monster Jam trucks were on hand for one of the spring’s biggest events. The star studded field featured some of the biggest names in Monster Jam with a field packed full of heavy hitters. To up the intensity of the event even more, Tom Meents and Max-D looked to set a new personal record and jump over six trucks in a special stunt attempt for the East Rutherford fans. It would be an action packed night, but only two drivers would leave MetLife Stadium with trophies.

The story from the racing portion of the event was absolute domination by Ryan Anderson and the Son-uva Digger team. Anderson set the tone for the weekend early as he put up the fastest time in practice on Friday afternoon by .328 seconds over Zombie’s Bari Musawwir. In qualifying the story was no different as Anderson set a blistering quick time of 23.417 which was .721 seconds faster than Monster Energy’s Damon Bradshaw who was second quick. Third place Dennis Anderson and Grave Digger were the only other pair within a second of Son-uva Digger at 24.353. That pace from Son-uva Digger would not be matched all night as Anderson marched through the bracket, knocking out the VP Racing Fuels Mad Scientist and Zombie on the way to the finals, where he’d face off with Bradshaw and Monster Energy. It would be a surprisingly sloppy pass from Anderson in the final with a couple of bobbles in the turns, including getting the truck over onto two wheels, but Anderson rode the ragged edge to a strong time of 23.668, besting Bradshaw by .73 seconds to take the racing victory. With one trophy already heading back to North Carolina on the night, Anderson shifted his focus to freestyle, where he’d face much tougher competition for the win.

Before freestyle, Meents brought out the Max-D stunt truck, where he would be attempting to jump over six Monster Jam trucks! The crowd of over 50,000 fans at MetLife Stadium were on their feet to witness the spectacle as Meents lined up Max-D and backed up all the way to the wall for the run up to the ramp. After hyping up the crowd from his radio in the cockpit, Meents stood on the throttle and built up as much speed as he could on the short lead up to the ramp. Meents sailed Max-D up the ramp and through the air as some massive pyro blasts went off while the truck was mid-air. They would just barely clear the six trucks as the flag on the back of the truck just grazed Chuck Werner’s El Toro Loco at the end of the line. Max-D slammed into the ground and bounced hard over to the right, but Meents was able to gather up the truck and get it slowed down before the wall in impressive fashion. The crowd was elated and certainly amped up for the start of freestyle after the spectacle from Meents.

Tom Meents - Max-D Stunt - East Rutherford Monster Jam 2016

Stone Crusher - East Rutherford Monster Jam 2016The freestyle competition got off to a strong start early with some solid performances from the first few trucks. Despite steering issues late in their respective runs, Bryan Wright and Hooked as well as BJ Johnson and Gas Monkey Garage put together good runs with some nice air to start things off. Brianna Mahon (filling in for Madusa) had a good run of her own before rolling over at the end of regulation time. The trio of trucks would end up with a score of 20 to start off freestyle. Steve Sims Sr. and Stone Crusher followed that up with a strong run, filling regulation and bonus time to take the early lead at 27. Frank Krmel and the FS1 Cleatus would try to top Sims with a solid performance, but would come up one point short at 26. Chuck Werner and El Toro Loco mounted a charge for the lead with one of the wildest freestyles early in the competition with some big air and good momentum, but a broken front axle would be their downfall as it led to a wild, but early rollover in regulation time. Werner would tie Sims for the early lead, but with the first tiebreaker being the highest bonus score, Sims would retain the lead for the time being.

For the first time in a couple years Jon Zimmer would return to the stadium circuit as he made a special appearance behind the wheel of the Monster Mutt in East Rutherford. It didn’t take long to see why Zimmer was picked to take the reins of the Monster Mutt for this event as he blasted out of the pits and right into a huge jump to start off his freestyle run. Zimmer was on full attack mode with a run packed full of big air jumps across the floor of MetLife Stadium, putting together the strongest regulation performance of any driver to that point. To open up his bonus time, Zimmer dipped into his bag of arena tricks as popped up the nose of the Monster Mutt into a nice sky wheelie, and then walked the truck across the tabletop in the middle of the floor. It was an impressive run from Zimmer, who showed no rust at all in returning to the big stadium floor. With a regulation score of 29 and a bonus of 3, Zimmer would take the freestyle lead with a score of 32.

