America, meet the Neil Armstrong of monster trucks.
His name is Lee O’Donnell, and he’s the driver behind Mad Scientist, a growling, 1,500-horsepower four-wheeler built by VP Racing Fuels. Over the weekend, he made history during his run in the 2017 Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas, completing a full front flip in a monster truck. The unprecedented, high-flying move wowed fans and judges, who awarded him a near perfect score, earning him a first place finish in the event’s freestyle competition.
Call it one small step for man, one giant leap for motorsports.
O’Donnell, a veteran truck racer, spent most of his two-minute run skidding and bouncing around the dirt course with impressive grace, landing stylish jumps over the muddy obstacles as the sold-out arena roared around him.
Then, in the final seconds, he hopped a dirt ramp, landing the truck on in a wheelie position. With the truck’s front wheels in the air, he charged into a second ramp, which whipped the vehicle forward in a full somersault. For a moment, it looked like he would lose control and topple over, but O’Donnell kept the truck’s balance and rode away, to the delight of the crowd.
His run complete, he ended by deliberately ramming a wall and flipping the vehicle onto its roof, in what one commenter described as “the monster truck equivalent of a mic drop.”
It almost looks like an incredible accident at first glance. But the footage makes clear that O’Donnell had it meticulously planned.
Here is Monster Jam Insider’s video of the full run in all its glory:
Here’s a shot of the flip taken from the stands:
Lee O’Donnell lands first-ever front flip at Monster Jam World Finals in Vegas to win title pic.twitter.com/4qli5kuxMm
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 26, 2017
And here is the maneuver in exquisite slow motion:
— Monster Jam (@MonsterJam) March 26, 2017
At the end of his run, O’Donnell emerged from the truck wearing a white crash helmet and his blue “Mad Scientist” jumpsuit. As the packed arena cheered, he walked across the dirt course, triumphantly throwing his fist in the air and pointing at fans.
In an interview afterward, O’Donnell thanked his wife and kids, who were in the audience, and gave shout-outs to his fans, crew and sponsors, according to The Drive.
He then summed up the night in three words:
“This is awesome.”
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