Each year, the Truckin' and 4x4 Nationals start off a day early for us. Last year's state-to-state cruise began Friday morning in Southern California and took us through five stops that included breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At every stop, a poker card was given out; at the end, the highest poker hand won a $300 gift certificate from AIM. Tons of prizes and raffles were given out along the way, including a flame paintjob to be painted by Van Demon at the Arizona show.
Last year, we all met at Dealer's Sport Truck in Los Alamitos, California. From there, we had breakfast, sponsored by Rhino Linings, and cruised over to Gibson Exhaust. We then headed to APC for more free goodies, including shirts and hats. By then, it was time to stuff our faces again, and JC Whitney sponsored lunch by Wahoo's Fish Tacos. Our final destination of the cruise brought us to AIM Industries in Tempe, Arizona, for a night of food and festivities. All the vehicles from the cruise lined up and were proudly displayed in front of the AIM building. The AIM staff offered tours of the entire shop, and attendees were able to see where products are designed, manufactured, and sold. The fiesta-themed party had plenty of excellent Mexican food and margaritas to go around. After mingling late into the night, we eventually stumbled - I mean walked - to the hotel for a few hours of rest before the big show. The show was held at the Firebird Raceway October 11-12, with approximately 36,000 people coming through the gates. Temperatures rose into the 90s on both days, but we stayed cool, thanks to the numerous food and drink vendors offering tons of ice-cold, uh, soda. The 4x4 fans were also kept busy with monster trucks, a manufacturers off-road ride and drive, a tough-truck competition, and much more. The motocross freestyle thrill show brought the crowd to its feet as daring riders flew more than 70 feet through the air, doing some of the craziest tricks ever attempted on the freestyle circuit. Although 2003's attendance number remained about the same as 2002, the event gained in vehicle participation as well as vendors. Vehicle manufacturers went all out this year with displays from GM, Ford, Dodge, Subaru, Jeep, and Nissan. To spice things up a bit, Tire Pros brought out Mario Andretti, who signed autographs on Sunday, and Truckin' had the lovely Niki Zeno signing posters all weekend long.
The Mini-Truck Radical class featured three dope minis for the reigning slots. First Place went to Brian Smith's badass green '95 Isuzu pickup, Roman Olivas came in Second with his orange '94 Chevy S-10, while Third Place was handed to Kevin Vandenberg and his sick blue '97 Toyota Tacoma. These trophies are up for the taking, along with tons of other mini-truck classes, every single year. If you were unable to attend last year, make sure you come out and support the show this year. We enjoy seeing different faces and different rides, but we really love running into the same die-hard mini-truckers at each and every event, year in and year out, come rain or shine. And that's what makes us different - our commitment and love for what we do.
A huge thanks goes to the sponsors for continuing to support this event, including Chevrolet as the presenting sponsor and title sponsor JC Whitney. AIM Industries threw one awesome dinner party, and Vortex Bedliners gave away a spray-on bedliner as another one of the raffle prizes. Blue Oval Truck Parts, Cutting FX, Elegante TYC, Line-X, Lund, MagnaCharger, Nitto Tire, Street Scene, Tuff Country, and many others helped make this show a success. Mark your calendar for October 23-24, 2004; pile into your minis and get out there to represent. Firebird Raceway is located at I-10 and Maricopa Road in Chandler, Arizona. For more information, contact: (602) 268-0200, www.firebirdraceway.com.