BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – The show ended up getting cut just a little short, but fans saw just about all they could in the hour of Monster mayhem in front of a packed grandstand at the Lee County Fair Friday night.
The Lee County Fair board, for the first time ever brought Monster trucks to fair and saw a crowd like never before.
Fair president Brock Westfall said on Wednesday the show was brought in to give the fair a different look.
We brought in the Monster Trucks this year for something to give us that WOW factor…The communication we’ve had on Facebook, Messenger and the questions on this and that…it’s going to be a lot of people,” he said.
He wasn’t wrong as thousands of people descended on the fairgrounds from the region, with fans’ vehicles parked along both sides of North Main Street for about a mile in both directions.
The show brought in national Monster Trucks such as the one that started it all – Big Foot. Rodney “Hot Rod” Tweedy was behind the wheel of the 14th version of the national icon. Another national favorite “Ghost Rider” with Larry Quick behind the wheel, and Shannon Quick’s “Girl Power” were also on hand. The Quick’s reside outside the Quad Cities. And up-and-comer “Fluffy”, the passenger Volkswagon Supervan owned by Kevin King of Georgia, and sponsored by comedian Gabriel Inglesias, was a big crowd favorite.
Tweedy said this is his 13th year with Big Foot and he’s driving the version that set a jump record in 2001.
“This truck is 25 years old and is the one we set a world record in when it jumped a 727 jet airplane from wing to wing at 202 feet,” Tweedy said.
Part of the action for the night included an obstacle race down the front stretch the Pepsi Lee County Speedway. “Fluffy and “Girl Power” went at it first with “Fluffy” getting big air on the final jump to win. Big Foot then sprinted by Ghost Rider with another huge leap at the end.
In the finals Big Foot just edged “Fluffy” with a huge leap that sent the $250,000 truck down on it’s left front wheel snapping the truck’s shock absorber and blowing a tire, sidelining the truck.
King contested the close finish, but a rules interpretation and quick video replay on a hand-held tablet showed “Big Foot” barely winning the race.
Tweedy and his crew worked on the truck during the ATV races, but said he didn’t have all the parts he needed and wouldn’t be able to compete in the night’s freestyle event.
The Missouri native said he enjoys the competition but it’s the fans that make it all worth it. During a meet-and-greet, racers signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans.
“I just enjoy the competition I really do, but I really enjoy making all these fans happy – especially the kids. Man they get so excited, they’re smiling, they’re speechless. I like cutting up with ’em, I’m just a big kid and this is fun for me,” he said.
“My boss Bob Chandler started Monster Trucks in 1975, so we’ve been around for 44 years. Big Foot is the icon, the Grand Daddy of ’em. We don’t go out and destroy our trucks every weekend like a lot of guys do, but we can go out and run with anybody when we want to.”
Quick said his passion is for the freestyle events, and races because it’s part of the contract. He’s been in the industry for 20 years and said it all began because he saw original Big Foot driver, Dan Runte standing on a Big Foot tire waiving to the fans.
“I said that’s gotta me and from that point forward everything I’ve done in life is to get me here,” Quick said.
“This is going into my 20th year, so I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m a showman so I’m all about the fans. Racing they make me do, I don’t really care to race, but I totally love the freestyle.”
Quick performed a couple of wheelies and slap wheelies in his freestyle event and then went to the east side of the track and made two huge jumps over four cars embedded in dirt ramps.
Quick is known nationally as the first driver to ever execute a backflip in his $263,000 Mustang outfit, when he did it in 2008. He seemed to be just gearing up when he lost control off a second jump headed west on the track and flipped the truck on its side. After almost gaining control with the vehicle on just two wheels.
The torque of trying to reestablish control while on just two wheels snapped Quick’s main transmission shaft and blew a tire ending his day.
“You look for slap wheelies, big air and try to give the fans something different. Something that none of the other guys have done,” he said.
“That’s what I try to do.. use my imagination, criss-cross, combos, get bigger air and smash into some things the other guys won’t smash into. That’s kind of my philosophy is to do everything they won’t.”
None of the drivers were injured in the night’s action, but Quick and Tweedy both said they’ve suffered a little in the high-energy shows.
“Sometimes the others will kid me and say, ‘You’re moving slow, old man’, but I never had the equipment they have, so yeah, I’ve been dinged up a few times, and they’ve never gotten beat to death out there,” Quick said.
Tweedy said he had an incident where he flipped and landed hard on the top and got his head and neck compacted and still suffers from that a little, but new safety equipment and protocols have made injuries a rare occurrence.
Shannon Quick, the self-proclaimed cuter half of the Quick team, said her dad was a floor coordinator with another group of Monster Truck promoters so she was in on the fun, even before Larry.
“I was a fan first. When I met him I was a secretary at an accounting firm.,” she said.
She said her driving was really born out of the old stereotype of men not wanting women to drive their trucks.
“It took a little while for me to talk him into it. We built his new Ghost Rider first, and hired a guy to drive the old truck in the fleet. That guy ended up not working out and I was like, Why don’t you let me drive, and he was like ‘Mmmmmm, I don’t know’. I said what’s the worse that could happen, I hate it?’ And here I am,” she said.