New Competitors Spice up Field For World Finals
By Scott Douglass
Mar 16, 2012

As Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam® fans from all over the world head to Las Vegas for the ultimate thrill, being a part of the sport’s greatest event, the largest number of monster trucks ever to convene at the same locale are also making the haul over interstate highways from all across the country for the biggest and most anticipated trip in the 13 year history of Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals presented by NGK Spark Plugs. In all some 80 of those amazing 10,000 pounds machines will be on display throughout Double Down Friday, Saturday’s massive Party in the Pits, and then of course 24 of them will roar inside of Sam Boyd Stadium to battle for two world championships, and another eight will compete in the first ever Young Guns Shootout.

While a majority of the field competing for the World Racing Championship and the World Freestyle Championship has been here before, including some of the most popular monster trucks in the sport’s history, piloted by the greatest drivers of all-time, this year’s line-up of the 24 elite also will feature several first-time trucks along with the return of a couple of names that the massive crowd will be delighted to see returning to the grandest monster event ever created. Along with the new names on the roster it is always exciting to see what some of the returning teams have planned to make it a special trip to Vegas. Fans of Team Scream always look forward to what new paint scheme reigning World Freestyle Champion Jim Koehler will cook up for his 1957 Chevy Avenger, and every fan is anticipating what Team Grave Digger has in mind for the 30th Anniversary celebration of the most popular team in the sport.

Looking at the new trucks ready to go for the gold in Vegas this year some of the biggest buzz surrounds Metal Mulisha. Thirteen time X-games medalist Brian Deegan, one of the true legends of extreme motorsports, has already brought with him a huge new fan base as “The General” entered the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam world to begin 2012. The fact that Deegan himself has already competed at several major stadium events on the circuit this year has crated even more euphoria among Metal Mulisha fans everywhere, and now the truck comes to Las Vegas and will be one of the busiest pieces in action. Both talented Metal Mulisha drivers will pilot the truck this year at Sam Boyd Stadium: Deegan’s top “Monster Lieutenant”, Todd LeDuc, figures to be one of the favorites on Double Down Friday in the Young Guns Shootout. Then The General will marshal his forces to compete himself for the very first time in the championship throw downs on Saturday.

With fans coming from every Canadian province to Las Vegas this year something special awaits our friends from north of the border: their own truck in the competition for the first time. Northern Nightmare , the Canadian based machine that has been burning up this year’s Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour, will be entered with the goal of taking a monster World Championship back to Canada for the first time. You have to like Northern Nightmare’s chances, especially in freestyle, with Calgary, Alberta, native Cam McQueen powering the awesome machine in this competition. Remember it was McQueen, who now makes his home in British Columbia, who just one year ago successfully landed the first back flip in a scored World Finals competition and McQueen set a record, becoming the only competitor in the 12 year history of this event to freestyle first, put up the top score, and stay in the hot seat as the leader throughout the remainder of the competition, watching as none of the other 23 trucks could top the score he opened the judging with. Losing out on the world title by a tie-breaker has McQueen even more motivated this year and his home country’s inspiration figures to make Northern Nightmare’s Las Vegas debut one to watch.

Captain America is another brand new piece that was rolled out for the first time at the start of this year that will be on the floor of Sam Boyd Stadium this time around with World Finals veteran Chad Fortune in the cockpit. It has been awesome to see how popular this truck is when fans see it for the first time. The truck is a big hit in pit parties and always gets some of the biggest cheers from the fans, even before the competition starts. That should hold true in Vegas for sure. Fortune himself seems to have been inspired by his new digs like never before. The veteran is coming to this event off of his best winter season ever and last year was arguably Fortune’s best in his many years piloting Superman here, so Captain America is another looking for big things this time in the desert.

Although the truck made its debut in last year’s encore and left maybe the biggest memories of all from Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals XII, Son-uva Digger will be in the competition this year for the first time as Ryan Anderson attempts to join his father and brother as a World Champion. Even though “Vegas rookies” are at a tremendous disadvantage in this competition because of the unique course, the sheer level of the other talent in these battles, as well as having to compete for the first time in the sport’s most pressure packed events, Ryan and his awesome looking machine are not your average first timers at the World Finals. If you haven’t already done so be sure to check the “Morning Line Odds” for this year’s event on monsterjam.com and you’ll see that even though Son-uva Digger competes here for the first time, Ryan and his team are the favorites to win the World Freestyle Championship based on the amazing encore here in 2011 and the fact that Son-uva Digger has been the winningest freestyle truck on the circuit at major stadium events over the past 12 months.

Along with the trucks that will perform at Monster Jam World Finals XIII for the first time here a pair of very popular names are back on the side of World Finals trucks after not being in this competition for several years, Wolverine and Team Hot Wheels. Wolverine was the first monster truck ever to win the World Racing Championship that was not driven by Tom Meents, and now the 2003 racing championship body style is back in 2012. With one of the top drivers in the game at the controls, Alex Blackwell, Wolverine has grabbed plenty of victories throughout the first three months of this year and figures to provide plenty of thrills on the Marvel Comics themed truck’s return into the world title contests. While Wolverine looks similar to the piece that roared to the championship at Monster Jam World Finals IV, Mattel’s Hot Wheels sponsored truck sport’s an entirely new look on its return to Las Vegas. Team Hot Wheels rolls into Nevada as a top contender for both World Championships, that outfit being reunited with arguably the most talented driver who hasn’t taken home a World Championship – yet – Neil Elliott. The incredible new look for Team Hot Wheels has been thrilling fans all year, and for Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals XIII presented by NGK Spark Plugs the team has Elliott back behind the wheel. Neil took the earlier version of the Hot Wheels piece into the racing semifinals here in the past and came very close to winning the World Freestyle Championship to boot. This time Elliott hops into Team Hot Wheels off of his greatest season ever, a year that saw him win the first two stadium Double Down trophies of his career driving Maximum Destruction.

While some of the most familiar body styles and paint schemes in the history of the sport will be back in action again this year, expect the large number of new pieces and the return of some all-time favorites to generate some of the biggest excitement at the Double Down and at Saturday’s Party in the Pits, and you can also expect some of these “newcomers” to the World Finals to have a major impact on the final results in this year’s quest for the World Racing Championship and the World Freestyle Championship.