Forget the football, skip over soccer and tune out of tennis, because this weekend Vivint Smart Home Arena is ringing in the new year with a high-intensity sport that could also leave a ringing in your ears: Monster Jam returns to Salt Lake City with a group of eight athletes ready to rev their engines and kick off some high-octane competition.
Hyped as “the most action-packed motorsports experience for families in the world today,” Monster Jam offers a close-up view of some of the world’s most talented and highly trained monster truck drivers doing what they do best: battling it out to claim ultimate victory in competitions of freestyle stunts, racing and speed.
On Friday and Saturday, though, Monster Jam will leave other sports in the dust with the Triple Threat Series, where drivers will mix it up with a variety of high-powered stunt vehicles — including Monster Jam ATVs, Speedsters and, of course, their iconic trucks.
For “Earth Shaker” truck driver Tristan England, Monster Jam is a family affair. After working on truck teams and spending ample time in motorsports, his father decided it was his turn and purchased his own monster truck, Big Kahuna, in 2012 before starting to compete in 2013.
“I got my shot at driving in 2015 at Monster Jam University,” England said of his own path to the competition. “It’s a crazy thing, but they really have a university and I went up there and got my diploma, so to say.”
A highlight of the university for England was being instructed by 12-time world champ Tom Meents, the driver of Max-D, the monster truck affectionately dubbed Maximum Destruction. But the groundwork for his racing success was laid years before that by his dad.
“Growing up, we did motorsports together and he showed me the ropes and the mechanical side of trucks,” England said. “That gives me a big upper hand on other drivers who don’t know what’s going on (motor) wise.”
According to England, who himself fought through a rookie battle for a place in the World Finals and has claimed victory at the 2018 West Coast Triple Threat and 2019 East Coast Triple Threat, Monster Jam is all about the adrenaline and agility.
“It’s like a controlled chaos pushing the truck to the absolute edge to get those fans on their feet,” he said of the thrill of competition. “It’s the absolute best feeling in the world going out to these events and seeing millions of fans. … Being from the dirt background that I am, racing has always been in my blood, and I always want to go fast. I tried when I was younger to do asphalt racing, but it just wasn’t for me. I was born in the dirt; I was born for this.”
The 2017 season marked England’s first full one in the Earth Shaker Monster Jam Truck, and a strong string of victories have led him to continue pushing on.
Aside from the thrill of competition, one thing England said he loves about Monster Jam is the chance to connect with fans on a personal level at Pit Parties, something unique to motorsports that allow fans the chance to interact with drivers, get autographs, and see the vehicles close up.
“You’re just standing in awe,” England said of getting an up-close view of the monster trucks, which are more than 10 feet tall and nearly 13 feet wide.
For those new to the concept of Monster Jam, England explained that it’s “a points-based series” that runs January to May, with shows every weekend and three to five events that help determine which drivers will make it to the World Finals — essentially the World Series for Monster Jam.
The Salt Lake stop is England’s second trip to the city for competition and will kick off the 2020 Triple Threat Series for the area, with six different competitions featuring eight drivers each making use of three high-intensity vehicles.
Points come from a variety of challenges testing speed, agility and versatility. A Monster Jam driver is scheduled to attempt Utah’s first-ever indoor, arena-based Monster Jam truck back flip stunt this weekend.
“It’s a crazy feeling for sure, our shocks are insane,” England said of the wild stunts Monster Jam drivers are able to perform in their trucks. “That’s the main thing that we love as drivers, is getting so much air; these trucks are 12,000 pounds and 1,500 horses in the motor, and that’s just a lot of power.”
That crazy amount of horsepower is at least 10 times stronger than your average car (think more in the realm of 150hp), but it’s necessary to even dream of moving the truck’s tires, which are 66 inches in diameter and 43 inches wide and, with the wheel itself, weigh 645 pounds each.
“You’ve got to have a lot of power to be moving those tires,” England said, before commenting on the upcoming series.
“What I love about the Triple Threat is it’s not just a Monster Jam truck: There’s a Monster Jam ATV and Monster Jam speedsters and we get to battle out side by side with each other,” England said. “It’s the craziest motorsport that I could tell you about — ‘the craziest thing on wheels’ is the way I explain it, and I’ve got something special coming to Salt Lake that nobody has seen yet and I can’t wait to show the fans what I’m going to bring in Earth Shaker.”
England loves returning to a city like Salt Lake.
“Fans welcome me back and I see familiar faces and get to catch up with people,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve got a few new tricks up my sleeve for this season and I can’t wait to show fans in Salt Lake City what I’ve got.”
Due to the size of the trucks compared to the size of the indoor arena experience Vivint provides, England said those planning to attend should expect some awe-inspiring close-up action, but should definitely bring ear plugs.
“It’s definitely a crazy experience like no other,” he said. “Every time we hit the track, we’re battling for points and you get 110 percent out of each athlete at every event. No event is the same and it’s absolute craziness. I’m going to drive that truck into the ground for all the fans until the truck can’t go anymore.”