Monster trucks are an impressive sight when you see them on television. You might think you know what they’re all about, but until you’ve seen these things in person and watched them whip around a track, fly through the air, and do actual backflips, you can’t really appreciate the skills these drivers bring to the field.
We had the chance to get up close and personal with Monster Jam at a recent event in Detroit. It all started with a behind-the-scenes tour where we got to walk out onto the dirt track, take a look at the trucks, and talk to the drivers.
If you think the trucks look big on television, in person they are gigantic. Climbing into Grave Digger, one of the most famous trucks on the circuit, means opening a door that’s somewhere above your head. You have to grab here, step there, and slide into the seat where, we have to admit, the view is pretty impressive.
The seats aren’t like any you’ll find in your standard truck. These are specially molded to fit the driver. Once they’re in their seats and helmeted, there’s no wiggle room at all. This is a good thing, because it keeps them safe while the trucks get tossed around the track.
Before the event, Monster Jam hosts a Pit Party. This requires an extra ticket, but if you’ve always wanted to see these trucks up close and meet the drivers, then this is the event for you. During the Pit Party, trucks are on display for an up-close look and the drivers are on-hand to sign autographs and talk with fans.
This is something that sets a Monster Jam even apart from other motorsports. The drivers aren’t elevated on some pedestal that makes them too important to interact with their fans. They’re accessible and friendly and engaging.
It’s also incredibly family-friendly. There were plenty of kids losing their little minds at the sight of their favorite trucks right there in person. They were absolutely giddy when they met the drivers. To be fair, there were just as many giddy adults getting autographs, too, only they didn’t jump up and down and squeal quite so much.
Once you’re at the Pit Party, you can wander around, take pictures, and interact with the drivers as much or as little as you like. It’s not a two second interaction either. Some fans simply wanted to say hello and grab an autograph. Others had questions or wanted to pose for pictures and the drivers were happy to oblige.
There are also demonstrations showing how they change those monstrous tires and even one where they show how they take the colorful body and secure it over the cage the keeps the driver safe. If you happen to miss how that works, chances are you’ll get to see it come apart the hard way during the show.
There are a variety of competitions included a timed race with drivers doing laps over jumps. It sounds straightforward but things literally go sideways and trucks often don’t finish. That’s the most tame event of the lot.
The two-wheel challenge has drivers managing their trucks up on two wheels doing stunts that appear to break the laws of physics. Keeping those huge vehicles on two wheels, noses pointed straight up in the air, and sometimes even rolling slowly backwards takes serious skill.
Things wrap up with a freestyle event where drivers let loose. One thing they all mentioned early on was that they appreciate the fact that they’re putting on a show for fans. If they are too hard on their trucks and take them out of commission at the start of the show, that’s a letdown for fans. They won’t push things too hard at the start because they want to put on a show right until the end. And that end is freestyle.
This is where the drivers go a little nuts and it is something to behold. They roll their trucks and end up back on all four wheels as often as they end up with their wheels spinning in the air. The fiberglass bodies end up strewn about the field a piece at a time as the drivers push their trucks to their limits. All the while, the crowd screams and cheers waiting to see if they can pull off each stunt.
Monster Jam is an event for the whole family to enjoy from the Pit Party to the craziness of the freestyle competition. You can find out more about Monster Jam at their site and see when this truck-tastic event is coming to a stadium near you.
All Images: Feld Entertainment