Scott Douglass - MJWF XVIII Racing Odds
After giving lots of thought, doing plenty of research, and sifting through a bunch of statistical data, it’s clear that there is no clear cut favorite heading into the 18th edition of Monster Jam’s grandest racing bracket. So, in setting the odds and looking at the numbers to justify how they are ranked here, the top 6 are virtually even, and the next half dozen are close behind any way you want to rate them. So, in determining how to post the final numbers, I will admit to thinking that maybe a little extra motivation among top level contenders who have never won this event and are having great years may give them an edge. But this race bracket will be exciting and is sure to have a bunch of surprises in store.
So, it’s time for me to, for the 18th time, play amateur handicapper and set the odds for the race program coming up at Monster Jam World Finals XVIII. Remember that these odds are presented for “recreational” purposes only:
7 – 5 Max-DTM – Neil Elliott: I’m totally playing a hunch in establishing Elliott as the favorite. A Vegas hunch. Lots of people who travel to Las Vegas once or twice every year can tell you that on a lot of those trips they leave town with a whole lot less in their pocket than they arrived with. But, every now and then, their luck turns and the trip becomes a winning excursion. That’s how I see Elliott. He’s been really fast on the Sam Boyd track but hasn’t had a lick of luck the last couple of years. Two years ago, in a round one win, he put down the fastest lap ever in a MJWF race only to have problems and lose in the second round. Last year was an unfortunate repeat of 2015 when he again turned in the fastest lap ever electronically recorded up to that point on this track in a round one win, but in the second round a broken front steering hydraulic hose ended his night. Elliott is due for some good luck to finally complement his skill, which makes this Max-D the morning line favorite to win the racing title.
9 – 5 Lucas Oil CrusaderTM – Linsey Weenk (FS 1 Championship Series East Champion): After struggling mightily all year in 2016, Weenk bounced back with a vengeance this year, winning the points title on the televised series. Lucas Oil Crusader won the points title based on racing strength, winning the race bracket at 4 of the 6 stops in 2017 on that series. Weenk has come into MJWF in the midst of strong seasons before but never one where he has been this successful leading up to it. This is a team riding high on confidence and is an absolute threat to win the championship.
2 - 1 Grave Digger® – Morgan Kane (2016 Monster Jam World Finals Racing Champion): Expect the defending champion to be a major player again with a legitimate shot at making it back-to-back world racing titles. His surprising route to the championship a year ago began when he was 2nd fastest in qualifying. Two nights later, the Grave Digger driver avoided any mistakes and put together one of the most consistent nights of racing ever seen here, each of his laps clocking in between 15.721 and 16.128 seconds. Speed and consistency, and avoiding mistakes add up to World Championships.
11 - 5 Monster Energy®– Todd Leduc (FS 1 Championship Series West Champion/2015 Monster Jam World Finals Racing Champion): It’s all about the tree for the 2015 winner. That unforgiving tree that contains the starting lights clearly impacted LeDuc’s ability to win a second consecutive racing championship last year. LeDuc had one of his qualifying laps disqualified for jumping the start, then in the final practice right before the start of the race bracket, he red-lighted again. Determined not to get a DQ in racing, he left the start line just a tick late in each race. As fast as he was, the strategy didn’t hurt until the semifinals when he defeated Coty Saucier in Monster Energy but that run cost him lane choice for the Championship Round Race by 19 one-hundredths of a second. In the exciting race for the world title, Kane edged LeDuc by 12 one-hundredths. The point is if LeDuc gave up just two tenths of a second with the delayed starts, that was the difference between a championship and second place. Monster Energy will be blazing fast again, we know that. If LeDuc can nail his starts, he can win it all again, no doubt.
5 - 2 Grave Digger – Adam Anderson (2013 and 2014 Monster Jam World Finals Racing Champion): Fresh off of a down-to-the-wire, pressure-packed battle for the FS1 West Series season point title against Elliott and LeDuc, the Grave Digger driver is likely to have to deal with those two arch nemeses again if he is to win a third MJWF racing crown. Adam ended up third in that points series, but only 3 points separated the big three on that series in the final standings. Anderson’s 3 final round racing wins equaled Elliott’s total as the best on that tour. He doesn’t come into Las Vegas off as dominant of a season as he did a year ago but he’s still a prime time player here and it’s likely that for anyone to win this championship, they’ll have to deal with Adam at some point along the way. His all-time record of 19 wins against 8 losses in rounds of MJWF racing lands him fourth on the all-time wins list here.
