There are two guarantees when it comes to July. For the country, it means celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, family, and cookouts. For those in Pennsylvania, the following weekend means a big 4x4 gathering in what is usually a quiet college town.
That time of year has arrived as the folks at Family Events returned to the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, for the 27th edition of the 4-Wheel Jamboree. fans were greeted with bright sun and warm temperatures, but there was not a frown on any spectator that entered the gates, as they knew it was just the beginning of a stellar weekend. The monster truck field was once again stacked with some of the staples of the jamboree tour, and each wanted to make their presence felt on the infield at the fairgrounds.
The biggest question entering the weekend was the track design. A year ago, it was a figure-8 look that to many seemed small for what the infield could have, so the track designers and crew went out and not only decided to make a track more suited for the infield, but came up with a design not even seen anywhere in the country.
Trucks would run individual courses, but unlike past years, would actually start facing what is turns 3 and 4 of the horse track. At the green, the trucks hit a tabletop, but immediately after turn away from one another. As they pick up speed, they will hit another plateau in the second lane. This was when things got interesting, as when they turned inward towards one another, they would roll another mini-tabletop, set up with ramps on all four sides. After negotiating that, the trucks would cut completely across both lanes at a diagonal, much like one would see in motocross or supercross when the gates drop. To finish the course, the trucks turned again in towards one another, negotiating the original tabletop, but in the opposite direction, and then going full-throttle over the mini-tabletop that was used for the second corner.
Drivers originally were confused as to the idea behind it, but it soon became clear how what some were nicknaming the "infinity" design was run.
What was more surprising was who ended up in the finals. On one half of the bracket was a driver who for years ran well at this event, and was celebrating his silver anniversary as part of the team, Dan Runte in Bigfoot. He would work his way to the finals first by getting past Steve Koehler in the General, then Mike Miller in Mopar Muscle. His biggest challenge was the semi-finals against long-time rival, Mark Hall in his newly-redesigned Raminator. But, Runte made it to the finals on the challenging course seemingly with ease.
In the other lane, however, was someone who's been more known to flip out this year rather than win races. Dave Radzierez has gotten his XDP diesel truck to really become a strong contender not just in freestyle, but in racing.
It did not start that way on Friday as he lost to Miller in the opening matchup, but came back as the fast loser to take on Mat Dishman in Rammunition, who got a bye-run in the first round by virtue of being the points leader. He would lose that race, but Radzierez was fast enough in that round to come back as the quick loser. He was ahead of Dishman till the final jump, but it was clear he was capable of making his truck run against the top trucks. He would get a second chance against Dishman, and on his second try, he made it count.
Just like the round before, he was close, but in the final corner Dishman high-sided his Ram 1500, nearly putting it over, and that allowed Radzierez to power on to the first final round appearance of his career.
He would stay with Runte in the final for the start, the second straightaway, and through the cross through the track. But the final corner doomed him as he slid out a bit wide, and it was the only opening needed to let Runte power his 2014 Ford Raptor to the opening weekend victory in front of the Bloomsburg fans.
To cap off the night, it was a freestyle night to remember, although for Dishman, Radzierez and Larry Swim, it was not. Radzierez would not run freestyle as it appeared he suffered damage to his truck, as earlier in the week he rolled his truck at a different event, breaking the hub. Dishman would not even make a full run, as electrical issues kept cutting off his remote shut-off, but the biggest hit came to Swim in his Lucas Oil Bigfoot. On the second hit, he slowed up in front of the stands, signaling a break in the truck. Turns out, what broke was the yoke in the rear driveshaft, cutting off power to the rear wheels.
Luckily for all, the first show is in the books, and now it's onto Saturday as it is a full day of events for the monsters. The 12 p.m. program is a full show of both racing and freestyle, followed by strictly a racing show at 6 p.m.
At 8:30 that night, all the trucks will be cooled off and ready to do a full-on freestyle celebration, capping the night off with fireworks for the Bloomsburg fans.
Keep it right here for more coverage as the weekend progresses, and follow both me (@AllHorsepower) and the jamboree (@4WheelJamboree) on Twitter for the latest events happening at Bloomsburg.
FRIDAY RACING RESULTS:
Round 1: Miller def. Radzierez; Runte def. S. Koehler; Hall def. Goin; Swim def. J. Koehler; Dishman Bye Run
Round 2: Runte def. Miller; Hall def. Swim; Dishman def. Radzierez (FL from Rd. 1)
Semi-Finals: Runte def. Hall; Radzierez (FL from Rd. 2) def. Dishman
Finals: Runte def. Radzierez