Monster Mutt - East Rutherford Monster Jam 2016

El Diablo - East Rutherford Monster JamZimmer would face some tough challenges from the next few trucks in the line up. Local star Lee O’Donnell and the VP Racing Fuels Mad Scientist put together a good run of their own before a bad bounce led to a broken 4-link bar and eventual rollover to cut their efforts short. Lupe Soza had some thrills in his run driving El Diablo with some big air in regulation. As he got into bonus time, he lined up for the backflip ramp for the first attempt of the night. Soza would come up a bit short, as El Diablo slammed nose first into the ground, breaking the front tie-rod, but they would get just enough rotation to have the front tires drive out and complete the rotation. From there he would go on to put in two more jumps before calling it quits. It was a good run, but not quite enough to top Zimmer, as Soza scored a 29. Nicole Johnson and Scooby Doo turned some heads with a strong freestyle of her own, stringing together some nice jumps and good momentum throughout regulation. Unfortunately for her, the biggest wow moment from her freestyle came after bonus time, as she made an impressive save after bicycling the truck on two wheels. Linsey Weenk and the Lucas Oil Crusader would put together a strong regulation performance, outscoring Zimmer by one point there, but a broken flange on the right rear of the axle housing just one jump into bonus time would end his run there, as well as his chances of taking the lead. Weenk would come up one point shy with a total score of 31.

The next challenger to Zimmer’s lead would come from Scott Buetow and the Team Hot Wheels Firestorm camp. Buetow would open up his freestyle with some nice air early on in his first few jumps, but didn’t quite have the momentum of Zimmer. Shortly thereafter, Buetow lined up Hot Wheels for the backflip ramp and nailed a clean flip, continuing his run. After a small jump to get across the floor from the backflip ramp, Buetow went big over another jump, but a bad bounce sent the truck over onto the roof. As luck would have it for him, the truck would roll all the way back over onto all fours and Buetow was able to keep going. Just one jump later though, the center of the right rear wheel completely broke and rolled off the axle upon landing at the start of bonus time. The judges were certainly wowed by the regulation performance as Buetow scored high with a 35 but the early breakage in bonus earned only 1 point for a total of 36, which was good enough for the lead.

After Buetow came a bevy of hard chargers and former freestyle champions with the first of that bunch being Monster Jam World Finals XIV Freestyle Champion Todd LeDuc and Metal Mulisha. In typical LeDuc fashion, he was in an all out assault of the freestyle track, opening with several huge jumps and a great flow between moves. LeDuc clearly had the best pace and momentum of any driver in regulation to that point. At the start of bonus time LeDuc made his way to the backflip ramp where he nailed the ramp and stuck a huge backflip. He quickly threw the truck into reverse and continued his run with a pair of huge jumps to finish up bonus time before trying a reverse jump to close out his performance. While it surely looked like it would be a run good enough to take the lead, the regulation judges turned in a surprisingly low total of only 30 with the bonus judge only giving out 2 points for a total of 32. This would leave the rest of the competition wondering just what it would take to top Buetow’s score.

After coming up short of the racing win, Damon Bradshaw and Monster Energy were looking for some redemption with a freestyle win. As Bradshaw often does, he came out firing with big jumps right away. The momentum from Bradshaw bested LeDuc as he went from jump to jump quicker than anyone else. The only downside to Bradshaw’s regulation performance would be that he would have to back up twice to keep from hitting some of his fellow competitors trucks in the pits. In bonus time Bradshaw went huge with a jump from the corner of the large freestyle pad to the downside of the take off jump Meents used in his stunt earlier, before wrapping up his bonus time with another huge jump. It was a very impressive run from Bradshaw that might’ve been good enough to win on most nights, but on this night the judges weren’t as rewarding. The regulation score would be a 32 with a bonus of 3 for a total of 35 to put Monster Energy in 2nd place.

