In Focus Blog

TMB's Chris Parrish focuses in on some of the industry's big personalities through detailed interviews, bringing you all the angles on what's happening in the industry.

Monster Truck Legend Dan Patrick Announces Retirement, Names New Driver of Samson

The trademark rippling muscles that radiate the immense power of the iconic SAMSON monster truck will soon be under the control of a new master. Dan Patrick, one of the most respected names in the monster truck industry for both his driving and fabrication skills, will be hanging up the driver’s suit at the end of 2011. Dan has been involved in the industry and piloting the SAMSON monster truck for over 20 years. In addition, Dan has been involved in motorsports for over 40 years, virtually his entire life. Dan Patrick and the Samson truck have had quite an impact in the industry and selection of a new driver was no easy task.

As Dan contemplated stepping out of Samson, he was posed with the question of who would pilot the famous muscled truck. After considering many different options, it came to his attention that his youngest daughter, Allison Patrick, 26, was interesting in trying to reel in the powerful beast. “I had heard from everybody else that she wanted to drive,” said Patrick. “So last year I asked her, ‘Do you want to drive?’ and she said “Yeah!” Apparently, she wanted to show me that she was a better driver than me. I thought, we’ll that’s a pretty good challenge, so we’ll see what we’ve got there.”

Allison, 26, is a registered nurse in the ICU unit at a local hospital in Circleville and is looking forward to the challenge. “There’s no way I can fill his shoes, but I’m going to try,” says the new Samson pilot. “I’m just going to go with it. I’ve been around monster trucks since I was three, I’ve always wanted to drive the truck, but the timing was never right. Finally, the time just kind of clicked. With everything else going on…I guess I kind of live a double life now.”

Working the intense daily schedule of a full-time registered nurse, Allison has the necessary scheduling flexibility available to allow her to pursue her new endeavors in the monster truck world as well while maintaining her nursing position. “I only work 3 days, but it is 12 hour days. I want to stay full time as long as possible, but I’ll probably have to go part time eventually.”

Legendary monster truck figure Dan Patrick is ready to turn the driver's seat over to his daughter Allison for the 2012 season and beyond.

When asking Dan about potential hurdles in teaching a new driver, Patrick stated, “It will be a challenge, because she’s got the old man’s attitude, and that’s usually not a good one. I’m hoping that she’ll generally do what I say, but sometimes take those unnecessary risks and show us what is going on (with the truck). We’ll have good equipment for her, the safest that we can put under her.”

Any retirement from something you love is bittersweet. Dan found it hard to step out of the seat and has been considering stepping out of the seat for some time, but it will not be a steadfast retirement from the driver’s seat. “This will be my last full year, but I’m going to pick and choose a few races here and there. I may slip in here and there and beat around on some of the youngsters.” Dan will continue his farewell tour throughout the remainder of 2011, while adding Allison into the mix to gain experience before Dan steps out of the seat at the end of the year and turns the reins over to Allison at the start of the first quarter of 2012.

While Dan will be stepping out of the seat, he will still be travelling up and down the road, attending events, as a crewman for Allison. Dan looks forward to the opportunity to watch the truck perform from the sidelines as this will also offer the opportunity to further develop the fabrication and design side of Patrick Enterprises, Inc. PEI is well known throughout the monster truck industry as one of the premiere companies for monster truck parts and pieces all the way to turn-key monster trucks. “We’re still committed to the future of our industry. It gives me a good chance to watch the truck and get a feel for what it is doing, instead of listening to what other people say it is doing. It will help us develop our product better and service the customers we have. We feel we are a major player in the industry as far as building. I’m not retiring, my job is just changing.”

Although 2011 may be his last season, Dan is going out on top, logging one of his best seasons in recent years.

In reflecting back on a long career in monster trucks, Dan joked, “When I started this, I went in blind. When I drove up to the cars the first time, I thought, ‘What in the heck have I gotten myself into? Can I get a stop payment on the check for the truck?’ But I hit the cars, it hurt when I hit, it hurt when I landed. It has been a good ride, I thought it would only be a few years, and now it has been 23 and the industry is still growing.”

With Allison working as a full-time nurse, there will be a little change in the number of appearances for the Samson truck, but expect plenty of opportunity to see the big Samson Chevy. “We are going to keep this to a 20-25 event season for us. When I used to barnstorm it and do 50 events a year, those days are way behind us,” says Dan Patrick. In recent years, Patrick himself has been gradually reducing the schedule and has typically been running between 25 and 30 events a year.

