The crowd goes wild at the mere mention of his iconic truck and Pablo Huffaker wouldn’t want it any other way.
“The fan base is just incredible,” said the longtime driver of Grave Digger. “I know I have to live up to the expectation every time I go out there, but it’s just awesome to drive this truck.”
At 54 years old, Huffaker is one of the veteran drivers on the Monster Jam tour that will roll into Dayton for three shows at the Nutter Center Sept. 29-30. He shares his experience spending more than three decades behind the wheel of a 10,000-pound truck.
Q: How different is competing now than it was when you started 30-plus years ago?
A: It’s unbelievable how different it is. Year ago, we were a side act, coming out at intermission at tractor pulls or other events. We’d come out, run over a few cars and drive off. Today, we are the show and huge crowds come out for us. We’ve had 70,000 people in a building in one night – it’s very gratifying.
Q: From a skill standpoint, have there been many changes?
A: Definitely. It used to be basically just an exhibition of brute force. Now, we put together an exhibition of a skillset we’ve developed. The machines are a lot more finely tuned and the speeds are greater, which you see in the donut competition. And the wheelie competition showcases the incredible stunts these trucks can do. Jaw-dropping is all I can say when you see what a 10,000-pound truck can do.
Q: Is being an older driver a detriment in any way?
A: In motor sports, you really have a wide range of drivers – from 18 to NHRA drivers in their 80s. You can be 45, 50, 60 years old and be competitive, that’s the neat thing about motor sports. I’m not 54 years old trying to play pro football or basketball. I still have the ability to perform at the highest level.
Q: You are one of the winningest drivers in this Monster Jam series; to what do you owe your success?
A: With all the years driving trucks, I can really predict what’s going to happen out there and I can use it to my advantage. Most everything I do, I’ve done before.
Q: After decades behind the wheel, are you still having fun?
A: There is nothing like getting behind the wheel of a 10,000-pound truck with 1,500 horsepower and pushing it to its limit. And the crowd really fuels us. My goal is to entertain the crowd and when I hear the cheers, I know I did my job.
MONSTER JAM’S MONSTER-SIZED NUMBERS
- Trucks: Usually 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, Monster Jam trucks must weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds, with some weighing as much as 12,000 pounds. The sticker price is about $250,000.
- Tires: Monster Jam truck tires measure in at 66 inches high and 43 inches wide. Tires are customized and hand cut to accommodate track conditions and reduce weight. Cutting one tire takes approximately 50 hours.
- Engines: Custom-built, supercharged and methanol-injected, a Monster Jam truck engine burns up to 2.5 gallons of methanol per run. The average Monster Jam truck team will go through five engines a year at a cost of $50,000 per engine.
- Crushed Cars: At least 3,000 steel body full-size cars are crushed each year during Monster Jam events – not to mention vans, buses, motor homes, ambulances and, even, airplanes.
- Tracks: Each year 700,000 cubic yards of dirt are used to put on Monster Jam events.
- The average amount of dirt used per track – 700 cubic yards for an arena and 3,500 cubic yards for a stadium.
- Tickets: More than 4 million people annually attend Monster Jam events in North America, Canada and Europe.