All photos credited to Eric Stern, MonsterJam.com
Just like each year, a packed crowd of over 40,000 fans sold out Sam Boyd Stadium in the hopes of seeing the best stars of Monster Jam put forth everything they had to offer in the quest of two world championships. An expanded field of 28 trucks and drivers made that quest even more challenging.
But at the end of one incredible night, the fans were left in awe of what they had seen, and what will be discussed all year long.
The night started off with the 28 trucks going through the racing bracket. With 28 drivers, the top four from qualifying would get a bye into the second round, with the other 24 having to go an extra round to continue on. The first round wasn't without insanity as a couple trucks had issues, mainly due to electrical. Linsey Weenk lost power coming to the corner in the Lucas Oil Crusader, which left the door open for Chad Fortune to get the win in Captain America.
But, no incident was more spooky than Jim Koehler's first-round run as he didn't make it into the stadium. His Avenger clipped the inside corner of the chicane, sending the truck rolling into the gravel alongside the grandstands.
Luckily, Jim was alright, and the truck was turned upright and pulled to the pits for repairs.
Big highlights through the second and third rounds included a father vs. son matchup as Dennis Anderson took on his son Ryan in the second round, and in a shocking upset, it ws Son-Uva Digger moving on. Ryan's brother, Adam, would also move on. Ryan would not make it to the semi-finals as he was taken out by top qualifier Max-D with Tom Meents, sporting the very slick chrome body.
When it came down to the final four, Adam would face Tom while in the opposite bracket it was Marc McDonald in El Toro Loco taking on last year's Young Guns Shootout champion, Bari Musawwir in Spiderman.
The big race was Adam vs. Tom, as Max-D was running on an incredible streak of 10 straight rounds of victory at this stadium, and 18 for 19 in the last five years. But, in what could only be considered the big upset of the night, Grave Digger the Legend ended the streak of Max-D, putting the 1950 Panel Van in the finals, the first time Adam had made it that far in his career. He would take on McDonald, which would be his first trip to the finals in his career.
The crazy bull vs. the panel van turned out to be an epic race between two of the top drivers in Monster Jam. Both left the line hard, worked the chicane to perfection and entered the stadium screaming down Thunder Alley. In the corner, that was the deciding factor.
More speed, and a tighter spin of the wheel handed Adam Anderson the 2013 World Racing championship. He joins his dad, Meents, and Debra "Madusa" Miceli in a group of having won both a racing and freestyle title, and also ended a plague he's had at this stadium. Last year was a better year for him at Sam Boyd Stadium, but since his championship in 2008 he never had much luck at the World Finals, including early rolls, broken parts, and a spooky wreck that saw him crash into a tree.
Now, the curse is gone. He can once again call himself a champion.
The focus then shifted to the other major title to be won on this night...freestyle. For the most part, it was go big and roll quick, or pace yourself to get through the run. Many trucks were eyeing the two containers that were set up at the end of the track, and they saw some early action.
Some of the first to test the waters were Scott Buetow in Hot Wheels and Madusa, who each pulled off the backflip. Other strong runs included all the Andersons, but all fell short. On this night, Meents was determined to get his victory. He brought out his chromed-out, spiked Max-D and went to work. His launches off each ramp were huge, and when he found himself in a tough spot, he nailed the throttle to pull it out.
Unfortunately after just 30 seconds into his regulation time, Meents flattened his right-front tire. But in true fashion, it didn't slow him down. He kept rolling, hitting obstacles still full-speed.
His run ended when he tried to climb up the side of one of the containers, but his momentum never allowed him to make it. Max-D fell backwards, destroying the special body that was made just for this event. His score was 34, taking the lead with just a few trucks left.
Despite great runs by Grave Digger and defending champion Cam McQueen, Meents held on and now can call himself an 11-time World Champion, as he captured his fifth freestyle championship.
But, who said the night was done...
The time had come for the encore. Track crews moved away the camper stack as well as the rail car obstacle at the end of the course. Suddenly the Max-D music hit once again, and with pyro going off, out came three spiked trucks, driven by Neil Elliott, Kreg Christensen, and team-driver Chuck Werner, who's El Toro Loco truck was given a spiked body.
The three lined up side-by-side-by-side facing the container wall at the end of the track. With fireworks falling from above, all three went forward, nailing three backflips all at once, with Neil himself getting into trouble, but nailing the throttle to pull a twisting roll just like he did last year in Orlando.
Fans ate it up, but then the music quit, and everyone could hear the voice of Meents.
"You think that was cool? Bigger is better...I'm on a mission!" was what Meents said, and then out from Thunder Alley came one big dump truck, with Tom's special stunt truck on the back. Meents was already at the wheel, and it was clear what he was going for.
Elliott and Christensen then got their trucks re-fired, and moved to the opposite end of the stadium.
It was clear what Meents was going for. The cars were moved from in front of the center ramp, revealing a steep wall. After two test runs, Meents backed up, and hit the pyro on his truck. It was full throttle from that point on.
Meents went for it...he went for the double backflip. The truck launched higher than any run already seen on that night. One flip in, the truck began to twist, just like it did in East Rutherford, New Jersey, last summer. But the height of the launch was higher than at MetLife Stadium.
The truck landed on the left side tires, and then came back down on all four tires. Elliott and Christensen both also launched their Max-D machines sky-high, with Elliott shedding the body and Christensen flattening the front tires. Both then pulled alongside Meents, with Werner then joining in the party.
Meents, already ecstatic about winning his 11th title, came out of the truck waving his arms, smacking the body, and jubilant that he pulled off what most thought couldn't be done.
The fireworks and confetti fell as Monster Jam's biggest night came to a close with fans excited, jubilant, and overjoyed with what happened before their eyes.
Despite the first quarter of competition coming to a close, Monster Jam still will have many events over the course of the summer. Their annual "Summer Heat" tour will hit many speedways over the US, while the Europe tour also will be popular among the fans across the Atlantic. There is also the "Path of Destruction" Tour that will hit major stadiums in June, sure to sell out each week.
There is already hype surrounding next year's World Finals XV, which will feature an expanded 32-truck field, and will span over three days. One day will be the Double Down, featuring qualifying and the Young Guns Shootout, then the next day will be racing. The final day will be all about freestyle, with track changes happening overnight.
All fans that ordered the Double Down package for this year will have the opportunity to renew their ticket packages and seat locations from April 3-8. Fans then wanting to add or change their seat locations for 2014 will be able to do so from April 11-16.
General public sales for both regular tickets, racing and freestyle only, and Double Down packages will go on sale beginning Friday, April 19.
For information on all the summer activities for Monster Jam and exclusive photos from the World Finals, visit MonsterJam.com.
Thank you readers for following the weekly updates throughout the first quarter of Monster Jam. For anyone that just has the inkling to experience what Monster Jam has to offer, take it, it's the best bang for your buck in motorsports anywhere.
And for those that do want to experience the World Finals, do it, and do it right. Get the Double Down Package. There's so many more exclusives you get when you buy that package. Yes, it's more expensive, but in the end it is well worth the money.
Thank you all.