High On Monster Trucks

February 22, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

Monster truck driver Randy Brown is riding high, fast and happy.

When Monster Jam comes to the 1st Mariner Arena this weekend, Brown will jump high and crush junkyard cars with fan favorite Grave Digger.

This is Brown's sixth year driving one of the seven Grave Digger trucks on the Monster Jam circuit. It's also Grave Digger's 25th anniversary, Brown said. He grew up in North Carolina about 10 miles from Dennis Anderson, who created Grave Digger.

Brown's father, Allen, was a drag racer and truck puller. Growing up with racing in the family and Anderson down the road, Brown knew he would make a living in motor sports. He started at the age of 18 and hasn't looked back, he said.

"I raced everything I could get a hold of," said Brown, 32. "It just kind of seemed to be in my blood. It was exactly what I wanted to do."

In his 20s, Brown started and ran his own Monster Jam racing team for about three years. Then Anderson made him an offer to drive one of the Grave Digger trucks.

"It was really a deal I couldn't turn down," Brown said. "It was a dream come true, and a job that everybody wants to do that's into motor sports or monster trucks. Everybody wants to drive Grave Digger."

Grave Digger, like most trucks on the Monster Jam circuit, stands about 11 feet tall and weighs about 9,000 pounds. The tires alone are more than 5 feet high. It has enough muscle (1,500-2,000 horsepower) to jump more than 125 feet and leap up to 25 feet in the air.

In most Monster Jams, these huge trucks speed around arena floors, run up ramps and roll over junkyard cars. They're loud and mean-looking. So how does it feel to bring a few tons of monster truck down on scrap cars?

"It's pretty awesome," Brown said. "You feel that motor rumbling, and you're 20 feet in the air, 30 feet in the air. It's a pretty awesome deal."

The ride is also surprisingly smooth, Brown said. New chassis and shock technology make the giant leaps much less rough than in years past.

Brown and two other full-time crew members do most of Grave Digger's repairs, he said. Because of this, he has a strong connection with the truck. When something goes wrong, he's on top of it.

"I can basically pinpoint what the problem is just by the feel of the truck," he said. "It makes the ride in the truck better, it gives me more confidence, plus it helps the crew guys maintain the truck and work on it."

Trucks compete in two events during Monster Jams: racing and free-styling. The racing segment is fairly straightforward, with trucks competing in brackets to cross the finish line first with the least amount of penalties.

In the freestyle portion, trucks get a certain amount of time to perform for the crowd. Then, the fans decide the winner.

"People come to see us do crazy things - to really tear the track up and get those big air jumps," Brown said. "I enjoy both [categories], but I would have to say freestyle is my favorite."

Of the half dozen or so cars coming to the city tomorrow, Grave Digger will definitely be one of the standouts, Brown said. He's thrilled to be behind the wheel.

"It's pretty awesome to get the fan base that we have, and to be able to carry on the legacy of Grave Digger," Brown said. "It's a lot of pressure, but it's a lot of fun, too."


Monster Jam comes to the 1st Mariner Arena this weekend. Shows are 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices vary. The arena is at 201 W. Baltimore St. For more information, call 410-547-SEAT or go to ticketmaster.com.

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