SCOTTY AWARDS: Part 2
May 19, 2004
This week it's part two of my annual review of the top performances from the just completed USHRA winter Monster Jam season which I call the "ScottyAwards". Last time we honored the best in these categories: Racing Team of the Year (Grave Digger), Freestyle Team of the Year (Team Meents), Driver of the Year: Racing (Dennis Anderson), Driver of the Year: Freestyle (Madusa), Upset of the Year (Jim Jack in Reptoid, Orlando), and Crash of the Year (Meents, Maximum Destruction in Indianapolis). I've got several more areas of excellence to honor, so let's get on with the 5th annual "ScottyAwards, Part 2":
FREESTYLE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Winner: TOM MEENTS, MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION, Reliant Stadium, Houston, and Pontiac Silverdome, Detroit - Meents had some ups and downs in 2004, but for the most part he was back on top of his freestyle game as these two efforts indicated. His 2004 debut in Houston was blistering, earning a perfect 30 to beat a Vegas-style, star-studded 16-truck field. The run in Detroit was almost a World Finals preview, as Meents refused to let breakage keep him from filling the time with amazing action. After smashing through a camper that ripped off a front wheel, the six-time World Champion refused to quit and used the entire clock with one of his best efforts ever. It's amazing, but Tom gets more out of a broken truck than some drivers are able to get out of their machines when everything is perfect.
Runner-up: DENNIS ANDERSON, GRAVE DIGGER, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa - It was clear from day one that the new Grave Digger 19 is Dennis' best piece ever. It's a machine that lets the icon perform on the ragged edge in every element of his freestyles, and never was that more evident than in front of another capacity crowd in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. Anderson was incredible, destroying everything in sight. Great air, tremendous momentum, hitting all obstacles multiple times and then ending the run with a gyroscopic set of donuts that ended with the 1956 panel van flipping over wildly as the run concluded.
Runner-up: JIM KOEHLER, AVENGER, RCA Dome, Indianapolis - This performance receives accolades for excellence, but also for its response to pressure. Tired of hearing some question his 2003 World Championship as a one-night wonder, Koehler absolutely cut loose in Indy to defeat Maximum Destruction, Grave Digger, and the rest of this stellar field straight-up with no excuses. On this night, as it was in Vegas in 2003, Koehler was simply the cream of the crop.
RISING STAR AWARD
Winner: MARK SCHROEDER, DEVASTATOR - Schroeder has been a force over the past year or so on the Thunder Nationals circuit, but when he got the chance to take on the big boys on the big stadium tour he really burst on to the scene. His blistering freestyle in front of over 67,000 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome just missed the cut in the above listed "Freestyle Performance of the Year" category. And as strong as that run was, he fired up the crowd even more with one of the most exciting, emotion packed interviews to the live crowd and on the Speed TV cameras that we saw all year. Big things are ahead for Mark Schroeder. Although his current Devastator is a hot looking ride, it wouldn't surprise me if a team with major corporate sponsorship tries to talk Mark into parking the Devastator for a while to jump into one of the sport's high profile machines.
Runner-up: PHIL FOSTER, HOT WHEELS -As I've said on Speed, if Neil Elliot is the Valedictorian of the "Tom Meents School of Monster Trucks", then Foster is the Salutatorian. He has raced and freestyled among the best all season, and is right up there with his boss when it comes to getting huge air. Expect Foster to be a major player for years to come, and expect to see him on the winner's stage at a major event soon.
MOST IMPROVED DRIVER
Winner: GUY WOOD, BULLDOZER - Sure Wood has been a headliner in the sport ever since he got into the big bull, but this year Wood made more of an impact behind the wheel than ever before. As many are aware, this has been an extremely difficult year for the Wood family on a personal level, but Guy, Debbie, and the family have shown amazing strength off the track, and Guy has transferred that into his best year on the track as well. Especially in freestyle, where Wood came close several times to winning major events, putting up high scores that kept him in the top two or three several times in '04.
Runner-up: BRUCE HANEY, BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST - Another truck and driver that responded to opportunity this year. Haney represents in many ways the backbone of the sport. The Haney's are a husband and wife team without the big bucks corporate sponsorship, but they take great pride in their operation and Bruce runs his equipment hard every time out. Haney was impressive in recent years on the Thunder Nationals circuit, and they rolled out a hot looking new Bad News in 2004 for the chance to battle for the first time in some major dome and stadium events. It was a major step up and Haney responded with excellent performances and looked stronger each time out. Look for lots more from Bad News in 2005.
BEST NEW TRUCK
Winner: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE - All you can say here is that this truck has been hot from day one. Hot with the fans, especially the kids, who flock to see the hard shell machine up close at pit parties all over the country. And hot one the track, where top level young talent like George Belhan and Paul Cohen have made the Turtle a contender every time out.
Runner-up: DESTROYER - I know the Evans' have been one of the better known teams in the sport for years, so this is not a new truck in that sense. But when Dan Evans rolled out his new look in 2004, wow, did he make an impression. Amid several teams sporting new machines this season the Destroyer stands out as one of the hottest, and Air Man Dan is always a contender wherever he competes.
ROLLOVER OF THE YEAR
Winner: DAWN CRETEN, SCARLET BANDIT, Reliant Stadium, Houston - To be considered in this category the truck had to roll completely over and land back on all four tires. Dawn's breathtaking end over end roll over in her Ford Expedition to start the New Year takes the top spot her. Dawn entered 2004 more confident than ever and with the best equipment she has ever had the opportunity to drive. She showed the huge Texas crowd that she wasn't afraid to use it when she launched the Bandit off of a huge jump, landing on the nose and rolling end over to make it back on all fours. Unfortunately the transmission broke at that point. If she had been able to finish the run this might have ended up as the freestyle performance of the year as well.
Runner-up: MADUSA, MADUSA, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas - This rollover, more than anything else, grabbed Madusa a piece of the World Championship. Always aggressive, and never afraid to try and combo up big moves her spectacular flip, landing back on the wheels had the sold out crowd at the World Finals on its feet and screaming approval. Like with Creten's rollover, there's no telling how high she could have scored if she would have been able to get the truck to refire and finish out the time still on the clock.
SAVE OF THE YEAR
Winner: - NEIL ELLIOT, MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION, Olympic Stadium, Montreal - Elliot may have been his best ever north of the border, and one of the most memorable moments was his save when the truck appeared to have gone past the point of no return. Right after the save he finished the freestyle by launching the truck, nosing down, pirouetting, flipping, landing on all fours, and continuing on. It was an easy 30 for the judges to put up as Elliot grabbed the Canadian victory.
Runner-up: CHRIS BERGERON, BRUTUS, Reliant Stadium, Houston - The big dog was about to land on its head during an outstanding freestyle performance with Bergeron somehow pulling the truck back up after a side surf that seemed like it would last forever. This save simply defied the laws of gravity.
So there you have it, this year's personal picks as the best of the best. I'll say this; it was tougher to decide these categories than ever before. With so many trucks elevating their level week in and week out, and with the sport's elite responding by raising the bar even higher, fans in 2004 are being treated to the most incredible competition the sport has ever seen. Expect even greater performances from even more teams when we start next year's fall and winter major event tour, and look for the most wide open World Finals ever when we hot Vegas in March of 2005.