Apparently when a bunch of "roided-out trucks through 66-inch tires and also alky big-blocks begin popping wheelies, you"ve acquired to collection some ground rules.

You are watching: How to become a monster truck driver



From the October 2018 issueThe first thing you do after you begin a monster truck is turn it off. Actually, friend don"t revolve it off. One of the 4 guys watching you death the ignition via a radio. Friend know how the Kool-Aid man used to crash v walls? lock don"t desire that happening in ~ your regional arena must you go unconscious through the throttle large open. Security first.

"And what comes second?" i ask Tom Meents, the longtime driver of maximum Destruction and also the professor below at Monster Jam university in Paxton, Illinois. "Safety," that says. You deserve to take a guess in ~ the 3rd most essential thing. (Hint: It"s safety.) "When carry out we obtain to the part about doing awesome stuff that looks supercool?" i ask. "That"s fourth," that replies. I suppose that once a bunch of "roided-out trucks with 66-inch tires and also alky big-blocks begin popping wheelies ~ above a dirt track the size of a hockey rink, you"ve got to have actually some ground rules. It"s prefer staging a dogfight in between Black eagle helicopters in the patio-and-garden ar of your regional Walmart. Don"t knock end the petunias.

Meents is well-known for walking big, do freestyle runs the look quasi the end of control and attempting ludicrous stunts favor the double backflip. The truth is the he"s in perfect manage (mostly) and also the stunts to be honed here, where 2 replica arena tracks are collection among the soybean fields. That takes a many skill and also composure to look demented and also unhinged.

In comparison to his bombastic change ego, Meents is laconic and deadpan. He says I must wear one of the school"s three-layer fire-resistant driving suits quite than the vintage NASCAR one I lugged with me, since "it would certainly be a dead to need to graft component of your target onto her face." In a Monster Jam movie, he"d be play by Woody Harrelson. He"s been competing in Monster Jam for 25 years, and his 22-year-old son, Colton Eichelberger, is a driver now, too.


Could i be a driver? countless prospective motorists earn invitations come Monster Jam university by showing talent in related motorsports—say, off-road racing. Yet anybody have the right to send in an application. Seriously. Superfans who petition because that a tryout sometimes acquire a shot, in stark contrast to particular pro jai-alai leagues that constantly ignore my correspondence also though I know they signed because that the Edible Arrangements. My chief qualification below is that among my primary school schoolmates, Greg Winchenbach, drives Crushstation, the truck the looks choose a lobster. So clearly, Jefferson, Maine, is a hotbed of monster-truck talent. Plus, I"ve acquired plenty of misplaced confidence, and I don"t have actually a good grasp that consequences. You can"t teach that, yet I will have to learn the control part.

For that, there are trainer trucks. These room not dumbed under or detuned; prefer the marquee Monster Jam trucks, they"re running 1500 horsepower with a two-speed Powerglide transmission. The difference is the body. Because you"ll simply smash that up, and bodies room expensive—Max D"s fancy shells expense $16,000 a pop—the trainer trucks lack them. Standard procedure is to affix a sign bearing each driver"s name to the side of the truck. This renders it look prefer my van is named Ezra, i m sorry is a nice weak surname for a monster truck and would probably result in mine acquiring swirlies from BroDozer and Raminator.

Inside the garage, i climb increase the frame and into the driver"s seat. Lining Werner, who drives El Toro Loco, tutors me ~ above the controls while two mechanics adjust them. The lap belts are tightened v ratchet wrenches. It"s necessary that whatever feel right, due to the fact that once you"re strapped right into the harness and head restraint, friend can"t check out anything listed below your chin. In fact, your variety of eye motion is yes, really the only means of spring anywhere but dead ahead. If castle could, they"d probably strap her eyeballs in place, too.

