By MIKE CHAIKEN
Tom Meents is a legend in the Monster Jam Truck series.
The driver of the 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, custom-designed truck, Max-D, is the sport’s only 11-time World Champion. He is also the most successful competitor of the Monster Jam World Finals. Additionally, he has six World Racing Championships and five World Freestyle Championships to his name, both of which are tops in those categories as well.
Despite those kind of credentials, Meents, calling from Orlando, said he remembers the feeling he had when he won his first crown.
“It was awesome.”
From there, he said, he never thought in the world that there would be a second crown, third one, and so on.
Monster Jam comes to the XL Center in Hartford Feb. 7 and 8.
Since that first title, Meents said the competition has changed over the years. In the beginning, there were just 12 trucks competing. Now, when he steps into Max-D, the numbers are significantly larger and the quality of that competition is much stronger than when he first won the title.
For Meents, though, he has a “dream job” and he’s enjoying every moment of competing… and winning in the world of Monster Jam.
Asked to what does he owe his success, Meents said it is simple. He learned to have a strong work ethic from his father.
Additionally, Meents said he knows trucks. He said his father was an auto mechanic and everything he learned he learned by the side of his father.
Meents also said a good deal of his success can be traced to the “fantastic team” behind him. He said he knows he couldn’t do this on his own.
Meents, of course, wouldn’t be a Monster Jam driver without a monster truck. And his 10,000 pound behemoth is Max-D. Since Max-D was introduced in 2003, Meents said it has evolved.
For instance, Meents explained, trucks in 2015 take a much better beating monster trucks in 2003.. Additionally, Meents does a lot of research and development on Max-D to keep improving it, to help it take higher jumps, be stronger, and so on.
Monster Jam is well-known for how it fosters the drivers’ connections to the fans. And Meents said this is one of the most attractive facets of the sport for him.
On each stop on the tour, Meents said Monster Jam organizes Pit Parties before the competition. At these events, fans can look at the trucks up close. And the drivers can meet the fans and sign autographs until everyone who wants one has one.
“There is no other sport that does that,” said Meents
Meents said this appreciation of the fans can be traced to the drivers’ own roots. “We were fans before we were drivers,” said Meents.
Inevitably at the Pit Parties, the drivers will have a chance to meet the youngest fans at the competition. And one of those young fans may ask Meents for advice on how to do what he does with Monster Jam.
“You have to have a great work ethic,” said Meents. “You have to base your success on what you can achieve.” Meents said if you want to be a Monster Jam driver, take auto shop classes, take welding classes– anything it takes to be monster truck driver.
Ultimately, Meents would tell the future Monster Jam driver, “Never lose sight of your dream… focus, work hard, move forward.”
Monster Jam at the XL Center in Hartford on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. Monster Jam tickets start at $10 for children ages 2 to 12.
Tickets are available at the XL Center box office, by calling 877-522-8499 or visiting www.XLCenter.com
Monster Jam also offers The Pit Party that gives fans the opportunity to view the trucks up close and meet the drivers. That will be held Saturday, Feb. 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $10, and available at www.XLCenter.com or the XL Center box office.