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Monsters will jam Tampa stadium

Monster Jam, one of Tampa's largest single-day stadium events of the year, returns to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. Absurdly huge trucks will leap over school buses, crush lesser cars and even crash-land onto a motor home until it's nothing but tiny bits. What's not to like? Here's a guide to the action. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne wynne@tampabay.com

How to watch

During the first half of the show, pairs of drivers pilot their trucks over obstacles, or on top of them as the case may be, in a race. Most popular is the second half, where the drivers take turns performing freestyle tricks, turns and jumps with cool names like sky wheelies and cyclone-style donuts as they crush any and all non-monsters. Be forewarned: It's loud.

Trucks to look for

Grave Digger If this were professional wrestling (and let's be honest, in motorsports circles, it is the equivalent) this is the John Cena of trucks — a perennial winner and crowd favorite who doesn't always win, but is usually close, since fans have a say in freestyle competition.

Taz Made in product placement heaven, the Warner Brothers-sponsored truck is the famous Tasmanian Devil on wheels — with teeth! Saturday's event is billed as a family feud of sorts, because legendary driver Dennis Anderson will be driving Grave Digger, going head-to-head against his son Adam Anderson, who will be driving Taz. We likey.

Maximum Destruction The hugely popular futuristic SUV is gaining on Grave Digger in both fans and wins. It's famous for its ginormous jumps.

Bulldozer We are sad to report that one of our favorite trucks, El Toro Loco, which has giant bull horns, isn't coming. But Bulldozer is similar in style and awesomeness. It has two horns sticking out of the cab and a wicked snout on its hood with a ring through its nose.

Blue Thunder Some say it's the second coming of Big Foot, the original monster truck. It's a Ford F-350 on steroids (and 66-inch tires).

Other highlights: The high-flying motorcycle acrobats of Freestyle Motocross and a pre-show Mini-Van Demolition Derby add to the testosterone haze.

What makes a monster truck

Cost: About $150,000.

Size: A truck stands 11 feet tall and is 12 feet wide, with tires more than 5 feet tall. It makes 1,500 horsepower and weighs 10,000 pounds.

Fuel used: The trucks use methanol, not gasoline. But a monster will burn about 10 gallons in an event, at a rate of an 1/8 mile — about 225 yards — per gallon.

Crushed cars: Local junk yards are the source of the cars, vans, buses, motor homes, airplanes and ambulances that are crushed at each event. Average number of cars crushed per year: 3,000.

Tracks: It takes a crew of eight people some 18 to 20 hours over three days to construct the track. They truck in 3,500 cubic yards of dirt to spread inside the stadium.

Some safety features

After a 6-year-old was killed by flying debris during a Monster Jam event in Tacoma, Wash., in January, safety questions come to mind. Tampa Sports Authority officials say they trust Feld Motor Sports, the company that produces Monster Jam. "In the more than 25 years that the Tampa Sports Authority has hosted this event, we have never had an incident that endangered the safety of our fans," said Mickey Farrell, director of stadium operations. A buffer zone between the dirt track and spectator seating is standard at all shows. And there are other safety features, such as remote kill-switches for the engines. The truck involved in the Tacoma incident was removed from the tour while the investigation continues.

Monster Jam

The show is at 7:30 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, but fans will start arriving much earlier. Tickets are $15 or $30 for club seats through Ticketmaster. Get $3 discount coupons at Dairy Queen. And get a free Monster Truck Ride Pass at Advance Auto Parts stores. From 2 to 5 p.m., check out the World's Ultimate Pit Party, where you can meet the racers and get an up-close look at the trucks; free pit passes are available at local Southern Ford Dealers. You can also pick up a free pass for a short ride in the back of a Monster Truck at local Advance Auto Parts stores. monsterjamonline.com.

Monsters will jam Tampa stadium 02/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 11:52am]
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