Allison will make her performing debut in the driver’s seat in Mason City, Iowa at I-35 Speedway on July 1st where Dan and Allison will mix racing and freestyle duties. For more information on the team’s upcoming schedule and on Patrick Enterprises, visit them online at

(Article By Chris Parrish, Photos By Paul Harry)

In Focus: Bobby Holman

In Focus, rockin’ and rollin’ with our third edition of the article featuring Bobby Holman. Bobby has been campaigning the Holman’s Beast for years, has run the Lucas Oil Stabilizer and is in the process of expanding from two trucks to a four truck team. We’ve caught up for a moment to sit down with him and we’re going to talk about some of the highlights, his career and the evolution of the industry. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it.

Chris Parrish: Bobby, so, you’ve been in the sport for awhile, how long has it been?

Bobby Holman: It will be 26 years, this year.

CP: How did you actually get started in the industry?

BH: It basically started with big trucks, 4 wheel drives and my dad raced mud bogs. Stuff like that. I met Bob Chandler (Bigfoot) down at Gravelrama years ago. Actually, I’ve got pictures of my truck a foot taller than his truck. Once we started getting into this, we kept going down to Gravelrama and seeing him, so kind of went from there to “I can do that and I can do that, too.” So, that’s how we got into it.

CP: You mentioned that the truck was a foot taller than Bigfoot, back in the day, was there actually a purpose to that or was it, “Hey, I can build the bigger truck!”

BH: That’s all it was. My truck is bigger than your truck, I’ve got more shocks, I’ve got more lights, I’ve got this, I’ve got that. That’s what it was all about.

CP: Show and shine.

BH: Exactly. We didn’t know where it would go. If you’d have told me back then that we’re doing the stuff that we’re doing now, I’d have told you that you’re crazy, not in a monster truck.

CP: When did you actually build that first Holman’s Beast?

BH: That was 1984. I built the first truck.

CP: I guess everything was in house design?

BH: Oh yeah, that was originally the truck I drove to high school. A 1973 3/4 ton Chevy truck with a small block. We decided we were going to put a set of 52″ tall tires on and do a car show. Then we’d seen Chandler and those guys had come out with 66’s and decided we needed to do that and we did.

CP: A unique aspect of your truck, you put the Holman’s designation in front of it and made it Holman’s Beast. Why?

BH: There were a couple of other Beasts running around back then. I actually got into a lawsuit with one of the guys, so my attorney told me to put your name in front of it and that’s all you have to do. So, that’s the way Holman’s Beast came about.

CP: Do you remember your first event with the truck?

BH: Oh, absolutely. It was Columbus, OH, the Ohio State Fairgrounds. We did a mud bog out there. We had actually built the truck and never driven it. A buddy of mine had a tow truck company and he pulled two cars down in front of our shop. We ran over them the night before the show. Broke a knuckle off the 2.5 tons we had. We fixed the knuckle, loaded her up went and did the little show at the fairgrounds. That was the first time.

CP: And you didn’t break another knuckle off or anything?

BH: No, but we broke all four axles.

CP: So, when did five-tons come around then?

BH: Oh, right after that. We did two other shows, and said, “We’ve got to get rid of this.” By then, we got a hold of Chandler and the other guys and found out that they were using five-tons. We knew Mark Boyce, so he sent us our first set of five-tons.

CP: You’ve run two trucks for a long time and recently expanded to 4 trucks. What was the reasoning behind that?

BH: We’ve just had the opportunity. We’ve been working with Family Events. They approached us actually wanting to know if we’d be interested in doing something like that. They had a good program, had a good idea, so that’s what we did. Dan and Chris Patrick have helped us out immensely, building the chassis for us. If it wasn’t for those guys, we probably wouldn’t have gotten this thing done. We just didn’t have time to build them ourselves, or we would have built them in house. Patrick’s pieces are great, can’t get much better. A lot of people came together on this to get it done. We still don’t have the other truck done. Its on its way. Once we get the truck done its going to be a really good deal. It was a good opportunity for us. I wanted to have 4 trucks, I just didn’t want to have them this quick. We planned on building one this year and one the year after that. But, when opportunity knocks, sometimes you’ve got to open the door.


Two beautiful new Patrick Enterprises chassis ready for delivery to Team Beast (photo courtesy

CP: You’ve mentioned that you had the Patricks build your truck, to what degree did they build the truck for you? Was it a turn key?

BH: No, he built the chassis for us, he built the rear end housings, we’re running his shocks, a lot of his parts – axle shafts, stuff like that. We put the trucks together at the shop. Fowler Engines in Columbus built the motors for us. We built the trannies in house, obviously put the planetaries and stuff together. If it wasn’t for Dan and those guys, we’d have had a hard time doing it this quick.

CP: Tell us a little bit about the new trucks.

