THE SCOTTY AWARDS
Apr 28, 2004
With a few weeks to reflect on the sensational, just completed 2004 winter USHRA Monster Jam season it's time for my annual tribute to the season's best with the unveiling of the 2004 "ScottyAwards". As has been the case in recent years, there have been so many incredible highlights and memorable races and freestyles this season that theawards will be presented in this space in two parts. So, let's get on with the first half of this year's honorees:
TEAM OF THE YEAR - RACING
Winner: TEAM GRAVE DIGGER - Dennis Anderson finally claiming the World Championship in racing at the World Finals in Las Vegas is the main reason Team Grave Digger takes the racing honors, but not the only reason. Anderson had his most successful season ever racing in the major events, with the new Grave Digger 19 winning several events before Vegas. The rest of the Digger team held up its end too, most notably Gary Porter beating Tom Meents in Maximum Destruction during the racing finals at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The entire team of Digger pilots has been outstanding this season.
Runner-up: 2EXTREME RACING - This Kansas based team was great all year, and not just the Bounty Hunter. Jimmy Creten was one of the toughest to beat week in and week out on the circuit in 2004, and Dawn Creten in Scarlet Bandit improved drastically. Jimmy gave his wife the best equipment she's ever had, and Dawn responded with her most successful racing campaign ever, highlighted by her breakthrough victory against a star-studded line-up at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Not only are they great racing and freestyle monsters, but those two Ford Expeditions are beautiful trucks just to look at.
TEAM OF THE YEAR - FREESTYLE
Winner: TEAM MEENTS- Week in and week out Tom Meents and Neil Elliot hopped in their Maximum Destruction trucks and electrified sold out domes and stadiums all over the country. Meents capped the season off winning the co-championship in freestyle at the World Finals, while Elliot, in the Hot Wheels truck, may have turned in the most obviously underscored performance in Vegas, and that is saying something. Speaking of Hot Wheels, Phil Foster was sensational in that truck and in High Roller despite this being his first winter of major stadium competition. Rob Knell, mostly in the team's Bulldozer truck, also showed that the "Tom Meents School of Monster Trucks" is turning out some of the most exciting talent in the business today.
Runner-up: EL TORO LOCO/MADUSA - All that really needs to be said here is that these teammates each claimed a share of the World Championship. Both had the best years of their careers in terms of freestyle accomplishments, and figure to be major players for the world title for years to come.
DRIVER OF THE YEAR - RACING
Winner: DENNIS ANDERSON - It seems crazy to say, but in 2004, after more than 22 years behind the wheel of the world's most popular truck, Dennis Anderson had the best racing season of his career. Many thought that Anderson, at least in racing, was on his way down as so many new young guns have brought unprecedented parity into the sport. WRONG! The new Grave Digger 19 fit Anderson perfectly. He was scary fast the first time the truck rolled onto the track and he got even better in his new machine week after week. And look out - Anderson still expects his team to make the truck even better in 2005, and the icon shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Runner-up: JIMMY CRETEN - Creten did not get the racing championship he so desperately desires again this year, but the Bounty Hunter was still superb and tough to beat on the big tracks. Creten won a pair of late season Speed Channel events (in Jacksonville and Detroit) overcoming a sluggish start to the season, and despite coming up short in Vegas don't forget that he was the one of the fastest qualifiers at Sam Boyd Stadium and made it to the final four of the World Finals for the third straight time, a feat that only he and Meents have accomplished.
DRIVER OF THE YEAR - FREESTYLE
Winner: MADUSA - All you have to do to see why she gets the nod here is look at the results: major event freestyle wins (with Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction in the field both times) in San Francisco and Jacksonville, followed up by earning a share of the World Championship. I've felt this way for the last few years; Madusa is simply one of the best in the business. With her accomplishments in 2004 I don't see how anyone can deny that Madusa is among the handful of elite drivers capable of winning anytime and anywhere in a USHRA Monster Jam freestyle competition.
Runner-up: TOM MEENTS - Meents had some struggles this year, but almost every time those struggles were equipment related. With Meents, just because the equipment isn't 100% doesn't mean he isn't. On more than one occasion Meents drove a broken truck into freestyle and just refused to quit, amazing the fans and even his fellow competitors. Unless the truck just can't run at all the fans will always get the maximum effort from Maximum Destruction. It seems clear that had he not had to deal with the restrictions of the truck's breakage at the World Finals, keeping him from getting his signature "sic air" he would have been unbeatable in Vegas and probably would have taken the title outright.
UPSET OF THE YEAR
Winner: REPTOID, Citrus Bowl, Orlando - Maybe the most popular win of the year for "old school" monster truck fans. Reptoid has always been a truck you could count for a solid effort but rarely was a threat to win events in the domes and stadiums that make up the major winter events. On this miserable night in Orlando, though, Jack summoned all of his experience to handle the cold, steady rain and swamp like track conditions to win the racing event. It was no flue either. He dominated that night, taking heads up wins over Grave Digger, Maximum Destruction, and Gunslinger to earn his first walk onto the winner's stage at a major USHRA event.
Runner-up: BLACKSMITH, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas -Pablo Huffaker recorded one of the biggest wins of his stellar career in the semi-finals at Vegas when he beat former three-time champion Meents in Maximum Destruction. Blacksmith's poor qualifying run seeded Huffaker 12th in the 16 truck field, but after early round wins over Power Forward and Blue Thunder he was able to beat the fastest qualifier (Maximum Destruction) n the semis and join Scott Hartsock (Gunslinger, 2003) as the only drivers to enjoy a heads up victory over Meents on the Sam Boyd course.
CRASH OF THE YEAR
Winner: MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION, RCA Dome, Indianapolis - One of the year's biggest WOW moments. With the crowd on its feet for the much-anticipated final race showdown between Meents in Maximum Destruction and Gary Porter in Grave Digger, Tom gave it everything he had to overcome a deficit off of the final turn. His final launch was not enough to catch Porter, but it did send him into a wild, flipping, crash (that included a pirouette on the nose for good measure). Meents landed hard but was unhurt, and the Indy fans not only got to see a classic final race, but also the season's most spectacular crash.
Runner-up: GRAVE DIGGER, Reliant Stadium, Houston - When Grave Digger 19 was unveiled in Houston, the truck was fast. After watching the debut performance in Houston, we called it "scary fast". At that time many wondered if the truck was just so fast that Anderson wouldn't be able to control it. As the year went on he found out how to harness this monster and drive it to the World Championship, but on this January night in Houston Anderson was unable to tame this beast and ended up crashing into the wall. HARD! Like with Meents in Indy, everyone breathed a sigh of relief to see Anderson emerge from the truck unhurt.
That fills the space for this week. Next week it's ScottyAwards Part II, with more categories including Freestyle Performance of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Driver, Best New Truck, Rollover of the Year, and Save of the Year.