Although the Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series title was wrapped up last weekend in Detroit by Adam Anderson and the Grave Digger, one event remained as the series moved to Syracuse, New York. There was still a battle for second place as well as bragging rights on the line. As the final event of the series, it would also be the last opportunity for the rest of the field to prove they are worthy of an invite to the Monster Jam World Finals in just two weeks.
After undergoing significant repairs last week, Grave Digger 32 made its return to the track Friday afternoon in practice. Adam Anderson picked up right where he left off the week before by putting down the fastest practice pass of the afternoon with a 24.230. That pass would be .890 seconds faster than Damon Bradshaw and Monster Energy in second place and over a second faster than the rest of the field. It was proof the rebuilt Grave Digger 32 hadn’t lost any speed.
In qualifying, Damon Bradshaw and Monster Energy set the bar high early, as they turned in a time of 23.333 in the second qualifying pair. It would be a tough time to top, and faced some challenges from the likes of Chad Fortune and Linsey Weenk, who clocked in with times of 23.589 and 23.668 respectively. In the final pairing Anderson had the opportunity to knock Bradshaw from the pole position, but didn’t quite have enough and would finish fourth with a time of 23.849.
Round one started off with some tight racing as Bradshaw and Monster Energy squared off with Dustin Brown and the Junkyard Dog. Bradshaw was quick once again but lost a little time in his win over Brown with a 23.415. Anderson found some speed in his round one victory over Becky McDonough and El Toro Loco, as Anderson turned in a time of 23.033 which was the quickest time of the night so far. Weenk and the Lucas Oil Crusader would take out fellow Lucas Oil-backed driver Jim Koehler and Avenger to move onto the semi-finals. In the final pairing of round one, Soldier Fortune would roll over early in the race, handing an easy victory over to Steven Sims Jr. and Pirate’s Curse.
The first race of the semi-finals pitted the two best racers on the series against one another for one final time as Anderson and Bradshaw faced off once. It would be one of the closest races of the night as Anderson would take out Bradshaw by a nose in a spectacular race. Anderson bested Bradshaw with a time of 22.954 to Bradshaw’s 23.069. The next match up was a great one as well, as Sims Jr. would take out Weenk by a tire length with a 23.356 pass to Weenk’s 23.630.
In the finals it was two good friends and hard charging drivers facing one another as the already crowned series champion faced off against the up and coming young gun. The two were neck and neck for the first half of the race, but a smoother line from Anderson in the second to last turn would make the difference. Sims Jr. fought back valiantly but it wasn’t enough as Anderson sailed to victory. It would be the fastest race of the night as Anderson picked up the win with a blistering time of 22.491 to Sims Jr’s also impressive time of 22.877. The victory would be Anderson’s sixth racing win on the series as they gained momentum heading towards the Monster Jam World Finals, where he has two racing championships to his name.
While the younger Sims impressed in racing, it would be the elder Sims who got the freestyle competition going in impressive fashion. Steve Sims Sr. rocked right out of the gate as the first driver out, putting the Stone Crusher through it’s paces with a strong freestyle. Sims Sr. had plenty of big air and good momentum as well as a wild rollover save in bonus time to cap off his freestyle performance. The judges would put up a big score early as Sims Sr and the Stone Crusher earned a total of 33, setting the bar high for the competition to follow.
Shane Phreed and the War Wizard would have a strong showing of their own with one of their best freestyles of the series in Syracuse. Phreed worked in some nice jumps, but the highlight of his run would come at the end of bonus time. While turning Phreed hooked an edge on the tacky dirt which sent the War Wizard over onto two wheels. It looked like a sure rollover to start but Phreed powered out from one side, only to hook another edge in the dirt and put the truck over onto the other two wheels. Phreed went from one side of the floor to the other on two wheels two seperate times before eventually running out of room and rolling over at the edge of the track. The score would be a 30 for Phreed and the War Wizard in their final freestyle of the series.
After a rough outing in Detroit where the Monster Energy machine would be done just a couple hits into freestyle, Damon Bradshaw would be the third driver out to freestyle in Syracuse. It’s unusual for Bradshaw to go out so early, but that didn’t mean he was holding back at all. The Beast from the East was fully unleashed as he attacked the track in freestyle. Bradshaw had his typical big air and fast paced style of performance, along with a big rollover save early in his run. With the hood flapping around and obscuring his vision, Bradshaw battled on for even more big air before eventually bringing the truck back to the pits after his bonus time was completed. It was yet another impressive freestyle from Bradshaw and the judges were impressed as well, with Bradshaw scoring a total of 40 to put him and Monster Energy into the lead.