BH: Star Marshall and Chalkboard Chuck, the bodies are actually the idea from Family Events. They wanted to do this kind of interactive stuff. The chalkboard truck deal came up, I wasn’t really fond of it at first. I wasn’t really fond of all of them at first, but once we got into it, we knew the bodies were going to be kind of weird that’s what they were kind of looking for. These trucks were geared for the kids, and the kids have responded well to them at each show. You were here last night, and you saw a massive amount of people around Chalkboard Chuck. We didn’t think it would take off like it did, but it has. The bodies are basically my trucks, bodies are theirs, we’re running their concepts. It was just an idea to get the fans more involved in the trucks, to get novelties involved with it. So far, it has worked out great.


The new Star Marshal concept truck from Family Events (photo courtesy Paul Harry).

CP: Chalkboard’s got a face only a mother could love, but the fans are eating it up.

BH: Fans are absolutely eating it up. When we did the chalkboard thing, Matthew, that worked for Family Events, said, “Hey let’s put a face on it!” We thought, “Eeehhh?” We didn’t want to get that Mater-looking thing, but we put the eye balls on there and he came up with the tongue, so I said, “Well, you might as well put teeth on it now.” It’s a goofy looking thing, but the kids love it. They absolutely love it!


The truck that wants your autograph, Chalkboard Chuck (photo courtesy Paul Harry).

CP: It fits the rest of the character.

BH: When we get the other chassis done, the Chalkboard body is going to go on the new chassis. We’re going to go back with the Iron Man, we’ve got another sponsor for Iron Man. It’s going to be a cool deal when we get done. We’re going to completely revamp the Iron Man deal. These trucks, once they catch on, are going to be really cool. Everywhere we’ve gone so far, the fans love them, kids love them. Everybody’s happy with them.

CP: So, Ironman will remain Ironman?

BH: Right, just a different version of it. We’ve got a sponsor, I can’t really say anything right now, because we’re working on the deal right now. It’s going to be a really cool deal, it will still support our armed forces, all our men and women doing that, but it’s going to be heavily involved with the armed forces now. It’s going to be a neat deal.

CP: Many motor sports teams have tried expansion and you’ve seen it in Nascar frequently, some have had growing pains, some have been really successful right off the bat. How do you try to minimize the issues and maximize the performance?

BH: It’s tough. It’s really been a tough deal transitioning from two trucks to four trucks. The least of the problems is that you’ve got to have four of everything: the man power, getting drivers, getting people to work. It has been tough, we had a pretty good system down for keeping two trucks on the road and keeping it together and now we’re doing four. It’s tough, it really is. Once we get a system down and get all of the bugs worked out of our system, I think we’ll be ok. We’ve got good people. My brother is driving one truck. Unfortunately, he’s sick right now, so we’ve put Dave (Radzierez) in Star Marshall. He’s going to eventually be driving Chalkboard Chuck and Jeff (Hatton) has been working for us for years. Hatton, he’s going to be driving the Iron Man truck when we get that new sponsor and everything set. We’ve got good people in place, we’ve just got to find our groove. Once we get in there, I think we’ll be ok.

CP: Tell us about trying to maintain the trucks and also how did you select your new crew and new drivers?

BH: My brother has been wanting to get back in to monster trucks. He drove for me years ago, had some health issues and finally got to a point where he was allowed to drive again. I mentioned that he was in the hospital, this was nothing related to the trucks, just got sick. He’s out of the hospital and everything and taking his time getting better. He wanted to drive, so that’s why I wanted to put him back in there. It’s good to have your family around. Jeff Hatton is a kid I’ve known since he was seven years old. He was always coming around the shop, always working around the trucks, always wanted to have a chance, so we’ve given him a chance. I met Dave about a year ago through the Jamborees and Family Events. I just hit it off with Dave and Michelle, they’re good people, Dave’s a good driver. I thought he’d like to have a chance and he jumped on it, so we’ve got deals going with him, with the diesel trucks. We’ve got some stuff coming up with it too, we’ll let you guys know about it when it comes along, but we’ve got a lot of things coming, a lot of things cooking right now.

CP: You’ve mentioned family, how does the monster truck industry impact your family?

BH: My kids have been around it since they were born, so it’s nothing new to them, but it’s hard on your family. When the kids were young, I’d take them with me, but now they’ve got to stay in school. My daughter is starting college and she’s thinking about joining the Navy. Cody, my boy, he’s only 15, so he’s eating it up, but he’s got to go to school. My wife, she supports us 100%, but it’s tough when you’re away from your family. We don’t do the go-out-for-three-to-four-months stuff or even three to four weeks at a time anymore. We just don’t do it. When you don’t have your family behind you, it gets even harder than what it already is. We try to keep them all involved. My dad still comes into the shop every now and then. We try to keep the family involved on every level.

