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Monster Jam seems like crowd-pleasing chaos, but event setup takes planning

July 18, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • File photo Spiderman, driven by Whit Tarlton of Wadesboro, N.C., gets vertical at the 2011 Monster Jam. The 2012 Monster Jam takes place Friday, July 20, through Sunday, July 22, at Hagerstown Speedway. Among featured trucks will be Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction.
File photo

Big trucks. Earsplitting noise. Flying dirt. Smashed cars.

Monster Jam isn’t an event — it’s a happening.

But long before super-charged engines belch out a roar and thousands of fans are entertained by the crunching and crushing of metal, the wheels already have been turning.

Sites have been approved. Drivers are lined up. Demolition vehicles are purchased. An advertising blitz begins. And dirt crews build the tracks.

A lot of work goes into making monster trucks a monster draw.

In some cases, said Dave Allison, the planning begins a year ahead of time.

Allison is event manager for Feld Motor Sports, the production company of the Advance Auto Parks Monster Jam at the Hagerstown Speedway that opens Friday, July 20, and continues through Sunday, July 22.

When spectators walk through the gates this weekend, Allison noted, few will realize the number of hours that have gone into making the show a reality.

Preparation time varies from show to show, Allison said — from a few weeks to a few months or more.

For instance, the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas will take place in March of 2013. But work has been under way a year in advance.

In Hagerstown, preparation has been a little simpler, Allison said. Workers will move into the Speedway today, and the racetrack will be show-ready by 5 p.m. Friday, when the doors open.

But the crew follows the same guidelines, regardless of the size and location of the venue.

“Monster Jam and Feld Motor Sports holds a very high safety expectation for our employees, competitors and fans,” Allison said. “Safety is our No. 1 goal. If it isn’t safe, then we don’t do it. When it comes to company specifications, we follow that rule.”

At some Monster Jam events, including football stadiums, the field is covered in a protective polyurethane product and trucks then dump several hundred loads of dirt.

But because the Hagerstown Speedway has no grass to protect, the tracks will be built on the existing dirt surface, Allison explained.

“This involves our crew building the Monster Jam track, Street Warrior track and the Quad War track,” he said.

The move-in also includes flouring the track, hanging the start lights and sponsor banners and painting the crush cars. The 24 crush cars are acquired by Hagerstown Speedway and come from a local salvage yard, Allison noted.

Following the weekend event, Allison said cleanup involves the reverse of everything that was involved in the setup.

“We have to leave Hagerstown Speedway the way we found it, minus the dirt,” he shared. “The Speedway will remove the extra dirt brought in for the Monster Jam tracks.”

Allison said the lineup for each Monster Jam event “is based on what trucks have been there, what trucks are fan favorites and routing and availability. Many owner operators do perform on the Monster Jam circuit from coast to coast, plus Canada and Mexico.”

Allison said the lineup for Hagerstown 2012 will include:

• Maximum Destruction, featuring Tom Meents, 10-time World Champion and current World Racing Champion.

• Grave Digger, featuring Chad Tingler. Grave Digger is a four-time World Champion and is celebrating 30 years in monster truck competition.

• The Legend, with Adam Anderson. Anderson was a World Finals Freestyle Champion in 2008 when he drove the Taz Monster Truck. He now competes in the World Finals in the Legend and is the son of Dennis Anderson, the creator of Grave Digger.

• Wolverine, driven by Alex Blackwell. Wolverine is a 2003 World Finals racing champion.

• El Toro Loco, featuring Chuck Warner. El Toro is the 2004 co-champion of freestyle.

• Advance Auto Parts Grinder, driven by John Seasock, who drove the Batman Monster Truck to win back-to-back racing championships at the World Finals in 2007 and 2008.

• Gunslinger, driven by Scott Hartsock. Gunslinger and Hartsock also have competed in the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals.


If you go ...

WHAT: Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 22.

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

COST: Tickets cost $20, reserved; $10, general admission; $5, ages 2 to 12

CONTACT: Go to www.hagerstownspeedway.com

MORE: Go to www.monsterjam.com or friend Monster Jam at www.facebook.com/mjonline, where fans can learn more about Monster Jam and monster trucks and drivers and read the show recaps from their hometown show.



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