Once I"m bolted in, I acquire a thumbs up and fire the ignition. "Oftentimes, the best method to find out is from her failures," says Meents end the radio. "So let"s get out there and start failing." We begin with a basic exercise: to run ovals roughly a couple of tires to obtain accustomed come the behind steering, which is controlled by a toggle switch to the ideal of the steering wheel. In ~ a couple of laps, ns feel I"m beginning to number it out. Meents allows me know that mine badassitude is completely in mine head. "You look at good," the says. "Slow, but good. You have to hit the rear steer early, let walk of it early, and also power the end of the turn." I never quite pond the timing on that. It"s a difficult concept: many of the steering comes from the earlier of the vehicle, via one on/off switch with a small bit that latency. I"m steering means too much with the wheel. Locking diffs and also 66-inch tires don"t desire to turn.

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We can’t it is in sure, however we suspect it’s Ezra obtaining some waiting here.
Andi HedrickCar and Driver
It occurs to me that if this thing had a pair of electronically regulated diffs, that would have actually crazy turn-in to add the straight-line hookup. However monster van haven"t followed the trajectory that every other kind of motorsports, where rivals spend vast money for small advantages. To trust dictates design, and these van have advanced to survive abuse. Castle could always be faster or more agile, yet what great is that if you tear off your behind suspension every time you go big? "When the trucks were built for racing, castle were approximately 9000 pounds," Meents says. "But because that what we"re act now, they should be built to take much more abuse, for this reason they"re much more like 12,000 pounds."

While nobody is running carbon-fiber rims or hybrid an increase systems, the trucks aren"t cheap. The number $250,000 is bandied around quite a bit. It"s a number that"s in my head—along v the hyperbolic weight and horsepower figures—as i pull come the green light the heads one impossibly brief drag strip. It"s perhaps 70 feet long. Because, remember, you"re basically in a hockey rink. Meents death the engine come coach me end the radio.


"Okay," the says. "You"re gonna pull approximately the line. Watch the light. Brake-torque that in first, carry the revs up. As soon as you check out green, pop her foot off the brake and also go wide-open throttle v first, climate bang second, and also immediately gain your hand up to the steering toggle. We"re gonna carry out that three times. And also then we"re gonna do it with the engine on." He"s not joking, and also of course i mess up the sequence the very first two tries. The radio crackles. "I think I know the problem," Meents says. "You"ve been in a million vehicles, yet you"ve never learned to drive any kind of of them!"

But in which method it"s much easier when the engine"s running. The irradiate goes green and also I hammer down, all 4 Camry-sized call patches digging because that traction as a bushel the M-80s goes off behind my head and this second-floor studio apartment launches itself in the basic direction of Iowa. It"s probably something favor the sensation a mountain goat feeling the minute a gold eagle plucks it off a cliff. Yet I nail the run. Ns think. It turns out Meents agrees. "Let"s check out if you"re happy or good," he says. "Do the again." ns repeat the process to his satisfaction and also then take a break.

As i chug water, us sit in ~ a picnic table under a the shade tree and contemplate preferably Destruction, parked in the center of the track atop the greatest dirt pile. "Maybe you should drive that one," Meents says. "You can"t break it. Yet it have the right to break you. Physically and emotionally." Joke"s ~ above you, i say. I"m already physically and emotionally broken.

"How rapid are these trucks, like, zero to 60?" i ask. "We"ve never measured that," Meents says, "but I understand we deserve to hit 80 mph in 500 feet because that a jump. And on asphalt, it"ll irradiate up all four tires for a while turn off the line."

With the engine cooled down to 140 degrees, it"s earlier in the truck for the following item on the curriculum: a jump. "This run feels choose you"re 100 feet in the air," Meents says. "But it"s more than likely only nine or 10 feet." Only? later on, I will look in ~ the heart-rate screen on mine watch and also see the my heart price doubled indigenous 58 beats every minute to 116 during this feat, even though ns was physically immobile. Translation: i was crapping myself.