CP: Does Cody have any plans to continue, follow Dad into the sport?

BH: Absolutely. If he doesn’t, Dad does. Dad’s getting a little old, so we’re going to put next generation in there. Not only do I have him, but I have a nephew that’s interested in driving, too. We’re grooming these kids to know how to work on these trucks. I don’t ever put anyone in these trucks that don’t know how to work them. Everybody that probably owns a truck will tell you that. Some of the best drivers were the best mechanics. So that’s what we’re doing, we’re grooming these kids. They get in there and they know the trucks and then if they want to do it, they do it. If they don’t, they don’t. That’s what we’re giving the opportunity for.

CP: In your works with Family Events, you’ve acquired the Lucas Oil Stabilizer, a great Lucas Oil sponsorship. They seem to get along really well with you. Tell us about that.

BH: They’re great people to work for. Not only the people from Family Events, but the people from Lucas. Lucas is a great company to work for and we’ve never had an issue with them. They sponsor other trucks and everything, but we don’t let that get in the middle of anything because they do so many different things, different levels, different motorsports. They’re happy with us and we’re pleased to death with them. It was a match made in heaven for us.


The original Lucas Oil Stabilizer paint scheme, the team has since updated to a brand new scheme for 2011.

CP: Do you find any additional stress trying to perform to a level that really pleases the sponsors?

BH: Oh, absolutely. When you’re a sponsor truck and you’ve got Lucas Oil everywhere, you want to run good. Things happen, stuff breaks, but you’re expected to run at that level whether you’re running Monster Jam, Family Events or whatever. You do your thing, but you’ve got to keep that name out there, you’ve got to keep it up and they expect you to do that.

CP: Switching gears, how many Beast chassis have there been?

BH: There have been 12, this one (Currently the Lucas Oil Stabilizer) is number 12. All of them ran the same name, different steel bodies, fiberglass bodies, but we’ve built twelve different Beast trucks.

CP: Wow, you’ve been busy in the shop. Actually, speaking of the shop, what do you do? You don’t do this full time, you’ve got a job during the week.

BH: We run a 4-wheel drive shop up in Dayton. We build chassis for Jeeps, lift kits, motor work. With Dave(Radzierez) coming on, we’re actually expanding our diesel services now. So, we’re going to get in on that. We’re pretty busy. The ultimate goal is to not have to do that. We’d rather go out and play with our monster trucks. That’s why we expanded the shop. We put 3600 feet in the back of the shop, so that we could put all the monster trucks back in the back and have the 4-wheel drive stuff out in the front. It’s a good thing, even when you’re doing something you love doing, every now and then you get burned out on it. So, sometimes we like to go back to the shop and work on customer stuff. We get our own trucks and our own jeeps and go out and play. It’s relaxing for us and it gives us a break from doing this.

CP: It sounds like you’ve got a lot of busy time. What do you do in your free time?

BH: Most of the time, we just spend it with family. There for a while, we were coaching soccer. Cody was playing soccer. I was actually the president of the SAY Soccer down there. It was pretty cool, we sponsored it, sponsored a soccer team, even brought the truck in to have team photos taken with it. It was awesome, the kids loved it. Right now we’re just kind of in the family thing. Whatever free time we have, we spend it with them.

CP: Do you have any personal hobbies?

BH: The rest of the family hunts, I don’t know what it is with them. I like nature and everything, but I can’t see standing up in a tree having a deer laugh at me. I just say when you do something as long as we’ve done with these monster trucks, it’s kind of like your hobby. I like being out in the shop. A lot of times I just go out in the shop by myself. Lock all the doors, tinker around on the trucks. Think of ideas and stuff we want to change. That’s the way we do it.

CP: Are you a general motor sports fan?

BH: Oh yeah! Absolutely! Anything you can race.

CP: What does monster truck driver, Bobby Holman, drive during the week?

BH: I’ve got a ‘98 Chevy extended cab, it’s got 14″ of lift and 40″ tires. Gets about 12 miles per gallon. I’m all die hard monster truck, one way or another.

CP: One thing we’ve noticed, we’ve never seen you run Monster Jam? Why is that?

BH: We’ve just never been available to do that kind of stuff. I’ve been lucky throughout my career, working with Checkered Flag, Torgersons, all those guys, we’ve always been busy. Not that we wouldn’t want to, but it’s just to the point that we’re comfortable with who we’re working with now. It’s a steady deal. I won’t kid anyone, it would be tough running with those guys. Some of the stuff they do, running with company trucks, it’s hard for an independent to keep up. Guys like (Jim) Koehler and those guys doing that, hats off to them. That’s a big deal all in itself. If it happens one day, it happens, if it doesn’t, we’ll just keep doing our thing.