Early breakage in Detroit also meant that Mike Vaters II and Overkill Evolution would be out early in the freestyle line up. Having to follow a performance like Bradshaw’s is certainly not an easy task, but Vaters II was up to the challenge with a great run of his own. Their was plenty of big air to be found as well as a nice save in regulation. Unfortunately, a bent four-link bar early into bonus time ended his efforts prematurely. With a regulation score of 33 and a bonus of 2 Vaters II would find himself securely in second place behind Bradshaw.
Linsey Weenk and the Lucas Oil Crusader put up a solid challenge to the performances of Vaters and Bradshaw, as Weenk had a great freestyle of his own. Some nice jumps in regulation coupled with a backflip attempt in bonus time would give Weenk a score of 34 which was good enough for third place in the standings.
The next big challenge to the lead would come from young Steven Sims Jr. and Pirate’s Curse. The always exciting Sims Jr didn’t hold back at all as he went after the track in his freestyle. The youngster got some of the biggest air of the night and put together an impressive run in regulation. As seen one too many times this year though, a nasty bounce in bonus time put Pirate’s Curse on its roof prematurely which ended Sims Jr.’s run a bit early. A score of 33 would put him in a tie at fourth place on the leader board with his dad.
Jim Koehler and the Avenger always bring something interesting to the table in freestyle, and Syracuse would be no different. Koehler went out with some nice jumps of his own but didn’t have the pace to keep up with the likes of Bradshaw, Vaters, and the Sims’. In bonus time though, Koehler went for his first backflip of the year and nearly pulled it off. The truck would twist in air instead of getting a clean rotation. The Avenger would land on all fours, but the force of the impact on the left side bounced the truck over to the right and eventually onto the roof. It was a spectacular move that had the Carrier Dome crowd on their feet. Koehler would score a 31 for his efforts.
One of the most underrated drivers on the Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series this year has been Bryan Wright piloting Hooked. Wright has quietly put together a strong season and would cap off the series with a spectacular freestyle. Over the course of his run Wright got some big air, carried great momentum and pulled off a great save after casing a jump, which sent the truck onto the sidewalls. To finish up the run, Wright nailed an awesome sky wheelie with a flat right rear tire before unbuckling and saluting the crowd. Wright would also score a 31 in his freestyle.
After seeing Adam Anderson dominate the Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series this season, nothing would have made Tom Meents happier than to get the final freestyle trophy of the series for the Max-D team. Meents went ballistic from the first jump as he went big into a spectacular cartwheel back onto all four wheels. After one huge wow moment, Meents kept going huge with more big air jumps, until a bad bounce sent Max-D tumbling for the second time. This time though, Max-D wouldn’t end up back on its wheels, ending their freestyle far too soon. The regulation judges were very kind with a score of 32 despite Meents not even filling his time.
As the last driver out, Adam Anderson had his sights set on his third Double Down of the year with the racing trophy already in hand. Unfortunately for the Grave Digger team, they were done as soon as they got started. A missing fuel cap forced the tech officials to shut the truck off immediately ending the freestyle right away. Howeve,r that wouldn’t be the last performance of the night. As a special treat Tom Meents returned to the floor with the Max-D stunt truck for an encore performance. Meents picked up where he left off earlier with more huge jumps before eventually cartwheeling for the third time. This time Meents would get a favorable bounce onto the sidewalls where Meents spun the truck around back onto all fou’s and into the pits to finish off a wild encore.
As the dust settled, it was Damon Bradshaw and Monster Energy taking the final freestyle win of the 2016 Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series. While it wasn’t much of a consolation for losing the championship, it was a well deserved freestyle win for Bradshaw and the Monster Energy team as they gear up for the Monster Jam World Finals in just two weeks. For Anderson and the Grave Digger team it was another dominating racing performance on the year to wrap up their season. Between Anderson and Bradshaw, they’d have to be considered two of the favorites heading into Vegas considering their record so far this year. As the second ever Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series comes to a close, we’re looking forward to what next year’s series has in store, and we hope you’ll be back to follow the action with us as well!
Final Monster Jam FS1 Championship Series Standings
- Grave Digger – 24
- Monster Energy – 13
- Max-D – 8
- Junkyard Dog – 3
- Avenger – 3
- El Toro Loco – 2
- Brutus – 1