Monster Jam… rolling with the changes

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

As driver Gary Porter explains it, they don’t make monster trucks like they used to.

However, that’s not a bad thing, he said.

Porter comes to Connecticut July 23 and 24 with his truck Carolina Crusher as Monster Jam sets up at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Porter got into the sport of monster trucks back in the 1980s. In those days, he explained in a call from his home in North Carolina, everything was built from scratch.

Before he entered the world of monster trucks, Porter said he was already interested in four-wheel drive vehicles. And he loved modifying his truck, fixing the chassis to lift it higher and higher off the ground.

Then he learned about Monster Jam and signed up. He borrowed some money so he could build his first monster truck.

The monster trucks in the 1980s were DIY affairs, Porter explained.

“We took used parts and put it together,” said Porter.

“The trucks were doing what they weren’t designed to do,” said the driver of Carolina Crusher. “Nothing was made for monster trucks in the ‘80s.”

“In those early days, if your truck got over the cars and it didn’t break, you won,” said Porter.

The available gear directed toward monster trucks began to expand in the 1990s, said Porter, as more companies began to offering after market gear.

“Now every thing is built for monster trucks,” said Porter. You can buy shocks, axles, frames, rollover cages, etc.

Even the seats for the trucks are made to fit each individual driver, said Porter. “They hold you in place to take the impact… If it didn’t, my body couldn’t take it,” said Porter.

Suspensions also have improved, said Porter. In the early days, suspensions had two to three inches of give. Now, he said, they have 26 to 30 inches of play for a softer landing for the trucks

Everything is made better for the safety of drivers as well as the fans, said Porter.

Fans are key for monster truck competitors, said Porter. If it weren’t for the fans of Monster Jam, he said he wouldn’t be where he is today. “Without them, Monster Jam is nothing.”

Each stop of the Monster Jam always includes a special Pit Party (which this time is an additional $10 and will be held Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.).

At these Pit Parties, Porter said the fans always have questions for the drivers. One of the most popular questions he gets is, “How do you get in?” Fans also ask about the horsepower of the engine and the top speed of the trucks. And others ask him how long he’s been driving.

Porter has been in the sport long enough where he’s seeing second and third generations of fans come through. Some fans also follow the trucks from city to city. Porter said he was recently in Nashville and then traveled to Foxboro, Mass. He ran into fans who made the journey from the south to New England.

“It’s incredible,” said Porter.

One of the reasons Monster Jam has found success as family entertainment, said Porter is, “Kids love the monster trucks.”

“The kids bring mom and dad to the show,” said Porter, and then “the kids get mom and dad hooked.”

Porter said he’s glad to be coming to Stafford Motor Speedway for this weekend’s event.

“I look forward to coming to Stafford,” said Porter, “I’ve always had great success.”

“It’s great to be back up there… They always have awesome fans.”

Monster Jam will be performing at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs on Saturday, July 23 at 2 and 7:45 p.m. and Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $10 for children ages 2 to 12.

In addition to Porter’s Carolina Crusher, trucks on hand will be Grave Digger driven by Randy Brown, Monster Energy driven by Damon Bradshaw, VP Racing Fuels’ Mad Scientist driven by Lee O’Donnell, El Toro Loco driven by Chuck Werner, Max-D driven by Neil Elliott, Lumberjack driven by John Killinger, and Crushstation driven by Greg Winchenback.

For tickets, go to Ticketmaster.com or call 1-800-745-3000.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.

Gary Porter will drive Carolina Crusher at Monster Jam this weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Gary Porter will drive Carolina Crusher at Monster Jam this weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway.

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