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AF Afterburner wins first championship

  • Published
  • Air Force Recruiting Service
In a field of 24 competitors, the Air Force Afterburner captured the freestyle championship March 28 during the 2009 Monster Jam World Finals at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas before a crowd of more than 40,000.

The freestyle competition began with Chris Bergeron driving monster truck Brutus, setting the bar high with a score of 29, which would have been good enough to win at other competitions this year. The next 12 trucks had good runs and received standing ovations before the Air Force Afterburner driven by Damon Bradshaw entered the stadium.

"He came out with a fury, starting immediately with huge air bringing the crowd to their feet; they never sat down for the rest of his run," said Master Sgt. Brian Wright, Air Force Recruiting Service aerial events coordinator at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

"His run was flawless," he said. "He nailed jump after jump and crushed everything on the track while simultaneously crushing any chance the other trucks may have had of winning."

Mr. Bradshaw scored a 36 giving the Air Force Afterburner a clear win and its first championship as no other competitors came close. Following Mr. Bradshaw were the Bounty Hunter with 32, Brutus with 29 and Blue Thunder with 28.

Before the competition began, many fans attended the pit party and were able to meet drivers and take pictures of the trucks. As part of the opening ceremonies, the U.S. Air Force conducted an enlistment swear-in ceremony for 20 young men and women who will be leaving for basic military training in the coming months. Concluding the opening ceremonies was a fly over by an Air Force C-130 Hercules from Moody AFB, Ga., as the national anthem finished playing.

In the racing championship the Air Force Afterburner faced fan favorite Grave Digger in the first round of racing.

"The crowd was electric. You could feel the excitement in the air as Grave Digger lined up to face the Air Force Afterburner," Sergeant Wright said. "The crowd was on their feet and ready to see what turned out to be the closest and best race of the night."

Once the start-light turned green both trucks took off like they were shot out of a cannon. Neck and neck through the turn, the Grave Digger had a slight edge coming out of the turn but the Air Force Afterburner turned on the jets and passed Grave Digger for the closest win in finals history, Sergeant Wright said.

"Usually if Digger loses the crowd is visually upset," he said, "however, not this night. The crowd was firmly behind their military service and their new favorite driver, Damon Bradshaw."

The Air Force Afterburner was to face the seven-time world champion Maximum Destruction driven by Tom Meents in the second round. The Air Force Afterburner got the jump and was seemingly heading for a victory coming into the turn; however, Maximum Destruction came out of the turn and took the lead to win the 2009 World Racing Championship.

Mr. Bradshaw was upset but focused his attention on preparing to win a Free Style World Championship.

Highlights from the 2009 Monster Jam season and the Monster Jam NGK Spark Plugs World Finals can be viewed April 12 at noon EST on the CBS Sports Spectacular Monster Jam show. The event will also air in May on Speed TV.