Titans of the track

Maximum Destruction on the bill at hagerstown Speedway

Maximum Destruction on the bill at hagerstown Speedway

July 15, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Behind the wheel of monster truck Maximum Destruction, Tom Meents is a super-driver.

He can leap tall motor homes in a single bound, crush cars with the punch of a gas pedal, and fly around dirt tracks in a truck that looks like a colorful cross between a tank and a tractor.

"I try to get as much air as I can, big air. Twenty feet is no problem," said Meents, 37, of Paxton, Ill. "It's a great adrenaline rush. It's awesome, but monster trucks will pound you, beat you up a little bit. I liken it to being in a football game."

Maximum Destruction will join five other monster trucks at Hagerstown Speedway this weekend for the U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam. Shows start at 8 p.m. Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 18. Participating monster trucks will include 2004 World Finals Racing Champion Grave Digger, 2004 World Finals Freestyle Champion Maximum Destruction, Hot Wheels, Ragin' Steel, Little Tiger and Sudden Impact.


The event also will feature Street Warriors, in which modified pickup trucks and Subarus race around the jump-filled course, and Quad Wars, in which teams of drivers race modified, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles around the perimeter of the monster truck course.

Meents, who will make his ninth appearance at the local Monster Jam, expects a sold-out venue.

"They pack the place, get tons of people to the speedway in Hagers-town," he said. "They're crazy about monster trucks there."

Monster truck mania

Meents said he's been nuts about monster trucks since he was a kid, cutting pictures of the trucks out of magazines and hanging them on his bedroom wall. He modified his first pickup truck to make it look like one of the supercharged behemoths, and began helping monster truck drivers work on their vehicles while employed as an auto mechanic in Illinois. Meents' contacts led to the start of his monster-truck driving career 11 years ago.

He captured his third World Finals Freestyle Champion title in Las Vegas, Nev., in March, and holds three racing championship titles.

Meents said he especially enjoys catching air after crashing into junk vehicles, and soaring his 9,500-pound, 10-foot-tall truck across a row of sacrificial cars - in reverse. Such freestyle moves keep crowds cheering and drivers coming back to the track for more hard-pounding, high-flying monster truck action.

"Freestyling is everybody's favorite," Meents said. "It's your time to shine."

Drivers also race their monster trucks around dirt tracks nationwide - a tricky enterprise when a half-dozen of the rolling titans try to squeeze into the lead at speeds of more than 70 mph.

"It gets kind of narrow there on the straight-away in Hagerstown," Meents said. "You've only got a split second to make a decision."

Monster trucks' high centers of gravity make them roll over easily, said Meents, who has tipped his truck 17 times in 2004. He's never been seriously injured - good fortune that he attributes primarily to the U.S. Hot Rod Association's strict safety regulations.

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