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Monster trucks

July 18, 2006|by ROBERT KELLER

There's nothing like watching monster trucks performing. Saturday night was no exception.

The monster trucks were back in Hagerstown for the USHRA Monster Jam. The monsters included Grave Digger, Maximum Destruction, Black Stallion, Iron Warrior, Destroyer and Hot Wheels.

Tom Meents, the driver of Maximum Destruction, has a lot of experience behind the wheel of monster trucks.

"It's a great adrenaline rush," Meents said. "The fans get you excited for the race." When asked what's the worst thing that has happened to him and his truck, he said, "when the truck breaks and I can't complete the performance."

He said his greatest competitor is Grave Digger.

I asked Black Stallion driver Michael Vaters, who lives southwest of Hagerstown, about his inspiration to become a driver of monster trucks.

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"I had a high pick-up truck," Vaters said. "New laws forced me to take it off the streets. Eventually, I had to make a choice. I either had to park the truck or lower it."

This is Vaters' 25th year of competing with Black Stallion. When asked if he was going to do anything special to mark the milestone, he replied, "I might go with a retro look, but I'm probably going to wait until the 30th (anniversary)."

Vaters said his worst moment as a monster-truck driver occurred away from the racetrack.

He said, the truck hauler struck a low overpass while driving through New York. The hauler was totaled and it cost plenty of money to repair the bridge.

One of Vaters' students, Trey Myers of Brunswick, Md., is the driver of Iron Warrior. He once worked for Vaters. This is his first year driving Iron Warrior.

"Driving a monster truck is incredible," Myers said. "It's a different style of racing. Of all the races, monster trucks are the wildest." His greatest competitor is Maximum Destruction.

On of the crowd's favorites, Dennis Anderson's Grave Digger, was in Hagerstown for the weekend event. Charlie Pauken replaced Anderson, who was out with a broken hand. I asked Pauken what got him involved in this sport.

"I was helping out two guys who had a truck in Richmond, Va.," Pauken said. "After the show, I knew I had to be part of it."

The first half of the night's activities featured side-by-side racing. After qualifying and several rounds of racing, the finals came down to Maximum Destruction and Black Stallion. In the end, Michael Vaters and Black Stallion won.

In the second half of the show, it was monster-truck freestyle. Freestyle is a wild show in which drivers earn points by performing different stunts over pyramids of cars and dirt ramps. Vaters maneuvered Black Stallion for its signature backward jump over a stack of cars and scored 29 points. Maximum Destruction unleashed a cyclone spin and earned a perfect 30. Grave Digger brought us a slam into the wall, also earning a perfect 30. In the end, the crowd's cheers favored Grave Digger over Maximum Destruction, giving Digger the win.

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