Monster Truck fans party in the pit
Gary Porter, right, the official driver of the monster truck Grave Digger signs the back of Colby Smith¿s T-shirt at the drivers meet and greet Monster Jam Pit Party on Saturday at the Hagerstown Speedway. (By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer)
For his 7th birthday last Tuesday, he might have been happy to get a new truck to add to his collection. But his mother, Ashley Salter, did him one better.
Brady, of Biglerville, Pa., spent Saturday afternoon at a party in the pit before the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam at Hagerstown Speedway.
Along with a crowd of more than 5,000 people who poured into the speedway, Brady got a chance to meet Monster Jam drivers and to get up close and personal with his favorite trucks.
"He loves that they are loud and they are fast," Ashley Salter said.
When Brady got in line to get drivers' autographs, unlike many fans, he decided to skip the paper. Instead, he went around the tables and had them sign his shirt.
"Now, I can show all my friends," he said.
Dan Bennett of Feld Motor Sports, which operates the Monster Jam series, said pit parties are a big attraction for monster truck fans.
"Families like to come out, meet the drivers, see and touch the trucks, ride in a monster truck," Bennett said. "It's cool to see how people love it."
Daniel and Tammy Lewis of Keyser, W.Va., took their sons Daniel, 14, and Nathaniel, 4, to the event. The boys posed with the trucks while their parents took pictures. Nathaniel said his favorite truck also is his favorite cartoon character, Ironman.
Though Saturday was the Lewis' first time attending a Monster Jam, they went with family members who are monster-truck veterans.
Gerald and Cheryl Braithwaite, also of Keyser, said they've gone to the shows six or eight times.
"I'm a motorhead," Gerald Braithwaite said. "I like Grave Digger. We even went to his actual garage in North Carolina to see how they built 'im."
Fans usually check out trucks on the infield of the track during pit parties, Bennet said. Saturday, rain was forecast and organizers were concerned that if the track became wet, fans would be unsafe crossing a muddy area to the infield. In response, they moved the trucks to the front track, where they could be viewed only through the chain-link fence of the grandstand area.
When fans expressed their disappointment and the rains never came, organizers decided to open the front track.
"Fans are really happy with this," Bennett said. "It's even better than the infield. Now, they actually walk on the dirt where everything takes place."
Greg Mentzer of Sterling, Va., and his wife, Larissa, took their sons Matthew, 6, and Michael, 4, to the jam. Larissa said they decided to check out the Hagerstown event after attending one in Washington, D.C., because "the boys love it."
"Boys just like trucks," she said. "They like loud things, things that crush things."
Greg Mentzer and his sons paid to ride the monster truck Pure Adrenaline on the infield.
"It's getting me crazy," Michael declared as he got out of the truck.
Monster Jam comes to Hagerstown Speedway every July. Brian and Angela Little of Clear Spring said they've gone each year for the about the past five years.
"We like it because it's close, it's fun and it's loud," Angela Little said.
Brian Little said he and his boys like all of the trucks, but they are partial to crowd favorite Grave Digger.
"(Grave Digger) puts on the best freestyle show. And he usually trashes the truck doing it," he said. "The first year we came, he ripped the whole top off."