Since the 2009 season, Monster Jam introduced a very different, and sometimes very confusing, track style that has quickly become a true test for drivers. The design debuted in Anaheim, California, at Angels Stadium, and quickly became termed the "So-Cal Style" track.
The trucks start out on top of a tabletop, just ahead of the drop. At the green, they go off the ramp, turning away from one another. After making a run down either side of the center jump, sometimes clearing a set of cars or a ramp, the trucks then turn towards one another around some turning cars or jammer jumps. At that point, it's a complete 180-degree turn to the outside of the lane, back down the straightaway, and then one more turn towards one another before launching over the center jump to the finish.
Even the veteran drivers have seen trouble on this style, along with some spooky moments. This weekend, the three major stadium events saw this style built by the track crews, and it yielded three different winners.
Starting in Tampa, Florida, the field of trucks came down to a battle between two Cadillacs. In one lane it was Linsey Weenk in the Lucas Oil Crusader, looking for his second straight win after his victory in Indianapolis one week ago. The opposite lane, the man on his own streak, World Finals runner-up Damon Bradshaw in Monster Energy, looking for his third straight stadium victory.
A few weeks ago, the two had a spooky encounter in San Diego, same style track, as Weenk got crossed up and on the final jump launched sideways and nearly landed on Bradshaw's truck.
Now, the two squared off one more time in front of a sold-out Raymond James Stadium. On this night, the other black and green truck would be the one in victory lane. Bradshaw would power his Cadillac to victory for a third straight week.
The next stop for the So-Cal track was the massive Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the home of the Rams and also the birthplace of monster trucks. Inside that dome, it was a driver who finally found his identity in Monster Jam that broke through to gain his first major indoor stadium win.
When the finals came about, on one side it was Carl Van Horn in the Grave Digger. On the opposite side, it was Chad Fortune in Captain America. Unlike Tampa, this race was nowhere close, as CVH overdrove the first corner, and at that point all that Fortune had to do was keep a steady race, and it led him to a major victory, his first in terms of a stadium, in years.
Finally, deep in the heart of Texas, the So-Cal track made a return to Reliant Stadium in Houston. Inside this stadium, it was a driver with vast experience in off-road racing that pulled off the victory.
Lee O'Donnell, enjoying his third year behind the wheel of Iron Man, would be the hero of the night, bringing home the second victory for Marvel Comics, as he would defeat Tom Meents in Max-D to cap off his night.
Not to be outdone, the team celebrating 10 years of destruction, Meents would come back to win freestyle in Houston, and teammate Neil Elliott took his spiked version to victory in Tampa. The Grave Digger team did take home a stadium win, as Adam Anderson put his Legend truck on top inside the Edward Jones Dome.
As February continues, next weekend only has two stadium events scheduled. Miami, Florida, will again host their annual event which has for years been a great turnout, and then Anaheim, California, will host yet another major event for the year. Angels Stadium may be the place to be for west coast fans as for the first time in nearly five years, Dennis Anderson will bring his Grave Digger to the other coast for competition.
The World Finals field will begin taking shape in February, as the selection of the 28 trucks competing in the main event, along with the eight in the Young Guns Shootout, will be announced leading up to the big event.
For more information on the Miami and Anaheim events, along with all those around the country, visit MonsterJam.com.