Of the entire season for the 4-Wheel Jamboree tour, no single day of action is bigger or more challenging than Saturday afternoon at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. The day starts out early as gates open at 9 a.m. for spectators, but the hard work behind the scenes started long before then. The monster truck crews were still working on some issues from the previous night, knowing a full day of action awaited.
Two racing programs at 12 Noon and 6 p.m. awaited, and by the time the first show rolled up, every truck was ready to go, hoping to build off momentum from the previous night.
The nine-truck field saw a big crowd come out for the early matinee, and no one was willing to disappoint in order to send them back happy. One driver that wanted to make sure of that was celebrating a silver anniversary with one team, driving one name his entire career, and one that called Bloomsburg one of his favorite tracks he attends every year. Dan Runte piloted his special silver 25th Anniversary Bigfoot to victory on Friday night on the unique "Infinity" course, and right away it appeared he was ready to back that up.
After his first round win against Darrin Goin in War Wizard, he suffered a setback in the second round when his teammate, Larry Swim, got the best of him in his Lucas Oil Bigfoot. But, Runte would get a reprieve as he was the fastest loser from that round, and he would come back to compete in the semi-finals.
Swim would make it to the finals himself as he would defeat Mark Hall in the semi-finals. Runte, meanwhile, would beat Goin a second time in the semi-finals, setting up a teammate battle for the afternoon victory. Both trucks were hard on the gas the entire course, and entered the final straightaway dead even, both laying the power on their engines. At the line, it was too close for anyone with a camera, video recorder, or even a cell phone to call. The officials had to go to replay to see which machine crossed the line first.
In the end, Runte barely edged his teammate for his second-straight victory on the weekend, and third overall on the jamboree season.
Runte, however, would not return for freestyle as it turned out even with the victory, he did so with issues. It turned out with each passing round, he was losing steering in the front end, as by the time he rolled back to the pits, the power steering in the front was almost non-existent. Swim would go on to put on a great show for the Bloomsburg fans, including a shedding of his Raptor nose right on the wheelie ramp in front of the grandstands.
But, the winner of the afternoon freestyle was a driver that actually was in the pits for most of the racing. Mat Dishman would lose his second-round race when his truck would not turn. Turned out, his rear steering issues from his bye-run came back to where he could only work the front tires, as the rear locked straight, making it all but impossible to drive to a win. The team made the repairs, and he came out blasting full-bore for everyone to see. The HEMI motor sounded as if it was brand new, and it showed it's power in wheelstands and cyclones.
It was enough for the crowd to determine he was the crowd favorite on that night.
Saturday Afternoon Results:
Round 1: Hall def. Miller; J. Koehler def. Radzierez; Runte def. Goin; Swim def S. Koehler; Dishman Bye-Run
Round 2: Hall def. J. Koehler; Swim def. Runte; Goin (FL from Rd. 1) def. Dishman
Semi-Finals: Swim def. Hall; Runte (FL from Rd. 2) def. Goin
Finals: Runte def. Swim
An afternoon of repairs for many trucks had them scrambling to get set for the evening action, as the Bigfoot team continued repairs to Runte's truck right up to it was getting final adjustments right before driver introductions, while Dishman's team continued to make sure both the steering was corrected and the batteries were set for the final two shows of the night.
But the biggest story on Saturday evening's program came early on, leading to some concern for Sunday.
In the second round, Dave Radzierez had his XDP Diesel matched up against the Raminator of Hall, and both left the line strong. Suddenly, or slowly, Radzierez pulled off the track with only white smoke coming out the stack behind the roll cage. Normally when his truck is running, black smoke pours out when he hits the throttle. This instance showed something was not right, and the crew had the truck towed to the pit to check on the issue.
Meanwhile, the action on the track continued.
For Runte, his streak of wins came to an end in the semi-finals as Dishman poured on the power in the final corner to hand Runte his second loss of the weekend, but also ended his final-round appearance streak. At the same time, it was the opposite effect in the other semi-final as Swim would put Hall on the trailer, as Hall continued to struggle on the unique track, sliding out in the last corner before the table top.
In the final, Dishman and Swim each were looking to get back to victory lane for the first time since Lima, and on this night, it was a Ram taking it. Dishman powered his way back into victory lane, scoring his third win of the season and his first in Bloomsburg since 2011.
The evening faded into night as seven of the remaining eight trucks came back out to freestyle. Mike Miller had his Mopar Muscle Ram pulled to the pits with what appeared to be suspension troubles. But the guy that took all the headlines under the lights was one that wasn't in a truck, but rather a classic car. Once again, Jim Koehler put on a show in his bright green Avenger Bel-Air, even teasing possibly going bigger for the final event on Sunday.
Saturday Evening Results:
Round 1: Radzierez def. Goin; Hall def. Miller; Swim def. S. Koehler; Runte def. J. Koehler; Dishman Bye-Run
Round 2: Hall def. Radzierez; Swim def. Runte; Dishman def. Miller (FL from Rd. 1)
Semi-Finals: Swim def. Hall; Dishman def. Runte (FL from Rd. 2)
Finals: Dishman def. Swim
As the fireworks lit up the sky, the attention returned to the pits, specifically to the XDP camp, and the diagnosis was not grand. It turned out the truck blew a head gasket in the second round, filling the engine with water, and ultimately pushed a rod out of the Cummins powerplant, plus hurting a piston. Radzierez, his crew chief, Michelle Simpson, and the entire XDP team were already in the process of tearing down to see if the truck could be repaired, if an entire new motor was needed, or if there was simply nothing that could happen.
Radzierez was keeping upbeat because he knew what Sunday meant. If by some way he and his crew could make the repairs and have it so the truck can run, Radzierez was going to try once more to take his diesel and hit a backflip at a jamboree. Phone calls were already being made as if the crew was in telemarketing instead of monster trucks, but everyone knew it was going to take a big effort to make it happen.
Many things are on the line come Sunday at Bloomsburg. Can Runte win 3 of 4 races in a weekend? Can Hall extend his streak of winning one race at Bloomsburg to 13 consecutive years? Will someone else steal the win to close out the weekend?
Most of all, will Radzierez and his XDP team have the truck ready to attempt another flip for his home-state fans?
The final monster truck event of the weekend begins at 3 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Follow 4-Wheel Jamboree both on Twitter and Facebook for the latest results and occurrences for the final day of action, as well as All About Horsepower for the results of the action.