CP: Do you have a proudest moment in your career, it’s been a long career, so there may be a lot of moments.

BH: One of the proudest moments we had, we actually beat Bigfoot three days in a row and it was Dan (Runte) running. That was a pretty proud moment.

CP: Where was this?

BH: Salisbury, MD. We’ve had a lot of proud moments. Getting to race with a lot of these guys, a lot of our good friends. Rick Long, all these guys (with Monster Nationals). I’ve seen people come and go, we’ve had good friends come and go, we’ve lost some good friends. It’s been a great ride for me. If it ended tomorrow, I couldn’t complain.

CP: We’ve touched on the proud moments, do you have any Bobby Holman blunders?

BH: Oh yeah…I’ll never forget it, we were in Montana, I rolled the truck over doing donuts the first night. It was one of George’s (The late George Eisenhart creator of Monster Nationals) shows. It was right in the beginning when everyone was talking about wheel tethers. We flopped the thing over. It got tore up pretty bad. We flopped it over, came out the next night, made the first big jump, landed, and snap the front wheel off. It’s bad enough to rip the wheel off, but we rolled the truck over again. Then I found out my own wheel smashed my tool box. Brand new toolbox, my wife bought it for me for Christmas. There she lay, as flat as a pancake.

CP: You have 12 chassis, do you have a favorite?

BH: It’s this one, (the current Lucas Oil Stabilizer) without a doubt. This and my personal truck are my best trucks. I feel really good in this truck. When we built these two new chassis, everyone said, “Oh he’s going to jump in that new chassis.” No, I’m going to keep this one. This is my baby, here.

CP: You’ve seen a lot of advancement through your career. What do you think the biggest advancement in the sport has been?

BH: It’s the shocks, no doubt. It’s amazing how far they’ve come from the “I’ve-got-4-inches-of-wheel-travel, I’m-bad” days. I’ve got almost three feet now. It’s amazing the shock technology that’s come along and it’s awesome to see it keep growing, because it’s not done yet. With the chassis we’ve got that can do the stuff we do and the stuff you see on TV. It’s nothing short of amazing.

CP: Where do you see the sport going from here?

BH: You know, everybody asks me that and I don’t know. I’d say 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, if you’d have said we’re going to be doing the jumps we’re doing and doing the crazy stuff we see now, jumping over airplanes, I’d have said, “You’re nuts!” It just keeps getting better and better. The only thing I hope for is that the safety and the driver keeps pace with the technology of the truck. You can build a pretty bulletproof truck, but you can’t do much for a driver. So, with the seats and the harnesses and the HANS device, I hope it keeps in pace with the trucks.

CP: What do you think is the biggest challenge in getting into the sport and staying in the sport is?

BH: The thing about monster trucks now is that it’s almost come to the point where if you have enough money, you can get into monster trucks. That doesn’t mean you have enough sense to stay in monster trucks, but if you’ve got enough money, you can get in it. With guys like Patrick, with Pablo, all these guys building chassis and stuff, it’s easy to get into the sport. I think a lot of people get into it with the misconception that it’s easy to stay in it. One hundred and eighty five thousand to two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, but get done running it up and down the road for a year and see how much money you’ve got left. That’s the biggest thing.

CP: We’ve talked about Cody entering the sport, how long do you plan being involved in this sport?

BH: I want to keep doing it as long as I can. With things that happen to us, with some of the losses we’ve had, especially with George’s accident, we kind of got burned out on it, I was about done. When Cody came along and I saw what he wanted to do, it just makes you want to keep doing it. We also got involved with Family Events, like I said, they’re good people to work for, they understand what’s going on. It makes it a lot easier when you’re doing this with friends.

CP: He’s a monster trucker through and through. Bobby Holman, thank you for your time, thank you for sitting down with us. It’s always great to catch a little insight from someone who has as much experience in the industry as you do.

BH: No problem, buddy, anytime.

Thanks for reading another edition of In Focus, a big thanks to Bobby Holman for sitting down with us. Stay tuned next month for another in depth interview with one of the sport’s major personalities.

In Focus: Eric Tack

We caught up with Eric Tack, legendary former Bigfoot driver who has returned to fill in for the injured Larry Swim, and he’s going to be our subject of second installment of In Focus. Eric drove for Team Bigfoot in the ’90’s and early ’00’s, but stepped out of the seat and has made a few come back appearances in recent years. Eric is currently piloting the Bigfoot Bad Boy #14 on the Monster Truck Winter Nationals series until regular driver Larry Swim is able to return.

Legendary BIGFOOT driver Eric Tack celebrates a big freestyle win at last April's Pontiac Silverdome event.

Chris Parrish: Eric, you’re back in the saddle driving Bigfoot again after a lengthy break, what’s it like to be back?

