During my days at Motor Trend, I've been blessed with the opportunity to experience a lot of amazing things over the years, such as piloting priceless race cars, million-dollar supercars and one-of-a-kind vintage exotics. But one four-wheeled experience has eluded me, one that I had dreamed about since I was a kid: playing with a real live monster truck. Recently an opportunity arose to do just that through the folks at the SPEED channel, who were hosting the winners of the SPEED Dream Ride competition at Infineon Raceway.
It was there where I was invited to go for a ride in, and maybe even get to drive, the legendary Grave Digger monster truck. I spent the day pestering the man himself, Dennis Anderson, into letting me pilot Grave Digger. But because of time restraints and a few circumstances beyond anyone's control, fulfilling my boyhood dream would have to be put on hold. Those circumstances also meant I would not get to ride in Grave Digger. Instead, with Dennis at the wheel I got a ride in the Grinder monster truck.
The word insane best sums up the experience, plus exhilarating, amazing-you get the idea. After we were strapped in, Anderson pulled to the start line, power-braked the 10,000-pound truck and let her go, quickly shifting into second gear just as we hit the first jump. We sailed through the air, and landed surprisingly softly, due entirely to the custom suspension. (Each monster truck has one.) After landing, Anderson quickly put the truck into a powerslide drift that turned into about half a dozen doughnuts, then he straightened out and hit the second jump. We did a couple laps around the course before we had to give up our seats to the next riders. I was giggling the whole time, with a permanent Kool-Aid smile plastered on my face. It was an amazing experience I will remember forever.
After the rides were done, Anderson gave an exhibition in Grave Digger, but first the track workers had to re-cut the jumps. See, in order to take it easy on us, they built the jumps quite small with gradual ramps, but that simply wouldn't do for Anderson. We strapped cameras everyplace we could, and even on this very small course, we managed to get some amazing footage. So sit back, turn up the volume, and enjoy.