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Fans cheer return of Monster trucks

July 19, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Monster trucks weighing 10,000 pounds and standing up to 10 feet tall roared over lines of cars at the Hagerstown Speedway Friday night, marking the return of what some call the ultimate in racing at the local track.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," said Ken McCurdy, who drove from Greencastle, Pa., with his friend Bob Cunningham to see the Hagerstown Ford U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam 2.

Dale Byers, also of Greenscastle, says he runs around in the mountains of Pennsylvania in his Toyota four-wheel-drive truck and dreams about manning one of the loud, hulking trucks.

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"It's something I'd love to do," Byers said.

Event officials estimated between 5,000 and 7,000 race fans turned out the local track to see the event. The speedway usually attracts around 1,000 fans on the weekends for the regular races, officials said.

The Monster Jam will be held again tonight at 8 p.m. and will feature a "pit party" where race fans can meet truck owners and see their monstrous creations up close.

The trucks stirred clouds of dust as they sped down a 250-foot stretch of the local track. The trucks had to complete two jumps, then leap over six cars parked side by side on the track. Some of the roofs of the cars were crushed when the trucks came just short of clearing the automobiles.

Between qualifying rounds and the elimination races, all-terrain vehicles competed in Quad Wars and dirt bikes raced in Cycle Wars, giving fans a steady dose of adrenalin-pumping action.

"That's the nice thing about this show. It's versatile," said Dan Krolczyk of Pace Motor Sports, the Chicago-based group that puts on the event.

The Monster Jam 2 is a nationwide event that rolls through major cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Before arriving for a two-day show in Hagerstown, the event was held in West Lebanon, N.Y., Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, said Krolczyk.

Although Monster Jam 2 plays at larger arenas than the Hagerstown Speedway, event organizers like coming here, said Krolczyk said. For one reason, the track here is longer than a lot of other venues, meaning the trucks can go faster. Trucks in Friday's qualifying rounds were completing their runs in about eight seconds.

About 10 people travel coast to coast with the Pace Motor Sports crew to put on the show. Truck owners travel by themsleves and haul their rigs in tractor-trailers. The tires on the trucks are so big that they have to be taken off the vehicles to get them in the truck, organizers said.

Dennis Anderson, driver of Grave Digger, one of the most popular monster trucks in the country, leaves his home in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and works his way to his second home in California in the national tour.

"I don't like being on the road as much as I used to," said Anderson.

But his driving is just as crazy as it always has been, and that's what the fans like.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm going for it," said Anderson.

His gruesome-looking 1950 Chevrolet panel truck is painted black and green, and a morbid picture of a skeleton stares out at the crowd. As Anderson inches the beast to the starting line, two eerie-looking red headlights switch on, and the crowd screams.

The other big attraction was Hagerstown's own Pam Vaters, who drives Boogey Van, a souped-up mini-van. The van's body shifts up and down and is prepares for a race and violet headlights blink on an off.

Vaters has been driving Boogey Van for five years, but she said she will probably step down from racing at the end of the year so she can spend more time with her family.

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