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Meents reminds the of the visibility of the steering wheel.
Andi HedrickCar and Driver
The light goes green, and I willfully short-circuit any component of mine nervous device that"s no onboard v holding my appropriate foot down. Revs up, pop the brake, the sleep of the truck climbs skyward because that the fast rip through an initial gear. Slam second, keep it straight, watch the ramp rush towards the prior tires before falling away together the truck goes weightless because that what must be the longest second of my life. Limit straps keep the axles from ripping the dampers personally at full droop. The landing is flat, quite much, and also amazingly smooth. "Good, good!" Meents yells end the radio. He"s kind of laughing together he claims it. I think he"s pleasantly surprised the I actually listened to his advice and also kept the accelerator down. He sends me ago around for another run. This time, I"m excited rather than terrified, because jumping a monster truck is precisely as lot fun together you"d hope it would be. I perform it again, this time staying on the gas just a little bit longer and sticking the landing that lot cleaner. "Perfect!" Meents yells. "Good job, good air, truck was nice and level. Perhaps you could"ve backed off sooner, yet don"t overthink it." he decides to promote me to Monster Jam 102: Stoppies.

This is a relatively brand-new trick, in i m sorry the driver kicks the behind tires turn off a steep lip, then jams the brakes come send the truck up onto its front tires. The experts can balance the van on the former tires, rears skyward, watch forever, also shifting into reverse and driving behind (a.k.a. Moonwalking). But it"s not easy. Previously this morning, us watched Eichelberger provide a demo, and even he rolled it a couple times. "There space two type of drivers," Meents says. "Those who have flipped and also those who haven"t." He leaves out the "yet." It"s assumed.

The Monster Jam has identified how to teach a bear to dance. And just like at the circus, a dancing be afflicted with is a wondrous thing. Till it all goes wrong.
Would you think that I pond the stoppie ~ above the first try? well then you space gullible. But almost. I goose the throttle, the earlier end walk a mule kick, and I was standing on the brakes. The check out ahead rotates native blue sky and also green fields to the dirt instantly in prior of the truck. The van teeters because that a moment before toppling over like a giant robot dog searching for a belly rub. There"s a term for this: ns turtled it.

"You had it!" Meents says. "Good throttle, an excellent timing, you just needed come let turn off the brake and also maybe provide it a small bit of gas. Yet you had actually it." here I am hanging upside down choose an idiot, and Meents sounds nearly happy about it. Maybe even a tiny proud. There space two kinds of drivers, and now I"m the right kind.

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Monster Mash

These van are constructed for durability beyond all else. Here"s what goes right into their 12,000-pound curb weights.

Engine: A 540-cubic-inch, 1500-hp alcohol-burning big-block. Like the suspension, there space limit straps here, too—on the supercharger, in situation it blows up. Most trucks are mid-engined.

Suspension: Thirty inches of travel, through a four-link rear finish that deserve to withstand upright drops native crowd-pleasing flying wheelies. Border straps stop the ZF axle assemblies indigenous tearing apart the dampers at complete droop.

Brakes: A single 12-inch rotor for each axle. These pinion brakes are mounted between the drive-shafts and the axles, multiplying the braking force by the 22:1 equipment reduction.

Tires: Sixty-six-inch-tall BKTs designed for Monster Jam trucks. They"re lighter than agricultural tires. Beadlock wheels room a necessity.

Mufflers: Stubby MagnaFlows welded in simply aft that the headers. Don"t worry, it"s quiet loud.

The Physics the a Stoppie

Get the right and you"re a gravity-defying hero. Screw the up and you"re upside down.

One that the reasons Tom Meents likes the engine an installed in prior in his truck: once he"s act a stoppie, a.k.a. Placing the point on that nose, the truck"s center of gravity is that much lower. This is exactly how it"s done:

1. with the former tires in ~ the height of a short, steep ramp, brake-torque the truck.

2. together you release the brake, floor the throttle. Once the behind tires hit the ramp, the truck will mule-kick skyward.

3. The minute you feeling the rears absent up, slam the brakes. V the former tires ~ above the ground, this will reason the rear end to proceed rotating up.

4. when the rear finish is straight up or close come it, relax the brakes come let the front tires begin walking forward. When you discover the balance point, drive about like this every day.

5. Or organize the brakes as well long and also the momentum of the rear carries past the balance point . . .


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. . . And you turtle.

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