When Monster Jam tours over the summer, the amount of shows is not as intense, nor is it as grueling as it is during their big winter season. Fewer shows means drivers often get breaks to test, relax, or enjoy time off. Some even get the opportunity to get used to new trucks or chassis, and spend the time over the summer getting used to the new piece for the next season.
For fans, it's a bit of a down time in the action because once the World Finals in Las Vegas conclude, it's often a long wait for the next big show. Luckily, since 2010, Monster Jam has been able to bring that excitement of Las Vegas to the east coast, with the now very popular "Path of Destruction" tour that hits major stadiums that normally see a lot of NFL action in the winter. In it's debut year, Philadelphia and Cincinnati each got their own debut events, and a year later Baltimore got added to the mix. But no show has been as popular nor has seen as much media coverage than the one in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as Monster Jam began doing one annual event over the summer at MetLife Stadium, the home of both the New York Giants and New York Jets.
This year was no different, as a big 18-truck field made the journey eastward to put on a show for a huge crowd. This particular show would see a couple debuts of not just trucks, but also a new track.
Every year Monster Jam has attended this stadium, it has been a traditional "Chicago Style" design, with three corners and trucks constantly turning left. Not this year, as track crews and designers had the dirt set up in a way that no one had ever seen before. Trucks start out like they do in Vegas, with their inside rear tires facing one another, but instead of being just on dirt, they would be elevated on a small tabletop. At the green, the drivers leap off, and head down either side of the stadium, then turn inside to the plateau in the middle of the stadium. After the first leap, they would go around the starting pad and go back around one more time, crossing the finish line on the second jump.
It was nicknamed "Jersey Style" racing, and to go along with the new track, Monster Jam created a new racing format for this night. Each truck would qualify one at a time, and instead of having a big 18-truck bracket, only the top-8 would move onto the actual racing portion of the show. Immediately on the first run, the tacky dirt caught Chad Fortune in Captain America, as he would get high-sided on his final turn, but kept it upright to cross the line. He would do better than defending freestyle world champion, Todd Leduc, as he would lay Metal Mulisha on it's side just before the finish. It meant that both would wait till freestyle to compete, which for Leduc was alright since this would be the only show he'd drive Metal Mulisha on the Path of Destruction tour.
The fastest qualifier on this night was Ryan Anderson, who blistered the track with a 24.025 second lap in Son-Uva Digger. One of the biggest surprises in qualifying was the fact that of the top-8 that moved on, Tom Meents in Max-D was not one of them. It was the first time Meents would race in MetLife, as the last two years he made attempts to do a double backflip in the stunt truck, letting fellow driver Neil Elliott at the wheel. But another surprise came in the first round.
Despite being the fastest qualifier, Anderson got bumped out in the first round by Linsey Weenk in the Lucas Oil Crusader. Weenk went into the semi-finals against Dennis Anderson in Grave Digger, as that race provided the most excitement on the night as at the finish line, Weenk got the better of Anderson, but Anderson got the last whack as he climbed the tire on the Crusader, damaging the nose. It meant for the finals, the Crusader would run without the "dog house" on the front.
On the opposite side of the bracket, it was Marc McDonald in the black El Toro Loco making his way to the finals by getting past Captain's Curse and the defending two-time world racing champion, Adam Anderson in The Legend.
The final showdown would be one that was of epic proportions, as it would mark a first-time winner in MetLife and a first-time winner on this track design. Both trucks left the line hard, and stayed close on the first lap, but on the second lap it was McDonald keeping his bull tight on the corners, and would blow away his competition, putting the "crazy bull" in victory lane for the first time in New Jersey.
At that point, the track crews went to work, moving cars, reshaping ramps, and clearing out anything that wasn't needed on the dirt. It was time for freestyle.
The track proved to be a great one for grip, and for taking risks. The early leader in the field was Candice Jolly in the Monster Mutt Dalmatian, as she held the lead through half the field, but then Cam McQueen came out in Northern Nightmare, which for him was the first major stadium event with his new chassis. It showed to be strong as he would pull off two backflips in his run to knock Jolly out of the lead.
But, no one was prepared to see what the youngest Anderson had in his bag. No driver attacked the track harder than the one in the 1950 Willy's Panel Van, as he would leap higher, keep more momentum, and nail a backflip as if he was just out driving down the road. The entire run his truck had smoke coming out the back, which got bigger as he went on, way past the time given for the run. With his engine and transmission getting hotter by the moment, Anderson concluded his spectacular run with a sideways donut that nearly saw him roll, and then a run on the sides of the tires that had him put the truck on it's side, yet still in the throttle trying to pull it back over.
Not even the defending world champion could top that run, as at the end of the night Anderson would take home yet another trophy to add to the massive collection at the Digger shop. Yet, the night wasn't done.
It was encore time in New Jersey as it was a debut for a driver that has ran all season. Young Guns competitor Scott Liddycoat spent all winter at the wheel of the Dragon's Breath Corvette concept. But on this night, after waiting months for the reveal, Liddycoat rolled onto the track in his all new Dragon machine, as the bright green body looked like a true dragon one would see in a movie, and included fire coming out the nose. Unfortunately, his encore run would be one hit, and over, but in essence the truck was unveiled to the adoring fans, and would look to be a popular truck in the future.
Not only did that truck and driver encore, but suddenly the sirens began going off in MetLife Stadium. Red lights surrounded the screen, and smoke began billowing out the entrance way. Suddenly, out rolled the mysterious Doom's Day truck, still with no listing for a driver, and away the truck went. Even with a flat tire, it kept going and going, that is until it drove right off the track and back through the entrance it first appeared.
Next weekend it will be yet another debut for Monster Jam, as the Path of Destruction tour makes it's other stop at a first-time venue. Next Saturday night is Monster Jam's first time at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the home of the New England Patriots.
For results and photos from this past weekend, plus ticket information to next week's show and every other event this summer, visit MonsterJam.com.