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Lee O’Donnell and the Ironman Monster Truck dominate opening night of Monster Ja

Monster Jam opened at Consol Energy Center Feb. 14 with Ironman and driver Lee O'Donnell dominating the competition.
Monster Jam opened at Consol Energy Center Feb. 14 with Ironman and driver Lee O'Donnell dominating the competition.
Hayley Martin

Monster Jam at Consol Energy Center

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Ironman and driver, Lee O’Donnell, might be the new truck on the block in Pittsburgh but he proved what kind of a force he is by completely dominating the competition in each of Friday night’s competitions at Monster Jam: Wheelies, Racing and Freestyle. Though, some fans might say Grave Digger’s driver, Gary Porter, was robbed of the Freestyle victory.

Monster Jam
Monster Jam
Hayley Martin

It was a great night for Monster Jam fans in Pittsburgh featuring eight exciting monster trucks like Xtermigator, Zombie, Ice Cream Man, Illuminator, Instigator, Monster Mutt, Grave Digger and Ironman. Each truck is unique in style, body and of course – flare. Grave Digger is well known for his skull and cross bone flag at the back of the truck, as is Monster Mutt for the floppy ears and wagging tail– but this year Zombie took decorating to a new extreme featuring flapping arms that bounced all night as if calling for “braaains…” Unfortunately, halfway through freestyle, one of Zombie’s arms broke (much like a real zombie), but that didn’t stop the truck from finishing!

During the racing competition, Ironman barely beat out Xtermigator to win the first bracket of competition and finished off Instigator to head into the finals before edging out Grave Digger by a hair which could be seen on the overhead. Grave Digger’s road wasn’t paved with ease as he made his way to the finals blowing past the Ice Cream Man but barely making it past Illuminator to edge into the final round.

Of course, the real competition fans come to see is Freestyle when the trucks are given sixty seconds to do whatever they want. Ice Cream Man set the stage heading over the giant ramp in the center of the arena being the first to gain some major air. Xtermigator followed suit showing off his wheelies on the run, but when Ironman hit the floor – the competition became surreal with his high-flying feats and crowd pleasing technical stunts. O’Donnell and Ironman were the team to beat.

Unfortunately for Zombie’s run, the momentum stopped when his truck was shut off for safety after one hand detached from the arm. While being allowed to finish out his run, the loss of momentum surely affected his score. Monster Mutt and Whit Tarlton tried their best to edge out Iron Man, but it wasn’t enough to take the lead. Though the fans loved the Mutt’s performance leaving only Grave Digger the chance to take out the super truck. Digger did not disappoint fans as the truck launched into the air and never stopped moving, but it was his run-ending cyclone 360 spin that fans loved the most; unfortunately it was after time had expired.

While it was the Ironman/O’Donnell show all night, all of the drivers proved that their fans are the most important component of this sport. Each driver headed to the stands throughout the evening (some multiple times), armed with goodies for fans. From the racing trophies O’Donnell won, to the flag pulled straight from the back of Grave Diggers truck, to merchandise – lucky fans were given some amazing gifts. The video board showed the incredibly sweet moment when O’Donnell headed into the stands to present a little boy with his racing trophy, the smile on that kids face said it all as O’Donnell sat with him to chat for a few minutes – not just handing it off and dashing away.

Monster Jam drivers are known for their hearts of gold. After every performance, the drivers head to the concourse to sign autographs with waiting fans. They never make a mad dash for the bus to head to the hotel – they stick around. Each fan is greeted, can get photos (quickly) and they’ll sign anything you ask. In a sport dominated by child-fans, it’s fantastic to see these drivers spend their time making their fans so incredibly happy.

In addition to the great Monster Jam competitions, the action continued with Quad Wars during the first half featuring teams New England and Pittsburgh. Three heats – with one win each heading into the final match, Pittsburgh won over New England fair and square, but that didn’t sit well for the team captain of New England who challenged the Pittsburgh captain to a captains’ race – where Pittsburgh won again, but not before a quick crash led to New England rider falling off his quad and getting run over. Don’t worry – he’s ok!

In the second half of the show, the FMX guys on their dirt bikes emerged into the arena with their motocross tricks, delighting the fans. Flying high in the air, the riders performed gravity defying tricks, jumps, and even flipped upside-down.

Monster Jam still has three great shows in town – Saturday at 2:00p and 7:30p and Sunday at 2:00p. Great seats are still available for all shows which can be purchased at the door. For more information, visit www.consolenergycenter.com.