The next to try and top Buetow would be Dennis Anderson and the Grave Digger. Anderson went big right out of the gate, but it looked like it might bite him right away as the rear wheels tripped the truck over into an end-over-end rollover. Luckily for Anderson the truck carried just enough momentum to get back over into a wheelie and eventually onto all four tires. After a small jump following the wild endo Anderson found a good groove with some nice jumps and a solid flow to his freestyle, but not quite as well as the likes of Bradshaw and LeDuc. In his final regulation jump Anderson took an awkard bounce which pitched the Grave Digger over to the left and onto two wheels. He quickly flicked the rear steer and brought the truck back down, but then the front wheels clipped the edge of a jump on the tabletop which sent the truck over onto the right wheels before they clipped another jump which sent the truck over onto the left wheels again. With the right combination of throttle, brakes and steering Anderson was able to bring the truck back onto all four’s once again right in front of Buetow and the judges at the start of bonus time. As a safety precaution Anderson was shut off with the RII as he got close to the wall protection but he was quickly given the signal to refire and continue. Bonus time would see four more jumps from Anderson and Grave Digger as well as a bit of a rare sight as they would drive back to the pits under their own power. With some big wow factors in regulation time like Buetow the attention then shifted to the judges to see if they would be more rewarding to Anderson than they were to LeDuc and Bradshaw. In a bit of a surprise the judges would only score Anderson with a 32 while the bonus judge would give the Grave Digger a bonus of 3 for a total of 35 to tie Monster Energy.

With only two trucks remaining it was anyone’s guess as to how to top Buetow and Hot Wheels in the judges’ eyes. The final two performers though have a reputation for pulling off the unthinkable, with Tom Meents and Ryan Anderson left to hit the track. Meents got himself off to a bit of a tame start by his standards, but after a few jumps quickly got into his usual flurry of big air. On this night though luck wouldn’t be on his side with the rear steering giving him trouble halfway through regulation and then a broken right front axle locked up that wheel. That wouldn’t stop Meents as he battled a battered truck as best he could before eventually rolling over after hooking a bad rut that tossed the truck over onto the roof. It would be a disappointing early finish for Meents but a solid performance considering the circumstances. Meents and Max-D would earn a score of 25 for their efforts.

As the final competitor to hit the floor Ryan Anderson and Son-uva Digger had plenty of room on the scoresheet to work with to try and get the Double Down trophy, but what would it take to impress the judges enough for them to score higher than what they gave to Buetow? Anderson would leave nothing on the table in his performance as he came out of the pits with a frenzied pace and huge air like no one else before him. Despite taking several hard hits and side slaps Son-uva Digger kept rolling with the punches into bonus time where Anderson got even wilder. His first jump in bonus time was worked into a slap wheelie which he proceeded to ride into the tabletop. As the rear wheels hit it tossed the truck up onto the nose and Anderson stabbed the throttle to try and pull out of a rollover. They would run out of space on the tabletop which sent the truck into a cartwheel but back onto all fours. Amazingly the truck seemed unscathed aside from body damage and Anderson went right into another jump. Once again he would work the landing into a slap wheelie, this time riding it out a little too hard and laying the truck onto its side. The left tires gave just enough bounce though and Anderson would once again drive out of another rollover to finish bonus time! They weren’t done there as Anderson continued until he rolled the truck over onto its side and was unable to save it this time. The focus then shifted to the judges as everyone awaited the result. The judges dropped a stunner on everyone with a regulation score of only 29 with one judge giving out a 6! Despite getting the highest bonus score of the night with a 4 it wouldn’t be enough to knock off Buetow as Anderson’s total score would be 33 which was good enough for 4th place overall.

It was certainly an interesting night at MetLife Stadium after all was said and done. The fans certainly saw plenty of action and thrills but the ended with a bit of controversy from the judges. Perhaps this opens up some debate on how judges should be picked and score freestyle in the future. While freestyle judging is always subjective, it’s not often you see an instance where you could make strong cases for at least four drivers that could’ve won the competition over the eventual winner. If anything though, this may have just stoked the competitive fire for all of these drivers the next time they all meet together again at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on June 17. Let us know your thoughts on the freestyle scoring in the comments below or on our social media accounts. Also be sure to check out our photo gallery from the event here. Our next stop takes us to Virginia Beach for a fun weekend at the oceanfront for Monsters On The Beach.

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