The final weekend of Monster Jam's winter tour before the World Finals usually means a last chance for the drivers to gain momentum heading into the big show. It's one last run before spending time preparing the machines for what is always one of the biggest and most costly events of the year.
The second weekend of March marked the final stop for big stadiums for the tour prior to Las Vegas, with this venue being in Syracuse, NY, the home of the Syracuse Orange football team.
No bigger names were in attendance than those of Dennis Anderson and Tom Meents, who each have experienced strong seasons up to this point.
Meents was driving on this night with a heavy heart. One of his best fans, Alex Faulkner, a young 9-year-old, who had been battling illness since early in life, lost his battle a few days earlier. In an effort to honor his little fan and his family, Meents had Alex's name put on the truck right under his, telling his family he's going to go for the wildest ride of his life.
From the moment the first round of racing began, it was evident that Meents was the one that others were going to have to beat.
Max-D would defeat Bad Habit to open the night, then went through the new Zombie machine to make the semi-finals. Meents would go through Frank Krmel in the Advance Auto Parts Grinder to make it to the championship, where he would take on Todd Leduc in Metal Mulisha.
The two intense racers would make it a final to remember, but on this night Meents simply would not be denied.
Meents would go on and tell the fans that the would take the racing trophy back home to the Glen Elementary School in his hometown of Paxton, Illinois, and putting it right on the grave of Alex, that way he can know he really was a champion.
But now, the focus shifted back to the track, as freestyle was up next on the slate. On this night, the biggest blow to majority of the trucks was the loss of wheels.
As the field began winding down, it was a battle once again between Meents and Anderson, with Meents holding the lead, and possible Double Down in Syracuse, with just Anderson to go in the line-up.
What the leader of Team Grave Digger would then do on this night would be nothing short of jaw dropping, and mystical.
Anderson kept the momentum strong, and his iconic throttle rhythm through the entire run kept the truck on the wheels. He went through his opening 90 seconds with great launches, and great tail whips to kick up the dirt.
But then, he pulled off something never done by him before, and likely never again.
With just seconds left in bonus time, Anderson launched his Digger off one of the launch stacks, and twisted in the air. Anderson landed on the back of the truck after doing a complete spin in the air, but the truck caught the end of one ramp, hit the nose, and came back down on all four tires.
With the fans still roaring their approval, Anderson saw his truck was still running, so in an effort to keep things at a fever pitch, he roared the truck back to his run, pulling off some donuts, and one final launch before the pyro went off as Anderson pulled the truck by the winner's stage.
There would be no doubt on this night that Anderson would be victorious, and possibly had a run to contend for freestyle of the year.
The major stadium events are officially over for the first quarter of action, a many of the contenders for the World Finals have a week off to prepare for the biggest, fastest, and most challenging course on the circuit.
Already, 27 drivers have their ticket punched for Sam Boyd Stadium, with another 12 competing in the Young Guns Shootout to be the final truck in the show. It's an event unlike any other that Monster Jam puts on each season, and it's just under two weeks away.
For all the information about this year's World Finals, visit MonsterJam.com
This week I will give my own predictions on who to watch in each category of this year's World Finals, including the Young Guns Shootout, racing, freestyle, and my prediction for the encore performance.