Eric Tack: It’s just another walk in the park, actually. It’s fun to sit back in the truck again and enjoy the thrill and excitement of it.

CP: We’re going to venture through your career. How did you get started with Bigfoot and did you work with any other teams before that?

ET: No, actually, years ago John Piant and Dan Runte were in Pittsburgh and I talked to them, and that was where I first made contact with Bigfoot. That would be back in ‘88 or ‘89. That was right when Dan started, I know. I used to race motor cross back in the old Camel Mud & Monster days. I talked to Dan and at that time, they had a deal where an insurance clause wouldn’t allow you to work for them until you were 25, so I had to put it off for a couple years. I talked to Jim Kramer in Bloomsburg, PA one year and he said the insurance thing went away, so I sent in my resume and two weeks later I was working for Bigfoot.

CP: What was the first Bigfoot you drove in a show?

ET: It would have been Bigfoot #8 in Illinois. No, I’ve got to back up there. It would have been Bigfoot #9, which had a Snake Bite body on it, in Craig, CO. That would have been my first show.

Tack has been on fire since stepping into the Bigfoot Bad Boy ride, winning nearly every event he has competed in during the first month of the year.

CP: Do you have a highlight in your career? Any particular high moment?

ET: Yeah, working for Zane (Rettew of Checkered Flag Productions). Not prompted there at all, he’s not standing close or anything (laughing). Really, wining the 2000 PRO MT championship would have been one. Jumping the airplane (In Firestone Wilderness) would have been a big one. Doing a lot of neat shows and meeting a lot of neat people.

CP: Speaking of the airplane jump, tell us a little bit about that. Thoughts, feelings… you’re jumping over an AIRPLANE in a MONSTER TRUCK!

ET: We did a bunch of test jumps out in the test field down at Bigfoot. I think I jumped 13 times just to make sure I could get the height and distance. Then there was about a month and a half until we actually did the jump. So, there was a lot of anxiety waiting and realizing what was going on.

CP: When did you get out of the sport?

ET: I think November 2003 was my last show. That’s when I moved from St. Louis and left Bigfoot full time and moved back to Butler, PA. I bought my dad’s excavating business and have been digging ditches ever since.

CP: Did you miss monster trucks during that time?

ET: It’s an addiction. I guess I’ve heard it before, you can take the boy out of the truck, but you can’t take the truck out of the boy. It’s something that you do miss, but running equipment you do get somewhat of the same satisfaction, but you don’t have as big of crowds.

Tack has typically made a cameo appearance here and there since stepping away from the sport, as he did here piloting Raminator in Canfield, Ohio in 2008.

CP: You stepped away for a while, but you’ve appeared to be willing to jump back in the seat. Would you have any interest in running a truck full time?

ET: I’d probably consider it, but running a business back home in the winter months right now, we’re slow and we’re just depending on the snow coming down because we plow snow, too. You kind of fill in, in between doing that. But, in the summer months when we’re busy, I don’t know how easy it would be to run full time.

CP: The deal running the Bigfoot Bad Boy in Larry’s place during first quarter really works out well for you?

ET: Yeah, it kind of all came all together. When Bob Trent called and told me the situation and asked about it, it was great to know that they felt they could call and put me in that position.

CP: Throughout your career, who do you think was your biggest rival?

ET: Oohh…probably Dan(Runte)….within the Bigfoot organization. There are a lot of great drivers I’ve met out there. Gary Porter and Dan Patrick are probably two of the top ones, other than the Bigfoot drivers.

CP: You’ve mentioned that it’s hard to really get out of the sport, it’s always a part of you…what’s the biggest benefit to being out of the sport?

ET: None.. (laughter)….

CP: You’ve seen a lot of developments through your career in the industry. Is there any one item that you consider to be the biggest improvement in the sport?

ET: I’d say lately, probably the specialized seats that are custom made to the driver. That’s a huge, huge step. When I was at Bigfoot, Jim Kramer and I started the shocks that they are running now, and they have fine tuned them since. The shocks were a big step, but these ISP seats that Bigfoot runs, that’s a huge safety step.

CP: Where do you see the sport going in the future? Do you have any thoughts on where it might be heading?

ET: Well, I watch TV and watch Feld do their thing and watch all the promoters do theirs. I don’t know how much bigger you can go with it. (They’re) pushing the extremes of the trucks. I guess you can only go bigger.

Tack rides a wheelie over the massive center stack at the Pontiac Silverdome in Bigfoot #11. When the Bad Boy stint is over, who knows where Tack will turn up next?

CP: You mentioned watching it on TV. Do you keep up with the sport while you’re away from the seat?

ET: A little bit. I’m not computer oriented, so I don’t do the internet stuff, but when it’s on TV and I have time to watch, I flip through and watch it.

