Monday, November 25, 2013

Outlaw Monster Truck Nationals secretly rock Kansas City's Kemper Arena

So here’s something you might not know about me.  I’ve attended at least one monster truck show a year for the past 28 years.  I’m not really proud of that, or ashamed, or whatever.  I just like loud, powerful race vehicles, and they often hold these in the winter when the regular car races are over.  Lately, there has only been one shot a year to see monster trucks in Kansas City—the Monster Jam event at the Sprint Center in February.  But last weekend, MAP Motorsports hosted the Outlaw Nationals in the old Kemper Arena.  Did I go to this?  Do you really have to ask?

This was actually a good show, but a little weird compared to what we’ve grown accustomed to lately.  While Monster Jam events play to a packed house, Friday’s Outlaw Nationals performance was virtually devoid of spectators.  I haven’t been in Kemper for years, and what was once a sparkling showplace now looks like a crumbling old dump compared to the flashy Sprint Center.  In that regard, this was a bit of a letdown, because I clearly remember the days when a monster truck show in this arena was the hot ticket.  I went to this show with my son, dad, and nephew, and we sat in the front row with our general admission tickets.  You’d have a hard time doing it back in the old days.

And speaking of the old days, I remember, like pretty much every other guy my age remembers, that Bigfoot was the end-all-be-all of monster trucks.  Now because Bigfoot doesn’t run in Monster Jam events, I haven’t seen it in a long time.  So I was excited when I learned it would be at this event.  I must admit, when I saw it, I was a little disappointed, though.  This bright orange Chevy-bodied abomination is nothing like what I remember.  I mean, I’m a die-hard Chevy guy, and I still think this should be a blue Ford.  The reason this happened is that Ford dropped their sponsorship from Bigfoot a few years ago, and now they run Chevy engines.  But still, some things should never change.

Nevertheless, they had eight monster trucks there, and they really did put on a good show.  They raced hard and they actually had some pretty exciting freestyle runs, especially when you consider the abysmal crowd they were playing to.  Some of the others were Bounty Hunter and Scarlet Bandit, both from Tonganoxie, and both made famous on the Monster Jam TV broadcasts, Tail Gator, Smashasaurus (admit it—that’s a pretty good name), Alter Ego, which looked like a very advanced chassis design to me, and Ghost Ryder, which had a ’67 Mustang body and was driven by a crazy man.

In addition to the monster trucks, the Pro-Arena Tuff Trucks are always a big draw.  These are smaller, off-road style trucks that race for time by navigating a jump-filled course.  Many years ago, most of these were regular street trucks.  That was a lot of fun to watch, because who doesn’t want to watch some doofus destroy his new F-150 by nose-planting it into a dirt berm.  Things are different these days, because these trucks were all purpose-built off-road vehicles.  There were no shenanigans here like you might see with those silly quad-wars races at the big events.  These guys were actually racing for prize money.

And last but not least, who could forget Megasaurus.  This was a big metal tank thing from which a robotic dinosaur would emerge and mangle a helpless car.  This was one of the better car-eating dinosaurs I’ve seen over the years, as everything was really finished off nice, the fire-breathing was spectacular, and it ripped an old Dodge Neon completely in half.  The kids liked it.  My dad liked it.  I liked it.  How can you go wrong with something like that?  It took the track crew awhile to clean up the destroyed Neon, though.  Megasaurus is a bit of a messy eater.

Take a look at all the pictures from Friday night’s Outlaw Monster Truck Nationals in the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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