Words & Images Richard S. James
“When it comes to racing, you’ve got to be very diligent,” says Weenk. “You’ve got to handle the truck as it comes to you and make decisions on the go. Recently I found myself in the finals, and my crew and I talk a lot about running the same race and keeping the same line. I made a decision on the go in the last corner to flat foot it and have the truck go into a bit of a skid and then slingshot across the finish line. But that didn’t happen... It found a small rut that threw it up on two wheels and I lost the race. You’re hero or zero, and if I would have made it, I’d have been a hero. There are a lot of gut-instinct moves out there while the track changes.” The second half of the event is freestyle. The obstacles – crushed cars and more – are moved around. The dirt mounds are built higher and sculpted for big air. The object is to do as many tricks and hit as many obstacles as possible in the time allotted, 60 or 90 seconds. The run is scored, and the highest score wins. Tricks include getting big air over the jumps, going backwards over obstacles (hit reverse because you need to back up, and you’ll lose points), donuts, wheelies and, well, anything you can successfully do with six-foot-tall tires, 30in. of suspension travel ( 26 at the front) and 1500hp from 545c.i. supercharged, methanol-burning engines. That’s all attached to a tubeframe – about 600ft of 2in.
With 66in. tires, more than 1,500hp and a talent for jumping 40 feet in the
air and crushing motor homes, what’s not to like about monster trucks?
It’s not the fastest form of motorsport in the world. And the racing is just a prelim for the main act. But what they
lack in outright speed, monster trucks and
their six-foot-tall tires, drivers sitting 10
feet off the ground and insane stunts in
the offing, make up in sheer excitement.
What racing there is in Advance Auto
Parts Monster Jam events is much like a
rally super special, two cars competing on
twin tracks, with the first one back the
winner. Let’s face it – these 10,000lb trucks
are too big for door-to-door racing. But the
single-elimination, round-by-round racing
format is only half of it. Then comes the
freestyle part of the event, and what these
trucks do has to be seen to be believed.
“It’s like a big video game,” says Todd
LeDuc, who’s new to the sport as driver
of Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 2
and Pro Lite champ Brian Deegan’s Metal
Mulisha truck, but has years of off-road
racing experience. “Anything you want to
jump, you can jump as high as you want,
as fast as you want. You get so sideways
and crazy, it’s such an adrenaline rush.”
The rolling-over-cars thing you might
associate with monster trucks? Old hat.
Launching over and ramming through a
motor home? A little more interesting.
Shooting 40ft off the show floor at near
vertical? Doing the same thing backward?
Doing a pirouette? Now we’re talking.
“It’s very complex,” says Linsey
Weenk, driver of the Lucas Oil Crusader.
“It requires a quick decision maker, a
quick thinker and someone who likes to
challenge themselves and likes taking
risks. So much of a good freestyle is about
talent and luck. If you’re going to win
freestyle at the World Finals, the truck’s
got to bounce the right way. It’s probably
got to roll over and land on its wheels at
least once. A driver has to take crazy risks
that, 70 percent of the time, will break the
truck or leave it on its roof. Finding that
30 percent and surviving it is what gets the
crowd up on its feet and gets high freestyle
points. Going out and running nice and
safe is not going to win you freestyle.”
“YOU HAVE TO TAKE
CRAZY RISKS THAT,
70 PERCENT OF THE
TIME, WILL LEAVE A
TRUCK ON ITS ROOF”
Each Monster Jam event has two
portions. First comes the racing, a
single-elimination, dual-track event that
lasts less than 30 seconds. At a recent event
in Anaheim, the trucks would come off a
hill in the center side by side, split left and
right to go around an obstacle, do a 180
around another obstacle, then go the
opposite direction around the first,
sometimes flying up and over the hill side
by side. First one back wins, the other
parks. Four rounds of head to head
leave one overall winner.
66 APRIL 2012 RACER.com
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