Monster trucks, hear them roar

March 04, 1994|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing Writer

You've heard the announcements on the radio. Engines roaring, wheels squealing, metal crunching and glass breaking. Then, some guy who can barely contain himself screams, "Live! This weekend! At the Baltimore Arena! Car-crushing, monster trucks! Be there, be there, be there!!"

Someone give that guy a glass of water! What's the big deal here anyway?

"The size of the vehicle, the speed, the noise, the excitement, the way the announcer gets everyone pumped up, that's what's so great about monster truck racing," says 35-year-old Ken Deppe, driver of the monster truck Bear Foot.

Bear Foot, like other monster trucks, resembles the body of a standard pickup truck. That's where the likeness ends. Most monster trucks weigh more than 10,000 pounds, some more than 12,000. The tires measure 5 1/2 feet -- yes, feet -- high, 4 feet wide and weigh 600 pounds each. The vehicle is powered by a $40,000 engine that can reach speeds of 60-70 mph in a 100-foot drag.

You won't find these trucks fighting rush-hour traffic on the Beltway (although it would make the morning commute more tolerable).

"Monster truck events are popular in urban areas," says Julie Hoffmann, public relations director for the U.S. Hot Rod Association, which regulates the truck races. "There is a lot of congestion and traffic, and everyone's dream is to get into a big truck and just run over the cars in front of you."

While it appears the object of the monster truck "sport" is to flatten five to 15 cars, it's really just a race -- who can drive over dirt, mud and the pre-flattened cars fastest.

"The cars are just an obstacle. You have to figure out how to get over them quickly, keeping at least two wheels down all the time. If you don't do that, the truck pops up in the air," Mr. Deppe says.

He should know. Mr. Deppe is the only person to win the association's championship three times.

Driving can be hard on the body, bouncing around in the truck all the time, but Mr. Deppe says he keeps doing it "for the kids."

"When an adult walks up to you and asks you for an autograph, that's nice. But I like it when kids come up to me. To a 4- or 5-year-old, this is the neatest thing he's ever seen in his entire life," he says, adding that the show is a great family activity. "It's good, clean fun."

And, hey, if giant trucks rolling through mud, flying through the air and flattening Buicks isn't enough excitement for you, check out the Dynamite Lady, Allison Bly, who crawls inside a plastic foam box and blows herself up. Or there's the Dinosaurus Rox, a jet-powered, fire breathing, four-story tall, robotic dragon.

The U.S. Hot Rod/Ford Grand Slam of Motorsports is at the Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $8 for children. Call: (410) 481-SEAT

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