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Monster Mash: Speedway hosting giants

July 15, 1998

BigfootBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Did your mama ever tell you there's no such thing as monsters?

Well, maybe she never experienced the U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam.

She'll have a chance this weekend at Hagerstown Speedway.

Seven monster trucks - Grave Digger, Bigfoot, Monster Patrol, Carolina Crusher, Liquidator, American Guardian and Thrasher, along with Quad Wars and Cycle Wars, will put on a monster of a show Friday, July 17, and Saturday, July 18, at 8 p.m.

--cont from lifestyle--

"What's a monster truck?" your mama might ask.

Monster trucks are custom-built vehicles about 11 feet tall and 12 feet wide. They weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds and can jump distances as great as 115 feet and up to 25 feet in the air.

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They ride on tires that are 5 feet, 6 inches tall, 43 inches wide and cost about $1,800 each.

Their 2,000 horsepower, custom-built engines burn two- to two-and-a-half gallons of methanol for each run of about 250 feet and cost about $35,000.

With shocks priced at about $2,000 each, initial fiberglass body molds at about $20,000 and paint jobs at $2,000 to $7,000, the cost of the average monster truck is $80,000 to $120,000.

That's a monster of a sticker price.

"Why?" your mama might ask.

Because it's fun, is the answer Monster Truck fans might give.

Rich Shaffer, director of events and marketing for Bigfoot, "the original monster truck," calls the phenomenon the "all-American motorsport." You won't see Toyotas competing with Ferraris, Shaffer says.

It comes down to Ford versus Chevy, says Lisa Plessinger, general manager at Hagerstown Speedway.

Grave DiggerIt's a blue-collar, not a white-collar sport, according to Shaffer. And although he calls the crowd "tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking weekend warriors," he says monster truck competition is a kids' sport. About 75 percent of the fan club membership is kids, Shaffer says.

Drivers will be at the Pit Party Saturday, July 18, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. to sign autographs and talk with fans.

They don't have "bad boy" attitudes, Shaffer says. They are truly a "kid-oriented" bunch.

"It's a real big family thing," Plessinger says.

Shaffer compares the event to drag racing, and calls Hagerstown Speedway one of the fastest outdoor tracks in the country.

Two vehicles race side-by-side on a 20-foot run to a couple of junk cars in their paths. They don't build to maximum speed until they come down after the cars into "no man's land," Shaffer says. They build speed to get over or crush the eight junk cars between them and the finish line.

It's loud. Tell mama - or those with young children - to bring an extra 50 cents for ear plugs sold at the speedway. But Plessinger says it's not as loud as race cars, and the noise is part of the monster truck experience.

"If you don't hear it, you're not involved in it," she says.

The show also will include motorcycle and four-wheeler racing, billed as Cycle Wars and Quad Wars.

Quad Wars features two teams of four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles - ATVs. It's the North versus the South in what Event Director Darren Grillo calls "the Civil War meets the year 2000."

Shaffer dubs the event World Wrestling Federation on quads.

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