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Monster trucks take center stage at speedway

July 16, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Neither the drivers nor the fans have any illusions about why they love these seemingly unnatural, throaty-sounding monstrosities on oversized wheels.

"Just watching the trucks run, I like to see them crash stuff," said Warren Wishard, a resident of Chambersburg, Pa., and 15-year enthusiast of monster trucks. "I come every year."

Wishard arrived at the gates of Hagerstown Speedway Friday at 4:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the gates were scheduled to open, and already lines had formed before the box office.

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Part of a series of shows, the U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam kicked off at the Speedway Friday night and is scheduled to run through Sunday.

Still two hours before the first scheduled event, fans stood in the water-logged, mud-strewn parking lot waiting to enter the speedway, seemingly impervious to the heat and humidity.

"I'd rather see it sunny and cool, but hot and sticky will be all right," said Jeff Sasser, a resident of Winchester, Va. "I like watching the destruction, tearing the cars up."

The weather drew a healthy crowd of monster-truck enthusiasts hoping to see how the drivers would react to the slippery condition of the muddy, watery mix that was the speedway's surface Friday evening.

"I think it's better. It just makes it much more excitement-filled," said Sabrina Everhart of Hagerstown, a seven-year enthusiast of monster trucks. "I just like the trucks - the bigger, the better."

While six-time World Finals Champion Dennis Anderson and his Grave Digger were expected to be crowd favorites, many in the stands Friday treated native Hagerstown resident Michael Vaters to hearty applause as he was introduced with his Black Stallion.

"They're dedicated fans, and my job is to put the best show I can on for these people," said Vaters, who was forced to miss last year's event because of a scheduling conflict. "There's a little more pressure being home, but I hardly ever get nervous anymore."

Trey Meyers, a resident of Brunswick, Md., and Vaters' crew chief, said the fans are a dominating part of why he does what he does.

"You never know what's going to happen with one of these trucks," Meyers said. "(It's stressful), but it's worth it. Being able to look out and see the kids faces; you know you're their heroes. We understand we have a very strong connection with our fans. We'll stay back here signing autographs until the very last fan gets an autograph."

Michael "Mickey" Vaters, 17, said while proud of his father's achievements, monster trucks just don't do it for him. The life is good, he said, but he prefers two wheels to four.

"It's a different childhood. It's just a really different life. I wouldn't change it for anything," said the younger Vaters, who travels with his father and races in freestyle motocross events. "Motorcycling is more me, It's a bigger adrenaline rush."

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