Moline's Hi-Tech Results: The Fans Won
By Scott Douglass
May 1, 2012

 With all due respect to Tom Meents, who dominated two nights of Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam® competition last weekend in Moline, IL, by powering Maximum Destruction® to seven of the eight possible victories, the biggest winners there were all of the fans who turned out to be a part of the most interactive events to date and who were there to witness some of the most amazing on track action ever seen in an arena anywhere.

So much of what happened in that Mississippi River town last weekend showed again why Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam fans are more a part of the sport than any other and how special the relationships are between the people who buy the tickets and the athletes who spend so much time with those fans one-on-one while also delivering unparalleled thrills on the track itself. Exhibit One in making this case started well away from the building where the action took place. You see, Meents had a few free minutes Saturday morning between the events. So instead of relaxing at the hotel pool or grabbing a fishing pole to enjoy the morning, Meents decided to go for a short drive. He was aware that a huge fan of his and of the sport lived close by and he decided to just drop in and say “Hi”. We can only imagine the look that was on nine-year-old Austin Dahlgren’s face when he opened the door to see his hero standing on his front porch, coming over just to hang out with him. I’m told the kid played it cool, with a big smile just nonchalontly saying “Hi Tom” and with that he got to show off his huge collection of Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam memorabilia to the ten-time World Champion in person. You can read the entire first-hand account of that experience from that family’s perspective in the news section here on the home page at monsterjam.com by clicking on the story titled “An Unbelievable Day That Was A Dream Come True”.

Meents’ visit to the Dahlgren’s home just added emphasis to what a special weekend it was for the sport’s fans all across the Quad Cities area. With the events at the i Wireless Center being the only ones scheduled in the sport for that weekend it became a perfect opportunity to test several new ideas and hi-tech programs and the goal of each experiment was to take the already incredible fan experience at Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam events and make that experience even more special for every fan in attendance. Certainly the most talked about addition to the Moline events was the first time ever opportunity for every fan to have their vote counted in scoring freestyle as the fans text scores were exclusively used to determine the freestyle winner both nights. The new scoring idea was very popular with a large number of those in attendance taking advantage of this chance to score every freestyle performance and while the crowd was a little generous with the scores sometimes it was totally in their hands and the bottom line is that in my opinion they got the results correct. Maximum Destruction was “on a mission” all weekend long to completely thrill that huge fan base in Meents’ home state and the fans rewarded Max-D with both freestyle victories, and in the opinion of the announcer at the events, the voters were absolutely on the money because the champ earned both of those action packed triumphs.

Not knowing how the scoring would work out until that first freestyle run Friday night was completed by Whit Tarlton and Monster Mutt® it was really cool watching the fans registering their opinions through the text program and then seeing the numbers appear on the jumbo video screen. This incredible interactive program was really easy to use. Once the fans had registered their phone to be able to vote they simply had to text in the keyword of the truck that had just performed along with the score they felt that team deserved between one and ten. The new way to determine the Service Is Our Best Part Freestyle results was not only embraced by the fans who now had the sole power in picking the winner, but the drivers and their teams were also fired-up to give the fans amazing performances designed to get big numbers, and they were not shy about encouraging the fans to put in those high scores. At the Party in the Pits before the Saturday night event fans getting pictures with and autographs from Chad Fortune were staring straight at a not so subtle sign planted right next to his Captain America truck designed to encourage those big scores. Fortune borrowed talented Crew Chief Cole Venard from Adam Anderson’s Legend team for the weekend and Cole showed his talents are more than just being an ace with a wrench in his hand, he’s pretty good with markers in his hand too. Venard made a large sign that said “Text Captain10”, combining that team’s keyword with the top score, and had the sign on display right there for every fan who came through Fortune’s line. The sign may have worked since Captain America did receive a 10 from the fans who scored the freestyle, although it’s more likely that Captain America’s high-flying performance on the track convinced the crowd to go with the top score for him. Then there is Scott Buetow in Iron Man’s way of influencing his fans. After he rocked the house during his Friday night freestyle the Young Gun raced out of his truck straight to the microphone to encourage the fans to get those big numbers in, and Buetow actually reached into his fire suit, pulled out his phone, and texted his own score in right then and there!

One of the things that I wondered about going into this awesome experiment was how many ties there would be since there were only ten numbers available for scoring as opposed to the top score of 30 in regulation time that we are used to at most freestyle competitions. While one Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam official did score silently so that his numbers could be used to break ties it turned out that wasn’t needed. The system not only figured the percentages of the fans scoring, it also kept a running tally of the total number of votes for each score so that even though there was a tie for the win each night Maximum Destruction had far and away the largest number of 10’s cast from the crowd, so that the raw vote total actually determined the winner. Again one of the greatest parts of the weekend was seeing how much so many enjoyed having the power to determine the freestyle winner.

Fans who have ever attended any Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam event live know that there is always the chance to win some awesome prizes just for being in the building. Thanks to incredible sponsors and partners, the giveaways of popular items like t-shirts, Digger Discs, and tickets to upcoming events along with NGK Spark Plug Gift Bags, the new Mattel Hot Wheels Boneyard Bash Set, even Traxxas Radio Control Monster Jam trucks are commonplace at events these days. That was true in Moline as well, but even here the hi-tech interactive innovations were in use. You see our event promoters had created these incredible gift baskets jammed full of Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam merchandise to give away and along with each was a special plastic display case that had a piece of a Grave Digger body mounted inside. The hi-tech aspect of this was the actual giveaway. Rather than pick a seat number out of the ticket stubs or have a driver take the prizes up and select a fan to give them to, in Moline last weekend the winners were in their seats and received a text message that they had won, then the prizes were delivered to them right there at their seats. Another of those special moments in the crowd immediately followed one of those giveaways when the man who won the huge prize basket opened it up and starting handing out the several pieces of merchandise that he had won to young fans that were sitting in his part of the arena. At the end of each night there was still another winner to be selected as one fan at each event received a text message that allowed them to come right to the front of the post-show autograph line. No doubt the use of the new technology made this an event unlike any other before. Throughout the night those in attendance were also able to text messages that went to the video board, and many did just that, posting everything from words of support for their favorite truck to Happy Birthday wishes for a member of their family.

While the reaction to all of these new interactive options for the fans was awesome, there was also lots of positive buzz about the track design, in my opinion the most elaborate and spectacular track that has ever been created in an arena. Even though there are obvious space limitations inside of an arena, thanks to lots of thought and planning, not to mention the expert work of the best track builders in the world, the i Wireless Center floor contained an amazing and challenging set of obstacles that allowed the all-star line-up in those competitions to give fans the biggest thrills Moline has ever seen. Several huge jumps and technical obstacles gave the superstar drivers lots of opportunity to show off their biggest and most exciting moves and the fans roared throughout two nights packed with incredible freestyle after incredible freestyle.

So yes, Maximum Destruction was the big winner on the track, but the fans in those seats in Moline were the biggest winners of all last weekend, enjoying all of these amazing new aspects designed to take the experience for fans at Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam to an even greater level of participation and enjoyment. Going forward it is going to be so exciting to see more incredible additions that will be coming to events in arenas and stadiums all over the world, all designed to keep Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam as the most exciting night of action that there is and to continue to strengthen that special bond between the drivers and their loyal fans, that interaction between the heroes and their fans that makes this sport unlike any other.