3 – 1 Son-uva Digger® – Ryan Anderson (Stadium Tour 3 season points Champion): Once again, Ryan comes to Las Vegas in pursuit of that elusive first Monster Jam World Finals Championship. And, once again, the expectations are high that this will be his year. Son-uva Digger dominated Stadium Tour 3, his four final round race wins matching Weenk for the best stadium total in Monster Jam so far this year. He has made it to the MJWF final four each of the last two years, making the Championship Round Race in 2015 and being eliminated in the semifinals in 2016. Each time he was beaten by the eventual World Racing Champion.
7 – 2 El Toro Loco® – Marc McDonald: Strong in stadiums and with a track record of success at Sam Boyd Stadium, McDonald’s El Toro Loco has to rate highly on this list. McDonald is 6th on the all-time Monster Jam World Finals racing wins list but all of those round wins haven’t netted him the world title yet. He finished in the runner-up spot here in 2013 and is a threat to make a similar run through the bracket this time.
5 -1 Monster Mutt® – Charlie Pauken (Stadium Tour 4 season points Champion): After driving Grave Digger to the points title on this stadium tour, a title he won with a late season flourish, Pauken is back in Monster Mutt for Monster Jam World Finals XVIII. Pauken carries plenty of momentum into the big show. He trailed in the points series all year until his big finish, moving into the points lead for the first time on the final weekend of the tour.
8 – 1 VP Racing Fuels Mad ScientistTM– Lee O’Donnell: While Pauken’s finishing kick gave him that season points title, it was O’Donnell in VP Racing Fuels Mad Scientist who won the most races on that series, taking the trophy 3 times. Another accomplished racer who has had some success in past Monster Jam World Finals racing competitions.
10 - 1 Bounty Hunter – Jim Creten: A fixture at this event since the early years, Creten is 3rd on the all-time Monster Jam World Finals wins list with a round racing record of 28 – 16, and he can move past Dennis Anderson into 2nd place on that historic ledger if he can pick up wins in the first two rounds this year. The driver with more runner-up finishes in this competition than anyone hopes Bounty Hunter has another long Vegas run ready.
12 – 1 Monster Energy – Coty Saucier: Saucier’s first two appearances in Monster Jam World Finals have been extremely impressive. Saucier powered Monster Energy into the semifinals both times. His winning percentage on this track of .750 is third best among the 79 drivers who have raced at least once in the 17 year history of this event. Coty loves the track in Vegas and clearly the next step is to get past the semifinals and into the biggest race of the year.
13 – 1 Max D – Colton Eichelberger: 2017 has been a busy and interesting year for Colton bouncing back and forth between the FS1 Championship Series East series in stadiums and the arena-based Monster Jam Triple Threat East series. He’s the only driver in the sport this year who has won races in both arenas and in a stadium. The son of 11-time World Champion Tom Meents could be a great sleeper pick here, although he’s likely to be more of a threat to win in Saturday’s freestyle competition.
15 – 1 DragonTM – Jon Zimmer: Longtime fans have been buzzing about this one, thrilled to see the talented Zimmer back in the Monster Jam World Finals field. His battle with Pauken and O’Donnell in their three-way showdown that came down to the final freestyle in El Paso to determine the Stadium Tour 4 points champion was epic. It’s already been a good year for this veteran, and he wants to make it a great year with a big, winning weekend in Las Vegas.
16 – 1 FS1 CleatusTM – Colt Stephens: Here is a longshot that bettors would find attractive to throw a few bucks on. Flying the colors of Monster Jam’s television partner this year after disclosing that he was the mysterious Doom’s Day driver previously, Stephens pulled some upsets on the Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series West including shocking that star-studded line-up by winning the race bracket in San Diego, dropping Adam Anderson and Grave Digger in the finals.
