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Zack Garner and 'Wild Side' Enter Rare Air with Monster Jam World Racing Championship Victory

Getting the perfect storm to arrive isn't exactly the rarest thing to happen in the world of motorsports, but on the floor of SoFi Stadium on the outskirts of LA, that's precisely what happened on Saturday night. Let me introduce you to 23-year-old Indiana native and second-generation Monster Truck driver Zack Garner, pilot of the Wild Side Chevy Silverado.

Last night marked Garner's first-ever appearance in Monster Truck's Super Bowl, the Monster Jam World Finals, and he unloaded off the truck super fast back on practice day, which carried over into qualifying, but he would barely miss out on an opening round bye in the 24 truck field. Regardless, it was pretty evident that he had to speed to be a legit factor once you saw him on track.

Running the Gauntlet

After getting a good draw out of the gate against Jim Koehler and Avenger, things got notably more challenging for Garner from there on out. His next draw was former three-time Racing Champion Adam Anderson in Grave Digger, whom he only beat via a five-second penalty on the final jump coming to the finish. Had that not been counted, 0.016 would've been the margin that would have ended his hopes early, but keeping things smooth was a massive part of the story all night, and Garner was the best at that.

Drivers could pull wins in the blue lane with the outside corner coming to the finish, but no one was able to hit that last corner as good as Garner was, and that was the case all night long. Just ask 2024 Arena Series Champion (in all but name) Dalton Widner and then former World Championship runner-up, Zombie pilot Bari Mussawir, who had absolutely nothing for him in the quarter and semi-final races.

Garner's last test on this Murderer's Row? Reigning Champion Tristan England in the new corporate-sponsored JCB DIGatron truck. Further proving that Garner was the best guy in that outside lane all night, England, just minutes before the Indiana native secured a finals berth, ran a full three-tenths slower in that blue lane, but he got back in his preferred red lane for the race where all the chips were down. And even the World Champion had zero answer for Garner flat tracking his way around that final outside corner into a roller, securing one of the biggest upset victories in Monster Truck history on one of the best racing nights the sport has ever seen (Freestyle not so much but I digress).

Independent Spirit

In a post-Penda/Pre World Finals Monster Jam era in Monster Trucks, a true rarity has been a truly independent, noncorporate truck and driver combo to come out of World Finals with a World Racing Championship, which is indisputable, unlike the Freestyle title can be on occasion. With this victory, Garner joins famed Bounty Hunter driver Jimmy Creten to take home the richest prize in Monster Trucks as a true independent truck and driver. (If you want to add Tom Meents here, that's fine, but that's a bit of a grey area).

Not only that, but Garner also becomes the first driver ever to take home the Racing Championship successfully on his first attempt. Several high profile Hall of Famers and all-time racing talents like Pablo Huffaker, the late Tony Farrell, Jimmy Creten, Linsey Weenk, Ryan and Adam Anderson, plus some others all tried and failed, and Garner succeeded, doing so on what was the toughest racing track to date. As vaunted and infamous as Sam Boyd Stadium is/was, certified superstar-level talents visibly struggled to get clean passes down on Saturday. Not the orange and purple Silverado, though, who is now the second youngest linear (Racing or Freestyle) World Champion in Monster Jam history, behind only Adam Anderson, who won the Freestyle Crown at World Finals IX at 22 years old.

Taking it Local

Probably the best and under-the-radar part of Garner taking home the World Racing Championship is that he's now an overnight superstar as far as the sport goes, and he's going to be a top-draw guy at a ton of these smaller fairgrounds and speedway shows that the Garner/Over Board team hit throughout the summer. Monster Jam is Monster Jam, but there are a ton of places that they don't hit, and the fact that the World Racing Champion will end up at some of these smaller profile shows is great for the industry as a whole. Even at some of the bigger summer indy events where Garner has had massive success, like in Springfield, MO, or Miami, OK, 'Wild Side' is now an even bigger draw than it was before this weekend. Garner just proved to the whole world that he's a box office attraction in the world of Monster Truck racing, doing so ironically enough in the shadow of Hollywood.

Main Image via Monster Jam/SoFi Stadium

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