CP: Is there anything about the sport you don’t like these days?

ET: Down time.

CP: On a personal level, what’s your daily driver? What does a monster truck driver drive during the week?

ET: I start the morning in an F-150, then either move to a super duty or an International dump truck in the afternoon.

CP: Do you have any hobbies? I understand that you follow the Steelers.

ET: Oh, of course!

CP: Any other hobbies?

ET: I like to hunt and fish, ride quads, and just spend time with family.

CP: Pittsburgh fan all around?

ET: Ah, yes. Ehh…except for baseball. We won’t go there.

CP: Do you have a favorite monster truck?

ET: Blue. There is only one monster truck isn’t there?

We’ve got to thank Eric Tack for his time and participation. Eric has done a great job filling in for Larry Swim in Bigfoot Bad Boy. He has put on an excellent show everywhere he’s traveled, filling the Bad Boy shoes perfectly and we can only hope to continue to seeing Eric in the seat in some capacity in the future after Larry’s return sometime in February.

We hope you enjoyed another edition of In Focus, stay tuned next month as we detail another of the industry’s top personalities.

Photos courtesy Ross Z. Bonar and Paul M. Harry.

In Focus: Randy Barton

Having seen many monster truck shows through the lens of a still camera or videocamera, I know how important it is to properly capture the subject in focus. Thus, TMB’s new feature article series, In Focus, will take a look at the people in the industry that make it happen in detail. We’ll be doing this through detailed interviews as we try to bring you the perspective of the men and women behind the machines.

For our premiere In Focus feature article we’re talking with Randy Barton, a life long fan making the dream a reality. Randy is a very talented racing chassis builder from Guilford, Indiana who is preparing his own unique monster and getting ready to tackle monster truck competition full force.

“I started on Bugzilla, a VW Beetle show truck on a modified ’75 Chevy Blazer frame, when I was 15yrs old. That got me involved in the Jamborees, I really liked the atmosphere. After that I went mud racing for a few years, class V and VI rear-engine cars. I had my fill of that and looked to monster trucks.” – Randy Barton

CP: When did you begin to follow monsters trucks?

RB: I had liked monster trucks as a little kid, I saw Spiker’s Eagle and Stomper Bully, if you remember, those were the coolest trucks ever! As a little kid I always said, “One day, I’m going to have a monster truck.” That’s probably a lot of the reason that as a teenager in high school I got into welding. I guess I looked at it as, “By welding I can make a living and learn how to do stuff that it is going to take to assist with my hobbies.” Luckily, I guess I’m pretty decent at it, that’s how I’ve made my living ever since I graduated high school. That’s led to a teaching job for a while, with welding. Now I’m back to pipefitting, which I really enjoy. I can honestly say that I like my job welding. Because of that, it is fairly easy to do chassis work and stuff like that. That’s kind of how I got into the 4wd scene, the monster trucks. I was a little kid that liked monster as most of the readers do.

CP: Do you remember your first live show?

RB: It had to have been the mid 80’s, ’85ish maybe, at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. I can’t remember if it was a tractor pull or a mud bog, but monster trucks were the side act as they often were in those days. I remember that Bigfoot, Lon Ranger, Samson 1, the Blue Thunder Camaro and Stomper Bully were all there. Definitely a stacked lineup.

CP: You built the Abuzer tank and have already sold it. What happened to that?

RB: I actually sold it to Ryan Rice and his dad, who have the General Hazard ride truck. They actually bought the Incinerator truck that used to be the old Sniper truck of Rob French’s years ago. They’re a really cool group and they have a nice ride truck, a race truck, and, I think, a pretty decent tank now.

CP: Do you miss the tank?

RB: I am yet to miss any metal object that I’ve ever sold. It also freed up a little bit of money for me to put better parts in the monster truck.

CP: That brings up another point, you are running the notoriously more costly Hemi instead of the cheaper and more common Chevy blocks, why?

RB: When I was mud racing, I ran a Hemi in that and I really liked the power that it made. Now though, as I’m buying parts for the Hemi now, I’m almost wishing that I had gone with a big block Chevy engine. It would have been a lot cheaper. The Hemi is also known to be less reliable, so that is an issue as well. If reliability really becomes an issue, I’ll just take the Hemi out and drop a Chevy in. I really like the power of the Hemi, but I am regretting it a little as the costs stack up.

CP: Bugzilla looks wild compared to some of the more standardized designs, tell us what is different.

