Twelve years ago, Bethesda native Jay Snyder and a friend first brought monster trucks to the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, driving a pair of rusty old rigs over a row of cars after the demolition derby.
This year, 19-year-old Cory Snyder, Jay's son, made his first professional appearance before a hometown crowd behind the wheel of his father's massive LED-strewn truck, The Illuminator.
Logging a time of 26.77 seconds in the obstacle course and 14 points in the wheelie competition, Cory had a decent showing for a newcomer, especially considering the big names he was up against.The top time in the obstacle course was just under 23 seconds, while the leading wheelie score was 24 points out of 30
"My opinion? He was absolutely fantastic," said veteran driver Ben "Bobo" Winslow, of 2Xtreme Racing, who came in first in overall points at Thursday night's Monster Truck Madness event behind the wheel of his truck, Bounty Hunter. "He's gonna be a great driver."
Cory was all smiles after the show, sitting at the table with the older drivers to sign autographs and take photos with excited fans.
"I was anxious before the show, but your nerves go out the window once you start driving," he said after posing for 'just one last photo' with a fan. "Once your engine starts it's just pure adrenaline."
Not ready to pass on the mantle to Cory just yet, Jay also took the wheel during the two-night event at this year's fair.
Jay won first place in Wednesday night's freestyle competition but ended his run early Thursday when he crashed through the fence at the edge of the arena after vaulting over a ramp of dirt piled around an old school bus and two wrecked cars.
This year's ramp-heavy course, featuring two rows of cars to jump plus the school bus ramp at the far end of the course, frustrated some fans, including Gaithersburg residents Annie and Jeff New, who have taken their 7-year-old son, David, to the monster truck event two years in a row.
"To have that big jump that close to the fence was just poor planning," Jeff said of the school bus ramp that ended up breaking the undercarriages of three trucks. "These guys were breaking their trucks this year and we don't want to see them do that; that's a lot of money for them when that happens!"
David was more even-handed in his review. While he agreed that the two-lane track from last year made for better runs, David favored this year's special event — a three story-tall, 50,000-pound robotic dinosaur named Megasaurus that lifted a car up to its metallic, fire-breathing jaws and tore it apart for the crowd.
"I liked one of the drivers this year, that monster guy, but the track was better last year," he said.
Despite the damage done to several trucks, and his unfortunate run-in with the fence, Jay Snyder was happy with the track after his final performance Thursday.
"That one fence at the end could have been a little bit farther back, maybe about 10 feet," he admitted with a chuckle. "But every one of the drivers thought this was a great track and we all had a lot of fun."
As for next year, Jay and Cory already are looking forward to bringing their A-game to their local fans with even bigger jumps and more impressive times, but the father-son duo may have a bit of adjusting to do in the months ahead as Cory begins his career.
"I'm proud of him; he's demonstrated that he can be calm, cool and collected behind the wheel," Jay said as he watched his son talking with friends after the rally. "It would be great for us to have two trucks and drive as a father-son team, but right now Cory is like, 'This works for me, too, dad!' so next year I may see a little more competition for the seat!"