The Charlotte Hop is always met with enthusiasm from the North Carolina spectators and the 20 switchmen at the event were eager to entertain the crowd. Although no records were broken, there was plenty of excitement and several strong performances. The Truck Hop led the way with Fernando Leal as the opening player. His ’89 Chevy S-10 Blazer got off to a good start with 29 inches, but was no match for Jamie Cici. Long a veteran of the East Coast circuit, Jamie’s “Southern Star” pickup launched quickly to a rear bumper-bashing, class-winning 60 inches.
The Single-Pump Hop class record was recently set in Dallas, Texas, at 64 inches and each of the Charlotte competitors raised his number as the contest began. Zach Ediston sent his orange and white Chevy Malibu wagon to 30 inches before breaking on the line. Shawn Travers continued the pace reaching 35 inches with his orange ’86 Buick Regal, taking over the lead. Joe Dowers quickly responded to the challenge, bouncing his CCE-equipped hopper to 50 inches, hoping it would be enough.
It was a battle of the Olds in the Double-Pump Hop. Chris Oxendine punched his ’86 Olds Cutlass to 57 inches in just three quick bounces. The new leader played with the car awhile, showing the crowd that it was no accident. Unfortunately, Chris Ponder was next. Chris is a strong competitor and quickly had the red and silver ’88 Cutlass pounding the rear bumper on the pavement and the wheels clearing 64 inches, taking the class win and tying the current Double-Pump record.
The Radical Hop had an exciting finish, but a few of the preliminary cars didn’t perform quite as strongly as the owners hoped. Brent Reising’s ’71 Chevy Monte Carlo had problems and left with 8 inches. David Craver’s ’82 Regal convertible made it to 17 inches, but still not Radical Hop numbers. Nela Perez sent his beautiful pink and black ’63 Chevy Impala to 44 inches, but that was still less than what the crowd was expecting. Everything changed, however, when the rough-looking yellow pickup of Bryan Gillespie rolled up to the sticks. The crowd knew that this one was going to perform and Bryan didn’t disappoint. After jacking the rear end more than 6 feet in the air, Bryan tapped the switch a few times, launching the front end to 106 inches and planting the tailgate on the asphalt for the class win. Bring on the photographer!
The Street Car Dance competitors also had trouble with mechanical failures, keeping scores low. James Radabaugh’s gold flake Malibu broke the front wheel on the third bounce, lost the gas tank on the fifth bounce, and only achieved a three point score after failing to finish. Dave Harkins had a good routine, dancing his green ’78 Pontiac Grand Prix to a 10. Dave also danced the car owned by his friend, the late John Pinholster. The tiny Ford Fiesta known as the “Disco Biscuit” had enough moves to squeak into First Place, winning with an 11. Alan Smith was the lone entry in the Truck Dance Street, but he earned his win, sending the bright orange and blue, Hi-Jacker-equipped T&D Customs S-10 all over the infield, earning 20 points in the process.
The Radical Dance saw Carlton Tucker’s beautiful ’86 Cutlass break in the middle of a great routine, losing 10 points for failing to finish. Alan Smith from T&D Customs returned with his blue S-10, bouncing last year’s Radical Dance Champion to a solid 21 points. Dave Neumann was next and the shattered windshield on his truck told the crowd that he meant business. Dave rolled the ’93 S-10 so quickly that the crowd was almost not ready for it, so when the crew got it back on four wheels, Dave flipped it on its side a second time to make sure that there was no doubt. Dave set the mark to beat at 29. The final competitor, Rob Robinson of Rome-N-Low made it clear that he was a contender, bouncing the rear of his truck head high, and shredding the rear tire. Rob rolled his ‘90 Chevy as well, but at the end of the routine, Dave Neumann still had the winning score as judges gave Robinson a 26 for his efforts.
The crowd applauded the efforts of all the hoppers and dancers for the great show that they created and the switchmen were all smiles as they stood in line to collect the fat prize money checks. It sounds like everyone left the Charlotte show happy.