There's something enchanting and magical about Monster Trucks. Yes, it may seem awkward to use such ethereal words to describe a 10-foot-tall truck that jumps the height of a two story building behind the power of a 1,500 horsepower engine. But then again, we are talking about a machine named Grave Digger.
Grave Digger is a Monster Truck icon. Even people who don't know anything about Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam competitions know the legendary black and purple truck. It's kind of like how every German now knows the name LeBron James.
Starting in the early '80s, Grave Digger has been a mainstay in the Monster Truck world, arguably the sport's most popular member. Thirty years ago, the Grave Digger team was a single truck driven by Dennis Anderson (who still drives today). Now the team has grown to a fleet of behemoths driven by as many as eight different drivers, one of which is Gary Porter, who'll be behind the wheel when Monster Jam takes over the BankAtlantic Center this weekend.
Porter himself has a long history in Monster Jam, originally driving and part-owning Carolina Crusher until selling it in 1999 and becoming a driver for Grave Digger in 2001.
Monster Jam takes place this weekend at the BankAtlantic Center with four shows starting this Friday, August 17, going through Sunday, August 19. If history repeats itself, Grave Digger will roll out of the arena with a victory. If not, well, it'll still leave truck parts littered all over the arena floor.
But before all the car smashing begins, we asked Porter about his craziest crashes, his favorite vehicles to dominate, and the drive-thru capabilities of his famous ride.
Cultist: Do you miss the days when Monster Trucks were so popular that they were featured in two Sunday Morning cartoons, circa mid- to late 1980s, like the Power Team and Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines?
Porter: Monster Trucks are more popular today than they were back in the mid-'80s. There were cartoons back then, but we weren't getting the coverage that we are getting now on the Speed Channel. The sport has definitely grown, and it is bigger and better now than it was back then.
Have you ever taken Gravedigger out on the streets to get drive-thru?
(Laughs) Actually, I technically have. We did a display at Taco Bell a while back in Charlottesville, Virginia, and when I cranked the truck up to bring it back into the trailer, I had to bring it through the drive-thru to bring it into the truck. Does that count?
Grave Digger drivers are pretty well known for being nearly suicidal with how far they'll push jumps and tricks. What's the worst crash you've ever had?
I have a couple of different ones. The first one I was racing side by side with another truck and it ran into me. Thankfully, I walked away unharmed. The second was about a year ago, in Philadelphia. I wasn't driving Grave Digger, I was driving Spiderman, and I took a real hard landing, cracked my sternum and tore muscles in my neck. It was the worst I've been hurt and the worst accident I have been in as well.
You know, the trucks are very safe, though. There are lots of safety features for the drivers, including custom made seats, and the straps to keep you from moving around are secure. You basically become a part of the vehicle. The accidents typically look worse than what they really are.
Do you ever get sick of hearing the roar of your 1,500 horsepower engine?
Not at all, I love it. It is awesome hearing that roar of the truck. It gets loud inside the building, but we add in mufflers that help make it more enjoyable for the audience.
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What's your favorite "half-time" show at a Monster Jam: rocket motorcycle, BMX, or something else?
FMX (Freestyle Motorcross). Those guys are nuts; doing quads and letting go of the motorcycle completely and flying off the air. It is pretty awesome and it amazes me what they can do and how they manage those motorcycles.
Other than old beat up 1985 Buick LaSabres which would you rather crush: a Lamborghini, Danica Patrick's Nascar, or a Cessna airplane?
Finish this sentence: A person who wears ear plugs during a Monster Jam is...
Well, for the kids it's very smart; it shows that parents are being responsible, since it does get really loud in there. Even though the whole show isn't loud, it is still good they bring something to protect their hearing. Some other people say if you wear earplugs you might be a redneck, but that's not the case.