They’re 12-feet tall, 12-feet wide and sit on 66-inch-high tires. Monster trucks are invading central Iowa this weekend for what’s known as Monster Jam, which features racing and freestyle events. One of the best known monster trucks is the black-and-green beast known as Grave Digger. Chad Tingler is starting his fifth year driving the hulking machine.
Tingler says this weekend is the start of the major season with shows all over the U-S for the next few months until the World Finals in late March in Las Vegas. After that, they’ll spend the summer traveling to places like Mexico City, Panama City, Costa Rica and all over Europe. The trucks are built for short, high-powered bursts of power. They can dash at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, jump 14 cars side-by-side and bounce 35 feet in the air.
The name Grave Digger has been used on monster trucks for 30 years and Tingler says it became so famous, it had to be cloned — multiple times. There are seven trucks, each with its own driver. “The popularity of the truck is just that great because over the years, all the crazy things that it’s known that truck does and how it thrills all the fans,” Tingler says. “It’s really popular now all over the world since we’ve been going to Europe and Central America.”
Monster Jam is sanctioned by the U.S. Hot Rod Association and is the most popular monster truck tour in the world, performing before more than four-million fans a year. Tingler says nothing is planned. “We don’t have any practice at all, no rehearsals or anything like that,” Tingler says. “It’s not like a concert. We come out and do what we do. We don’t have practice laps or test sessions or anything like NASCAR. We pretty much go in and get the big tires put on the truck and we’re ready to go.”
When he’s not on the road, the 35-year-old Tingler lives in North Carolina. He spent several years as an arborist, trimming trees, before becoming a mechanic on a monster truck team, eventually working his way up to driver. Monster Jam is Friday and Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. For details, visit: “www.monsterjam.com“.
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