As part of last year's Monster Jam World Finals, fans that purchased the Double Down Package got to witness a first for the event. On qualifying night, eight rising stars of Monster Jam got to compete in the first-ever Young Guns Shootout, facing off on the fastest course run all season.
On that night, it was Bari Mussawir in Spiderman getting his first major win in his young career, bettering Nicole Johnson driving the Advance Auto Parts Grinder.
One year later, the Young Guns Shootout is making a return to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. This year, the field of trucks is not only expanding, but there is an extra reward for the driver that comes out victorious.
This year's line-up of drivers expands from an eight-truck field to now having a 12-truck bracket. Some competitors from last year's Shootout field are returning for another crack at the slot machine trophy.
Four of the drivers already have experience on the Las Vegas track. Up first is team El Toro Loco driver Becky McDonough. Last year she reached the semi-finals before losing to Johnson. McDonough is still behind the wheel of the crazy bull, but this year's edition has a brighter look, as her truck is yellow instead of the original orange. Joining her in the experience field will be Morgan Kane, this year at the wheel of Iron Man. Kane reached the semi-finals last year, before being knocked out by Musawwir.
Donald Epidendio is back in the line-up with Titan, and is on a roll of his own having won two major stadiums in California last month. He has a new PEI chassis, and already it is paying dividends. Finally, JR McNeal is bringing his blue and white Dodge back to compete, Razin Kane.
The other eight trucks and drivers consist of familiar faces, and some new shoes. The first one named is the only other lady in the field. Making her debut run at Las Vegas, Taryn Laskey will try to make her mark on the Young Guns behind the wheel of Monster Mutt Dalmatian.
Last year, Laskey was at the wheel of the Tasmanian Devil for part of the year after Johnson was thrust into her own substitute role in Grinder due to an injury to Frank Krmel. Now, Laskey has the duty of representing the "Dalmatian Nation" and putting her puppy into victory lane.
Joining her in making a Vegas debut is Devin Jones behind the wheel of Barbarian, who is a champion himself on the Checkered Flag Productions Tour in 2011. Darron Basl will make his inaugural run at Vegas behind the wheel of the Nitro Hornet, while the son of World Finals veteran Steve Simms, Steven, will try to put his Hooked Cadillac atop the mountain.
Keeping the theme of seafood going, Maine will be represented as Greg Winchenbach will bring out his "Monstah Lobstah," the Crushstation, to claw his way through the field. New driver JP Ruggiero will bring forth the Hispanic-themed truck, El Diablo, and finally after waiting for years to get an opportunity, Joe Sylvester finally gets a shot on the big stage as his Bad Habit machine will be ready to go.
The final truck to compete is a former champion truck, Wolverine, but has a new driver at the wheel, Dustin Brown. To many fans, that name is familiar. Brown was the guy behind the scenes for six years as the crew chief to Dennis Anderson and Grave Digger. Over the summer, he was given the opportunity to become a full-time driver. Despite Anderson saying that he wouldn't drive until he hung up his helmet, he gave Brown his blessing and he hopped into his full-time ride.
No stranger to setting up a truck for Vegas, Brown may have the biggest advantage of everyone in the field.
So, the 12-truck field has some great names, and is already looking like a highly competitive bunch. But, the 2013 edition of the Young Guns Shootout is going to give the winner more than a trophy. Fans were adamant over the summer and into the new season that the winner of the Shootout needed to be given something more.
Monster Jam listened, and for this year, the winner of the Young Guns Shootout not only has bragging rights for one year, but the next night, the Shootout winner will have the honor of being the final truck in the expanded 28-truck field for the Monster Jam World Finals.
This in a way is similar to NASCAR's Sprint All-Star Race, where the winner and runner-up in the Sprint Showdown, plus the fan vote winner, all earn a birth in the main event. Despite the odds being against him or her, there is a chance that the winner of the Shootout could walk away with a total of three trophies over the weekend (Shootout, Racing and Freestyle).
The first set of drivers to be named to the Monster Jam World Finals are expected this weekend, and will continue to be named throughout the next two months. For more information on the World Finals, including ticket and hotel information along with updates to the schedules of events, visit MonsterJam.com.
AllAboutHorsepower.com will also be your source for the announcements of the qualifying drivers for the big event at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.