Get ready for Monster Jam

July 16, 1997


Staff Writer

This summer is filled with monster sequels, and one of them is playing at Hagerstown Speedway this weekend.

Hagerstown Ford U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam 2 is Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19, at 8 p.m., featuring trucks from all over the country.

Fans can see Grave Digger, Monster Patrol, Carolina Crusher and Wild Thang, as well as the Hagerstown husband and wife team of Mike Vaters in Black Stallion and Pam Vaters in Boogie Van. The show also will include four-wheeler and motorcycle racing, billed as Quad Wars and Cycle Wars.

Monster truck racing has come on strong in the last five years, says Mike Vaters, 32.

"The trucks are so massive, and the way they destroy cars is a thrill," he says.

Once people come to a show, they really get hooked on monster trucks, says Dan Krolczyk, promotions manager of Pace Motor Sports, which manages U.S. Hot Rod Association. The association governs the safety of all its monster truck events and also is a fan club.


"There's a lot of drama behind the races. The sport is taking a neat swing, and the trucks are becoming characters themselves," Krolczyk says.

Wild Thang never does the same thing twice, says driver Tony Farrell of North Vernon, Ind.

"When it's in the air, you have no control until you hit the ground. You've got to be ready to react to whatever happens," Farrell says.

Farrell, 33, who was a mud racer for 14 years and won two world championships, is in his second year of monster truck racing.

The former school bus driver says his truck got its name from the reactions of onlookers.

"People would say `Look at that wild-looking thing,' " Farrell says.

Huge tires - 43 inches wide, 66 inches tall and weighing 900 pounds each - give the trucks their monstrous proportions.

The combination of horsepower and adrenaline drives audience members to the edge of their seats, ready for the unexpected. The chance that there could be a wreck keeps fans holding their breath.

"They live for that," Pam Vaters says.

Pam Vaters, 32, says this probably will be her last year of racing. She has been driving Boogie Van for five years and has been traveling with her husband for the 12 years he has been driving Black Stallion.

"I'm tired of traveling all the time, and it's just not fun anymore. I feel like I have to have time for me now," she says.

She says she's considering going to college to study nutrition. Leaving the circuit would allow her to spend more time with their son, Michael, 9, she says.

Monster truck shows are a big hit with children, says Farrell, who has a 4-year-old daughter, Alex, and a 6-year-old son, Ethan.

He says the freestyle portion of the shows, in which drivers can do jumps, doughnuts or whatever they choose, always is a crowd favorite.

The drivers are good friends before and after the race, but in the heat of the moment, the competition is fierce, Farrell says.

"When you strap that helmet on, you're out to win," Farrell says.

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