Stakes Have Been Raised For Young Guns Shootout

By Scott Douglass
Feb 12, 2013

Appropriately for an event coming to Las Vegas, the stakes have been raised big time for the 2nd annual Young Guns ShootoutSM, where some of the rising stars in Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam® get what may turn into the opportunity of their blossoming careers next month on Double Down Friday at Advance Auto Parts World FinalsSM XIV presented by NGK Spark Plugs.

Not only has the field grown by an additional 50% in year two of this amazing opportunity for the sport’s rising stars on the biggest stage, but the top prize has been magnified as well. Expanding from 8 trucks in 2012’s inaugural event to 12 Young Guns in 2013, this year the Young Guns Shootout winner will advance immediately into the “Big Show”. What an incredible opportunity this will be. As soon as the Young Guns Shootout Champion hoists the trophy into the air to celebrate the Championship Round Racing victory that driver will strap right back into his or her truck as the 28th and final truck earning the honor of competing for both the World Racing Championship and the World Freestyle Championship this year, that Monster Jam® truck will leave the floor after winning the racing finale and get into its spot to qualify for the largest World Finals racing bracket ever.

Last year’s addition of the Young Guns Shootout to the Vegas experience for competitors and fans alike was another incredible element added to the biggest annual extravaganza in Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam. Already in year two it will be an even grander event and as soon as the 12 teams were invited to the event last weekend with the release of the line-up at monsterjam.com another jolt of excitement entered the sport in a year where fans are already enjoying the greatest action and most interactive experiences with their heroes that we’ve ever seen. The Young Guns Shootout was the talk of the industry across the board last weekend at Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam events throughout North America.

Again I have to stress what an incredible opportunity this is. Take Dustin Brown as an example. Here is a rookie driver who has dreamed of being a Monster Jam superstar for years. One year ago he was on hand at Sam Boyd Stadium in a consulting position to ease the transition for Dennis Anderson’s Grave Digger ® team, ready to move away from his celebrated duties as the Crew Chief of that team to fulfill his desire to drive his own 10,000 pound machine. Now here it is one year later and after impressing everyone in the sport with his racing and freestyle performances to date in Wolverine, Brown is included in this year’s Young Guns Shootout. I can imagine that he is already visualizing what it will be like if he can win his way through this tough field, bask in the glow of being the Young Guns Shootout Champion and then, here in his debut season, competing against the best in the business for the chance to win an Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Championship. I used Brown as an example, but there are 11 other budding superstars who I’m sure are having those same dreams, and one of them is about six weeks away from those dreams having the chance to become reality.

Last weekend I got the chance to talk with Young Guns Shootout invitee Joe Sylvester, and to say that the Bad Habit driver is pumped up to be in this year’s Young Guns Shootout would be a massive understatement. The eight drivers who competed in this event last year were honored. The 12 selected this year are honored as well. But you cannot understate the magnitude of the decision to reserve the 28th spot in the World Finals line-up for the Young Guns Shootout winner. The electricity running through the participants and the fans is already in evidence, and I can only imagine the fever pitch excitement that will permeate Double Down Friday when the light goes green on the 2012 Young Guns Shootout.
Personally I’m already keeping a close eye on each and every performance of the chosen dozen and preparing to rate this field, as we did last year, by posting the odds in advance of the Young Guns Shootout here at monsterjam.com. Along with keeping an eye on the won-loss racing sheet and especially noting which Young Guns are having success against likely World Finals competitors one of the toughest things to be able to predict will be who handles the immense pressure of this, their biggest chance ever as a Monster Jam truck driver, with the necessary calm and skill to tame both the most treacherous race track in the sport as well as this line-up of hungry young Monster Jam pilots. That is pretty much impossible to predict, since even those who competed in this event last year and are back this year (El Toro Loco’s® Becky McDonough, Titan’s Donald Epidendio, Razin’ Kane’s J. R. McNeal, and Ironman’sTM Morgan Kane) are racing into uncharted territory: the guarantee that if they win the Young Guns bracket they will have earned their way into Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals XIV presented by NGK Spark Plugs. Handling the pressure of that opportunity, in that spotlight, on that stage, will be critical. The mental aspect of this competition figure to be every bit as intriguing as the race by race progression toward the ultimate victory.

Heading into the Young Guns Shootout, let’s clarify the criteria for earning a bid into this event. While last year’s first event of its kind event was limited to drivers in their first or second year of Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam competition, the decision to expand the 2013 Young Guns Shootout roster included modifications to that part of the consideration process as well. Beginning this year to be considered for the Young Guns Shootout a driver has to be “young” to the World Finals so that a Daron Basl, who has several years of Monster Jam experience, deservedly qualifies for the event this year in the new Nitro Hornet Monster Jam truck based on the fact that he has never competed in the World Finals before. It is a great idea that not only expands the pool of potential Young Guns invitees each year, but also incentivizes even further so many drivers who continue to try to up their game year after year but have not yet earned a bid to battle in the World Championships. Now more rising stars than ever will get the chance to step further up the ladder and have the chance to compete in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Last year I noted that the creation of the Young Guns Shootout made having a ticket to the Friday Double Down festivities more valuable than ever. The expansion of not only the field size but the reward to the winner by Monster Jam has made the Double Down ticket even more of a must have for the sport’s most enthusiastic fans. There is still time to plan the ultimate family Monster Jam vacation in Las Vegas and tickets to the World Finals and Double Down are still available at this point, but they are going fast and you know that come race week they will be sold out. So now is the time to click on the World Finals button from the main page at monsterjam.com and get your tickets and all the other info you need to create your own ultimate Monster Jam experience in Las Vegas for your entire family.

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