Week 3 shakes up Monster Jam Power Rankings

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Anyone who has ever spent time with a toddler is familiar with the concept of trying to put a square peg in a round hole. With seven tours and a huge number of drivers who don’t compete head to head, that is the situation that Monster Jam has found themselves in. Until this year.

Monster Jam has instituted some innovative ideas in the past, like allowing fans judge the skills and freestyle competition, but new for 2020 is their Power Rankings – a way to measure drivers from various tours.

With his dominant St. Louis victory in which he swept two nights of competition, Morgan Kane jumped to the top of the list this week.

“Everything about Monster Jam events is focused around being consistent,” Kane said after winning last week. “Fill 30 seconds with safe jumps. At 75 seconds I’ll head for the backflip, then try to fill the rest of my freestyle with a crazy save and huge air.”

The first 30 seconds of a freestyle run has become incredibly important. If a driver does not hit that mark because of a mechanical failure or wreck, they will not earn any of the 14 points available for the competition. Notably, it was a bad performance in the Tampa freestyle event that delayed Kane’s appearance into the top 10.

In Monster Jam, different tours have a different number of events, so the Power Rankings seeds them based on percentage points: the number of points they earn compared to what they might have earned. Zero points in any of the competitions severely impact their ability to achieve a high percentage.

Second to Kane this week was Neil Elliott and the Max-D truck. Also racing in the Stadium Series Green tour, he has not scored below nine in the fan voting so far in 2020.

It took a win in San Antonio, Texas at the Alamodome in the Stadium Series Red to elevate former off-road truck racer Todd Leduc to third in the standings. Consistently high marks in all three competitions and a win in the racing portion of the event gave him the points’ lead in that tour.

Tristan England and Earthshaker climbed two spots to fourth last week and is the highest ranked driver from one of the Triple Threat Series. Racing in the West, that tour made a stop at Sacramento where England swept the 2 Wheel Skills competition.

Rounding out the top five this week was a driver who has not yet competed in 2020. Tom Meents in another Max-D truck holds his spot because of the preseason rankings.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.