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Hagerstown Speedway hosts Monster Jam this weekend

July 22, 2010|By CHRIS COPLEY
  • El Matador will compete this weekend against Grave Digger and four other monster trucks at Monster Jam at Hagerstown Speedway.
Submitted photo,

They're big, they're ear-splittingly loud and they're back in Washington County this weekend.

Monster trucks return to Hagerstown Speedway Friday through Sunday for Monster Jam. Six trucks are expected, including the Grave Digger driven by Gary Porter.

The Grave Digger team has seven nearly identical trucks competing on the monster truck circuit, according to the team's website, http://www.gravedigger.com . Porter, who lives with his wife, Penny, on a farm in Wadesboro, N.C., joined the team in 2001. He has been racing monster trucks since 1985. He said he likes coming to Hagerstown.

"I always look forward to it. It's a very nice venue," he said when reached by phone last week. "Most speedways, we do two days of racing. Hagerstown, we do three. And you have to be on your A game."

Typically, each day of monster truck competition is divided into two events -- side-by-side racing against the clock, then freestyle. Freestyle is like monster truck ballet -- drivers have a couple of minutes to do wheelies, spins, jumps over piles of cars, pretty much anything they can to wow the crowd and judges.

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"Freestyle is always the crowd favorite," Porter said.

The trucks are built tough to take their drivers' hard handling. Each truck has a fiberglass body over a heavy, steel frame. Tires are 66 inches tall and 43 inches wide. Grave Digger's suspension has to help the truck survive a 60-foot-long jump reaching 25 feet in height. Or landing on one tire. Or rolling over.

"On the Grave Digger truck there's 30 inches of travel on the rear (suspension) and 26 in front," Porter said. "With the obstacles, getting points depends on how much air we get. We want a lot of travel."

But the big tires and wide open suspension has a downside -- it makes the top-heavy truck bounce as if it had beach balls on its corners.

Couple Grave Digger's frame and suspension to a 1,200-horsepower engine, and you've got speed as well as power. Porter said he'll do what he can to please the crowd. Grave Digger can accelerate from a standing start to 50 or 60 miles per hour in just a few seconds. Or crawl over and crush a school bus. Or hold a wheelie from one end of the racetrack to the other.

But that's the point: To put on a good show. To have a good time.

"They're just bigger than life. The tires are so big. Kids are in awe," Porter said. "I look forward to seeing everybody at Hagerstown."




If you go ...



WHAT: Monster Jam

WHEN: Gates open at 5 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Friday, July 23. Pit party at 4 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 24. Gates open at noon, and show starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25.

WHERE: Hagerstown Speedway, 15112 National Pike, west of Hagerstown

COST: Advance tickets cost $15; reserved seating costs $20; $5, children. Adult tickets cost $18 and $23 at the gate.

CONTACT: Call 301-582-0640 or go to http://www.hagerstownspeedway.com .

MORE: Participants must have a Saturday admission ticket to go to the pit party and see trucks and drivers up close; pit passes are free and may be picked up at participating Advance Auto Parts stores before Monster Jam. Also, Sunday is family day; no alcohol will be served.

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