17 – 1 Grave Digger – Tyler Menninga (Monster Jam Triple Threat East Champion): This impressive young athlete made his debut in last year’s Double Down Showdown and made a quick name for himself, rolling through round after round and making it to the finals. This year, he joined Team Grave Digger and won the Triple Threat East points championship and an automatic berth into Monster Jam World Finals XVIII. Later, I’ll group the first time competitors here in a field bet with the longest odds, which I always do. Menninga, however, is not your typical Vegas newcomer, thus his odds are considerably shorter.
18 – 1 Gas Monkey GarageTM – BJ Johnson; Johnson’s first racing appearance at this event a year ago got off to a great start as the Gas Monkey Garage truck won its first two match-ups before falling to eventual champ Morgan Kane and Grave Digger. He qualified 10th fastest last year, taking an immediate liking to Sam Boyd Stadium.
20 – 1 ZombieTM – Bari Musawwir: He’s had his share of success at Sam Boyd Stadium, having won the inaugural Double Down Showdown and advancing as far as the semi-final round of Monster Jam World Finals racing in previous years. Musawwir has plenty of experience here and in stadium racing but his workload this year has again been solely in arenas competing on the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series East where he having another outstanding season.
25 – 1 Monster Mutt® Dalmatian – Candice Jolly: Jolly has had another consistent, solid year and all of her schedule in 2017 has been on big stadium tracks which helps here. She also brings eight years of Monster Jam World Finals experience and the coolest fashion show in town back to Las Vegas!
30 – 1 Grave Digger – Randy Brown (Arena Tour 5 season points Champion): Another familiar face that it is great to see back competing here. This Grave Digger team has been used to winning, racking up the victories throughout this season, but all of those have been in arenas. The veteran will be looking to get in some solid practice runs to reacquaint himself with the all the nuances of the sport’s most challenging race course.
32 - 1 Great Clips Mohawk WarriorTM – Bryce Kenny: An impressive first year for this talented newcomer in the Great Clips Mohawk Warrior lands the team in the World Finals. In racing, Kenny is another who will be taking advantage of the expanded practice opportunities provided on Wednesday to get dialed in and look to surprise the MJWF veterans Friday night.
35 – 1 Scooby DooTM – Brianna Mahon: Subbing for Madusa last year in her MJWF debut, Mahon showed that she belongs in this line-up especially with her inaugural freestyle performance which helped set the bar high early in the 2016 competition. She’s a competitive racer and you can expect her to be busy at Wednesday’s practice session looking to get as many laps on that track in Scooby Doo as she can before Friday’s opening round of racing.
40 – 1 Soldier FortuneTM– Chad Fortune: One of the veterans fans love to see back in Las Vegas, Fortune puts on his driving helmet for the 15th time at Monster Jam World Finals. Soldier Fortune has become so popular in a short period of time especially with the active duty military and veterans in attendance, as well as the Wounded Warriors who will be there cheering the military themed truck on.
50 – 1 Avenger – Jim Koehler; Northern Nightmare® – Cam McQueen; Overkill Evolution – Mike Vaters II; Team Hot WheelsTM Firestorm – Scott Buetow: As in the past, we’ll create some “field bets” due to the size of the line-up, and the first one groups the freestyle specialists together. You’d make one wager and get all four of these talented competitors in racing, each of whom figure to be much bigger players in Saturday night’s freestyle.
60 – 1 El Toro Loco – Becky McDonough; MegalodonTM - Justin Sipes (Monster Jam Triple Threat presented by AMSOIL Central Champion); Metal MulishaTM – Matt Buyten; Razin Kane – Buddy Tompkins; Wild Flower – Rosalee Ramer; and the Double Down Showdown Winner: The next field bet groups the remaining first time MJWF competitors. McDonough has raced here the past 5 years on Double Down Thursdays but is in the field of 32 for the first time. Sipes made his time at Monster Jam University pay off, jumping into the brand new Megalodon and running away with the Triple Threat Central presented by AMSOIL points title. Buyten is a multiple-time X games medalist who took over “The General” Brian Deegan’s truck at the start of the year. Tompkins also has some laps under his belt his from racing in last year’s Double Down Showdown. Ramer is the Monster Jam 2016 Rookie of the Year and also competed in the Thursday event a year ago. That’s a lot of talent for one wager, but first time competitors in the big show always get the longest odds.
There you have it – the odds for the entire racing field ready to compete at Monster Jam World Finals XVIII Friday March 24th at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.