February 2, 2013
Saturday 7 p.m.: Iron Man
Saturday 7 p.m.: Max -D
Monster Jam® Trucks: Grave Digger® driven by Pablo Huffaker, El Toro Loco® driven by Ryan Huffaker, Max-D℠ driven by Tom Meents, Advance Auto Parts Grinder℠ driven by Frank Krmel, Metal Mulisha driven by Todd Leduc, Batman™ driven by Norm Miller, Mohawk Warrior® driven by George Balhan, Monster Mutt® Dalmatian driven by Taryn Laskey, Iron Man™ driven by Lee O'Donnell, The Rod Ryan Show driven by Rod Ryan, Nitro Hornet driven by Daron Basl, Fiesta King Krunch driven by David Smith, Big Kahuna driven by Shane England, Brutus driven by Chris Bergeron, Mega Bite driven by Brad Allen and Zombie℠ driven by Sean Duhon!!
Saturday 7 p.m.
There is no doubt that a capacity crowd can serve as a great incentive to pull out the best in performances. The proof came at Reliant Stadium in Houston when no one was content to do good or good enough. The crowd required the best a Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam truck driver could offer and many obliged.
The day’s events opened with an Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam Party in the Pits that spilled beyond the stadium floor into the adjacent parking lot, which housed two Monster Jam trucks and the resurrected Grave Digger Experience. Inside, 14 trucks were joined by Quad Wars and Texas Legends and a whole lot more to give the fans plenty to see and do.
When showtime rolled around, the crowd cheered as the trucks returned for competition. First on the agenda was Monster Jam Qualifying with the race against the clock setting the bracket for upcoming Monster Jam Racing competition. Drivers were faced with the So-Cal Style race course, making a re-appearance in Houston after a few years’ absence. Many drivers were familiar with the course, but had to be careful to hit their marks throughout the run, hoping to gain back lost ground on the track’s miniature Thunder Alley straightaway. Some drivers opted for slower times, but more consistent runs. Lee O’Donnell in Iron Man showed his expertise in the layout, posting a 22.88 second run in early competition. Monster Jam truck drivers tried to foist a position at the top by being faster, but it took a dozen tries before anyone could trip the timer at a quicker pace. That driver happened to be Pablo Huffaker, whose Grave Digger lowered the mark to 22.41. With just a few Monster Jam trucks remaining, only one could threaten. George Balhan in Mohawk Warrior had already won a stadium show in January running the course and he came close to claiming the top qualifier mark. Balhan’s time of 22.60 was a little less than two-tenths short of the targeted time.
During qualifying, Big Kahuna broke off a wheel on the final jump and was towed to the pits. Mega Bite finished a disappointing run with apparent engine issues and retired to the pit area, scratched for racing.
With a 14-truck bracket now in play, one driver would be able to return for round two despite a round one loss under the “fast loser” provision. Fast qualifier Grave Digger opened the competition by defeating Zombie. Advance Auto Parts Grinder got the best of Monster Mutt Dalmatian while Max D would claim a win over Batman. Other round one racing saw Iron Man take out The Rod Ryan Show and Brutus bypassed El Toro Loco, who broke at the finish. Despite a smoking engine, Metal Mulisha prevailed over Fiesta King Krunch and Mohawk Warrior waltzed past Nitro Hornet.
Zombie ended up making a return visit to the field based on his lap time in the first round. Before Zombie could pull to the line, three other races had to be settled. Grave Digger continued supremacy by topping Mohawk Warrior, who was nearly late to the line after dealing with mechanical issues. Max D thundered past Advance Auto Parts Grinder, Iron Man cruised to a win over Brutus and Zombie fell for the second round, this time at the hands of Metal Mulisha.
As semi-finals came to their position, the four remaining trucks were chomping at the bit to win their next two races and earn free Jumbo Jacks from Jack in the Box for their section of the grandstand. Max D met up with Grave Digger in a classic clash with Max D taking they win. Iron Man ran steady to claim the victory over Metal Mulisha. When the UTI Monster Jam Championship Round came up, the crowd was rocking. The trucks took off on an even pace as they left the tabletop. They were even approaching the first obstacle when Max D flipped, returning to its wheels and resuming the race, now well behind. In a classic “never say never” situation, Tom Meents drove hard, but couldn’t catch Lee O’Donnell who claimed his first stadium racing title of the year. O’Donnell had been scheduled to attend all Houston shows in 2013 and he told the crowd the third time was the charm. The only driver in position to double down, O’Donnell received his UTI Championship trophy from Mark Harston of UTI and, with the sponsor’s blessing, hauled the trophy to a lucky fan as a new Iron Man fan gained a cherished souvenir.
