Fans come from all around the globe to take in the experience of what for 15 years has become the ultimate go-to Monster Jam event of the year. In 2000, the first World Finals was held involving 16 trucks, and has since then grown not only in volume, but in competition.
This year, the event has expanded from a one-day show to now a 3-day extravaganza, as last night it was Double Down night for qualifying. It was then that Dennis Anderson put his Grave Digger in the pole position in a field of now 32 trucks competing for the biggest trophy of the entire season when it comes to head-to-head competition.
The fastest track of the season nearly claimed one victim one night ago as Donald Epidendio had the throttle hang wide open in the qualifying round, and even with a full load on the brakes to try and slow down, the Titan Chevrolet slammed head-on into the dumpster barrier. Epidendio was checked out by medical staff and was cleared to compete. However, his truck was not. Severe damage to the front axle and steering knuckles prevented the new Titan chassis that debuted a year ago to compete.
However, during the Friday pit party, noise could be heard from inside Sam Boyd Stadium. Epidendio was testing out another chassis, which would turn out to be the one of Mohawk Warrior driver B.J. Johnson. He got comfortable after a few passes, and would in fact race on this night.
With a near capacity crowd ready for a 32-race showdown, the event got under way.
It would make for a long night, and would include some carnage. Pablo Huffaker in Wolverine barely edged Overkill Evolution driven by 2014 Young Guns Shootout winner Mike Vaters Jr, but had to be towed off the track. After getting repairs done, Huffaker would roll the truck in his second round race, damaging the body but the chassis was still in good shape.
Unfortunately, he would fall in the third round, meaning that his team would then go to work repairing the body and truck for Saturday night.
The final four teams that would go after the chance to win the title would be Anderson in Grave Digger, his son Adam Anderson in Grave Digger the Legend, Tom Meents trying to win his third title in four years with Max-D, and also Lee O'Donnell in Ironman.
In the first matchup, it was the Andersons going at it, the second time in the last two years a father would face the son in a race. On this night, it was the son taking the win, as Adam would make it to his second championship race in as many years, hoping to go back-to-back.
The second semi-final, however, sparked a lot of controversy.
O'Donnell and Meents were both strong off the line and down the straightaway. Then suddenly, Meents lost power, and O'Donnell flew to the finish, taking the win and going to the final round for the first time in Las Vegas. Or will he?
Officials found that the remote ignition switch that will shut off the trucks with just a press of a button was accidentally hit on Meents, and the same officials conferred deciding to run the race over. In the rematch, Meents would have the advantage, and he would take out O'Donnell, setting up a matchup of last year's semi-final round race that ended Meents' streak of winning 11-straight rounds of competition in Vegas. Meanwhile, O'Donnell was livid at officials for deciding to run the race over again, especially considering last year so much trouble came from the RII being tripped. But, his arguments were moot, and it was a Max-D vs. Legend final.
Anderson took the right lane, while Meents would handle the left in what has become a fierce battle between the Anderson boys and the Max-D team. Off the line, both trucks went hard, and each handled the chicane with ease. But, the straghtaway spelled doom for one driver.
Off all things, Meents swung too wide exiting Thunder Alley, clipping the long quintuple jump that track crews built for freestyle leading into the weekend. The truck came to an abrupt halt, while Anderson took the corner with ease and would cruise to a rather easy victory, taking home the second consecutive racing victory for him and his truck. The big win would be the first for Anderson on his new chassis, which he debuted in January, and his third overall title, joining his dad and Meents as the only drivers to have three or more World Finals victories on their resume.
As an added bonus, to end the night the previous night's Young Guns Shootout competitors all came out to give the fans yet another encore of donuts, while Anderson stood tall on the main hill in the center of the track. To complete the night, at the far end once again trucks lined up for yet another round of stunts. This time, it was the Europe-based Thor and Hulk trucks, while the second Ironman also made it to the track. At cue, all three would nail backflips on the wall of dumpsters, ending the second night of the World Finals with a bang.
Now, only one night of action remains. Teams are already hard at work getting repairs done for the final night of competition, while also making changes for a new track. Dirt crews are already looking at plans of how to change the track for the final night of competition.
One final trophy is up for grabs, and all 32 trucks will be ready to go after the World Freestyle championship. New track, new hardware, and lots of carnage will follow. For live results from tomorrow night's action, follow Monster Jam on Twitter (@MonsterJam) and come right back here for the final results on Saturday night.