The Men of Monster Truck Madness

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

Mile-high tires kicked up the dust, engines shouted BRRRRRAAAAATTT so loudly we stuck our fingers in our ears, and comically proportioned trucks launched themselves into midair as a string of plastic American flags flapped in the summer night breeze. In the grandstand, crowds did the wave and cheered for the ultra-American sport of Monster Trucking last night at the L.A. County Fair.

"It's rare to be able to find such great family entertainment that everyone can enjoy, where everyone has fun. It doesn't matter if you've never seen a Monster Truck show before," says one truck driver, Dallas, whose vehicle is named "Fired Up."

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

L.A. Weekly met a few of the people who make this big, fat, tall slice of family values a grand tradition. Nearly everyone spoke of long hours on the job. But in spite of that, the monster truck world really is a family affair, with plenty of wives and kids coming along to shows, and many drivers and mechanics saying they got the job because they grew up on the track.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

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Eric.

What job do you do?

I drive Wrong Way Rick.

How did you get into Monster Trucks?

My dad Rick started when I was just born. He's been doing it for 16 years. I normally race dirt bikes, and that's how I got into it. And then I also did something so I get paid for the parts that I break on my dirt bike.

What's the hardest part of your job?

My least favorite part is having to work on the bike. Working on it after I crash it.

What's your favorite part?

When I do go and race, 110 percent of the time, I'll win. Tonight I'm driving Wrong Way Rick because I rolled over my other truck.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Rick.

How did you get into driving Monster Trucks?

Ignorance.

What's the hard part of your job?

Freestyle. When you're racing, you're really focused on what you're trying to do. In freestyle, it's up to you what to do. How hard am I going to hit this jump? You're in the truck and you think, "Oh man, that was bitchin'!" Then you get back and see video and go, that sucked!" Sometimes what feels bitchin' in the truck looks like hell.

What's the most fun?

I have a good time. I do a lot of travelling. And how many people get to work with their family? It's pretty cool that me and my son get to work together, hang out.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Dallas.

What job do you do?

I drive Fired Up.

What's your favorite thing about the job?

The smile on people's faces. For an hour and a half, people can take their minds off everything and enjoy a great show.

What's your least favorite?

Lot of hours away from home. Being away from home. Some people might not get why I work 60 hours a week just to have two minutes of fun, but honestly those two minutes of fun, nothing compares to it.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Dave Wever.

What job do you do?

Crew member. Taking tires off, putting them on, repairing, anything. Here to support the guys.

How did you get into driving Monster Trucks?

Just been around it a long time. Grew up around it. Friends of friends. We own a fabrication shop north of San Diego, Wever's Welding. They break something real bad, they bring it to me.

What's the tough part of your job?

Long hours.

Is it dangerous?

No, we keep it safe, everybody helps everybody out. It's not dangerous. Drivers are safe, we make sure of that. It's all good.

What's the most fun?

Just being around it. It's good to put on a show and the fans enjoy it.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Kelvin.

Like the temperature?

Yes. Absolute zero.

What job do you do?

I drive Time Flys.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Long hours you do, putting the trucks back together after you tear them up.

Is it dangerous at all?

Working on the trucks is more dangerous than driving in them. The parts are real heavy, things break.

What's your favorite part?

Watching my daughter race. She's not here this week -- she's 15, she has to go to school. She just rolled her truck. You can see how much fun she has. She goes to a college preparatory school. She wants to go to Stanford. She wants to be an automotive engineer.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Lloyd.

Which truck do you drive?

No -- I'm the announcer. Announcing and commentating for the shows.

How did you get into that?

Funny story, actually. I'm a professional tap dancer, and I've been announcing for our dance shows since I was a kid, and we belong to a couple of the same associations that WGAS does, and so I was announcing the show we were doing at a fair convention, and John, the owner, asked me to do this.

What's your favorite part of the job?

Getting to travel. I live in Portland, so I get to go spend every other weekend in California. That's pretty sweet. And just getting to be around all of this, because this is a culture that I had no involvement in. I've been introduced to this whole culture I never really knew existed, and these awesome guys.

What's the hard part of your job?

Being involved in something that I don't know anything about. I've been on a steep learning curve, and I just got thrown right into it, like a crash course. I got a little bit of hazing, because I'm the only black dude, so I'm a little bit of an oddity around these types of events, but I love it and I get along great with everyone. Teasing is fun, and I can dish it out just as good as I can take it.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Pat Winegar.

What job do you do?

I'm a track builder.

How did you get into that job?

I was friends with the owner's nephew. I used to hang out at the track with him when I was younger, and just kind of progressed my way into doing little things, working with them. I used to do dirt work every once in a while, then John hired me on full time.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Sometimes dealing with the competitors is tough, but we get through it. Not so much the monster truck drives and the freestyle guys, but like when we do tough trucks and all that. We have a set way of doing things so it goes right and it's safe. They think they know how to do it a better way, but we actually are professionals. You got a little a window to get stuff done, and then you gotta make it work.

What's the most fun?

Building track. I like moving dirt. Moving dirt's fun. I use a bulldozer and a loader and a skip loader and all that.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

What's your name?

Frank Schettini.

What job do you do?

My truck is Big Dummy. Some old lady came into the Arco where it was parked to buy cigarettes and beer, and she goes, "Will somebody move that big dummy?" So it stuck. But I build trucks now.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Promoters can make it or break it for the privateers like Pat. He owns his truck, he hauls his truck, he fixes it out of his own pocket.

What's your favorite part?

Every town you go to, you meet the best of the best people and you get red carpet treatment from people who -- can I say this? -- don't have a pot to piss in and they'll take the shirt of their back. One of the sponsors, guy takes me to his house, wife fixes me dinner, I sleep in his son's room, I get breakfast in the morning and a ride back to the track. When I leave town I feel like I'm at home. That's the best thing -- meeting the best of those people that are on this planet, every town I go to.

The Men of Monster Truck Madness
Montano Sokolow

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