Monster Jam Freestyle Event in Tampa, Florida
It was a muddy mess at Monster Jam this year, but despite the weather, soggy fans cheered in the rain as Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction took home Monster Trophies.
This weekend Monster Jam roared into Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. It was a rainy evening – leaving most fans drenched and several drivers stuck in the mud. Fortunately for us, however, we had box office tickets compliments of our friends at Feld Entertainment – no earplugs or rain gear required.
Naturally, we took our 2-year old nephew with us. One of the first words he ever said was “truck”, so we knew monster jam would be a life-altering event. It was incredible to experience it through his wide-eyes and child-like wonderment.
The show itself was pretty exciting. I was mostly surprised by the number of people who attended – I had no idea there were so many Monster Truck fans in Tampa. It took us an hour just to find a parking space! As a result, we missed the race in the first part of the show – won by Grave Digger.
We did, however, make it for the entire Freestyle session. It was absolutely hilarious watching these trucks pop wheelies, turn donuts and jump two stories into the air clearing minivans and school buses. As it turns out, I sat next to the semi-truck driver for Maximum Destruction, the winner of the Freestyle event. Even more interesting, Jess (the driver) is from Illinois and knows my family in Minonk. What a small, small world!
Anyhow, if you missed the show, or made it and just forgot, here’s a quick recap of the Freestyle event, driver by driver:
Rules of the Game
In a freestyle event, monster truck drivers have 90 seconds to make the audience go wild. During those 90 seconds they can do anything they want – jump ramps, crush vehicles, pop wheelies, drive backwards, turn donuts and more. If the driver makes it through the 90 second regulation time without shutting down the engine, flipping upside down or completely destroying their vehicle, they go into a 25 second bonus period and earn an additional 2 points. Drivers are scored on how high they jump, how fast they drive, how difficult their stunts are, and how loud they make the audience scream. At the end of the competition, the driver with the most points wins a huge trophy and bragging rights.
Eradicator – The eradicator was in the pit for 8 seconds, and then flipped over. I can’t even remember how many points he earned, if any.
Excavator – The excavator was in the pit a little bit longer than the Eradicator, but not much. He tried jumping over some bright yellow vans, but ended up getting stuck. He scored a mere 9 points.
Bad Habit – Driver Joe Sylvester about gave me a heart attack! Although he didn’t win, he showed the crowd one of the most enthralling stunts of the evening. He jumped over a ramp and flew over 20 feet in the air, landing hard on his front wheel. The wheel broke right off the axle and flew across the stadium in the direction of screaming fans, stopping the truck right in its muddy tracks. Fortunately no one was injured and Joe took the lead with 13 points.
Superman – This high-flying superhero was the first truck to fulfill his regulation time, earning a 25 second overtime. Although he had a great run, he didn’t do anything spectacular. Yet, he took the lead with a score of 17.
Monster Mutt – I was a little concerned when I saw this truck because it was cute and cuddly – not mean or monstrous. Monster Mutt sported adorable floppy ears and a fluffy tail, but that’s about all he sported – earning him a 16.
Mohawk Warrior – This punk rock driver made the crowd go insane with crazy-long donuts and front wheelies. He also gained an extra 2 points in the bonus round, earning a final score of 24. Pumped with adrenaline after taking the lead, he tore into the crowd to give away a pair of tickets to see Nuclear Cowboys in St. Pete, Florida. He then grabbed the mic to tell Tampa fans they were the best for sitting in the rain and cheering on both himself and his fellow drivers.
Shock Therapy – Driver Jon Zimmer had a good run, but it ended abruptly when he flipped over on his side. He earned a solid 20.
Back Draft – I was particular fond of this car because it looked like a Fire Truck and reminded me of my dad, the captain of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. The truck is painted bright red with flashing lights on top. The driver was a 20-year old young kid who did a great job, but didn’t spark too many fires with the crowd.
El Torro Loco – Translated to “the Crazy Bull”, driver Mark McDonald was indeed out of his mind! Making it only 66 seconds in the pit, the truck came to an abrupt stop after soaring through the air and landing face-first in the mud, crushing the two enormous bull horns on top. The crowd went insane. Then McDonald grabbed one crushed horn, tore into the crowd and gave it to an ecstatic fan.
Crusader – This truck did some exciting stunts, but it was short lived. After only 60 seconds in the pit, the Crusader turned donut after donut until the engine eventually shut down. The driver couldn’t get it started again, so he ended his crusade with only 17 points.
Grinder – The Grinder literally ground his rims straight into the mud after his back tire went completely flat. He didn’t give up and kept turning stunts with 3 wheels until he finally got stuck on top of the yellow van.
Maximum Destruction – I was fortunate enough to sit next to Maximum Destruction’s semi-truck driver Jesse, who shared some personal stories about the driver. For example, not only did the driver steal the show with incredible ramp jumps, donuts and flips, but he also demolished his own home with his truck to make way for a new one. It’s no wonder the crowd loves him – he literally destroys everything his truck touches. Fortunately for this 8-time world champion, that means he gets to take home big trophies like the one he held after winning the Monster Jam Freestyle session with a whopping 25 points. To Jesse, that means he loses “the last little space in the cab of my truck”. To fans, that means one more victory!
Grave Digger – With the ultimate rivalry against Maximum Destruction, Grave Digger gave the winner a run for his money earning a close 24 points. Although he didn’t take home the winning title for Freestyle, he did win the race earlier that evening.
I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was to watch big trucks drive around in the mud and crash into things. I don’t think I would have sat in the cold rain to see it like the majority of folks in the stadium, but I would definitely go again if the forecast calls for sunshine.