As the crowd settled in after a brief intermission, the action picked right up where it left off. Local radio personality Rod Ryan, a fixture at Houston Monster Jams, had stepped up his game to compete in both racing and freestyle. Ryan would get the chance to go first and, with the direction of drivers Paul Cohen and Dan Evans, pulled out with an agenda and a solid run to open the competition with a score of 13. The next two trucks, Batman and El Toro Loco, took over with El Toro Loco severing both back wheels in a big jump. Mega Bite rebounded from engine problems and gained the lead until another canine came charging. Monster Mutt Dalmatian lost her tail covering and then snapped off the limb during Service is Our Best Part Freestyle. The effort brought a 21 and a new leader. Iron Man went big in the quest for the double down and ended up tied with Monster Mutt Dalmatian. Mohawk Warrior edged out the duo by a single point, moving the top score to 22. George Balhan dedicated his run to the memory of Texas athlete Caleb Moore who passed away earlier in the week from snow sport injuries in Winter X Games competition. No one could move Mohawk Warrior until Metal Mulisha hit the floor. With pieces flying and the run ending with a rollover before the completion of regulation time, driver Todd LeDuc could not count on bonus points, but didn’t need them to score a 22. Advance Auto Parts Grinder went in search of big air and variety of tricks that included some hair-raising saves and earned a score of 27. Grave Digger attempted to pull from the pit stall, but truck problems prevented a freestyle run, leaving only Max D to challenge Advance Auto Parts Grinder. Celebrating a decade of Destruction near the place where Maximum Destruction was born, Tom Meents proved to truly be a man on a mission with a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping series of tricks that seemed to never end…until the engine let go. The run earned a total of 29 and Tom Meents had his first stadium freestyle in a triumphant return to Houston.
Team USA took the win over Team Mexico in Quad Wars racing.
Monster Jam Racing
Qualifying – Fast Qualifier – Grave Digger 22.41
Mohawk Warrior – 22.60
Iron Man – 22.88
Max D – 23.59
Advance Auto Parts Grinder – 23.79
El Toro Loco – 24.41
Metal Mulisha – 24.72
Fiesta King Krunch – 25.25
Brutus – 27.19
Monster Mutt Dalmatian – 27.25
Batman – 27.28
The Rod Ryan Show – 27.47
Big Kahuna – 27.55
Zombie – 28.69
Mega Bite – 31.22
Nitro Hornet – 32.81
Round One – Grave Digger def. Zombie, Advance Auto Parts Grinder def. Monster Mutt Dalmatian, Max D def. Batman, Iron Man def. The Rod Ryan Show, Brutus def. El Toro Loco, Metal Mulisha def. Fiesta King Krunch, Mohawk Warrior def. Nitro Hornet (Did not compete – Mega Bite, Big Kahuna)
Round Two – Grave Digger def. Mohawk Warrior, Max D def. Advance Auto Parts Grinder, Iron Man def. Brutus, Metal Mulisha def. Zombie (Zombie returned as fast loser of round one)
Semi-finals – Max D def. Grave Digger, Iron Man def. Metal Mulisha
UTI Monster Jam Championship Round – Iron Man def. Max D
Service is Our Best Part Freestyle
Max D – 9-8-9-3 = 29
Advance Auto Parts Grinder – 8-8-8-3 = 27
Metal Mulisha – 7-7-8 = 22
Mohawk Warrior – 7-6-7-2 = 22
Iron Man – 7-6-6-2 = 21
Monster Mutt Dalmatian – 6-7-6-2 = 21
Brutus – 6-6-6-2 = 20
Zombie – 6-6-6-2 = 20
Mega Bite – 5-5-5-2 = 17
Fiesta King Krunch – 5-5-6-1 = 17
Batman – 5-5-5-1 = 16
El Toro Loco – 6-5-5 = 16
Nitro Hornet – 4-5-5-1 = 15
The Rod Ryan Show – 4-4-4-1 = 13
Did not compete: Grave Digger, Big Kahuna
By Larry Jewett