RB: It is a variation of a Willman chassis. It has one main tube for the main frame rail. It is bellied out in the middle and then tapers in and down on each end. That’s because I’ve got the Hemi behind me, which is a lot wider than a big block Chevy and it is really deep in the chassis, so I really needed to make that chassis wider to get it that low. It has a 3.5in main tube. A lot of the subframe, the cradle area, is 2.5in diameter on the bottom. If you notice in the cage and the bottom of it, there is a little bit less material. I did that because I went with stronger materials. All of the cage, all of the upper part of it, instead of .120 or .125, like others use, I went with .188 wall DOM.

I gave my tubing bender a workout, but it is SO strong, I can’t believe it! I figure the thing is going to be upside down and when it hits hard, I don’t want to replace 10 bars that are .120 wall, I want to replace one or two bars that are .188 wall. It is also very light, actually. I’m not a very big guy, but you and I could probably actually pick the frame up off the ground. So it is strong and it is light and it is bobbed off at the end. It is a 150in wheelbase and the frame is no longer than a 150in. People have asked “What is it, like 120in or like one of Bill Payne’s trucks?” With the axles and the four-link bars underneath of it, you can see the wheels are on the far corners.

CP: No one wants to thrash needlessly on a truck, talk about the convenience built into the truck.

RB: The pan that the seat actually sits on, it is actually pinned in there with four pins to adjust so that you can move the seat back and forth. So if somebody else got in to drive it, you just slide the seat forward. You can also pull that whole assembly out, because the floor is only bolted in with maybe 8 or 10 bolts. There is also a flanged bar around the door area, so with a couple of pins and bolts in a flange you can change a tranny in a really short amount of time. Also, if you notice the suspension mounts, everything is adjustable. Up on the hoops, where there would typically be a hoop, there is a flat bar with 12-14 holes in it. The good thing about that, if I ever decide to change shocks or anything like that, I don’t have to change anything on the chassis. I can make taller mounts, shorter mounts, angled mounts, so changing shocks, changing the angle on the shocks easily. It is no more difficult than sliding a mount up or down and you’re good to go. Same thing with the limiting straps. I tried to make stuff as adjustable as possible on the chassis and the housings. I’ve got good bump stops for the rear because the motor does fit so low. I don’t want the four bars coming in contact with the oil pump or anything like that. I don’t want to replace busted Hemi parts.

CP: The housings are custom and look huge, what are they?

RB: I’ve got Pettibone knuckles on the end and 106s in the center. Some pretty standard stuff, but I built some real nice diamond shaped housings. They are built out of quarter inch. They have a 4.5in. tube on the inside that is a quarter inch thick. There are also block-off plates on the inside. We’re going to keep the oil in the third member area. I always figure that there is no need to have a couple of extra gallons of oil sloshin’ around in the tubes, or when you go into a corner, all of the oil runs to one side. I’ll put some seals inside and won’t have the drips all over the floor like a lot of other guys. There is caster and camber built into each one of the housings, so it should handle pretty good, and I believe we’re going to be pretty strong.

CP: The frame is bellied, but skinny, how do you climb in?

RB: It is somewhere in the 40in wide range in the center of it. Luckily, I’m fairly skinny and pretty nimble, so, I can actually climb in, but the door is going to swing open and I’ll actually climb in through the window. It is slim, but it’s mounted straight to the main frame rail. I figure that is going to be a little more ridged than mounting bars to outriggers that come off the main frame.

CP: What kind of body style are you using?

RB: This will be a glass version of a Baja Volkswagen. Convertible top, Baja front end, Baja fenders in the rear, not a whole lot in the rear. It is really going to look like an open class Baja car, but with a little bit bigger tires. It’s going to be called Bugzilla just like my old show truck.

CP: A VW isn’t a common fiberglass mold. What’s the story?

I knew the guy that started the Cincinnati Off-Road Center and he had a bunch of old VW parts scattered across his property. I went out there and wondered around the woods until I found a front clip for a VW Beetle convertible. You can see it wasn’t stored for preservation, but it would serve well for our mold for Bugzilla. I already had some doors and stuff laying around and bought a Baja front clip. We’ll have to stretch some of the parts to keep everything in proportion, so the body should look pretty authentic from a distance, just scaled up when close up.

CP: Racing or Freestyle emphasis? Mentally and technically.

RB: Looking at it, you can tell it is built really strong. If you look at some things, the adjustable shock mounts, the big Hemi, and the Abruzzi Powerglide, it is going to be a heck of a racer, but I built it so solid that I think I could just beat it to death and I’m not going to have a whole lot of issues. I enjoy freestyle, I LOVE freestyle, who doesn’t? I like racing too, though. I mud raced, I flat dragged for years, so I’ve got the racer mentality; I still like that stuff. I believe with the Hemi in it, it is going to have plenty of power to race anybody that I come against. If you look at the suspension, the rear ends, the shocks that I got for it, I think it will hang tough with about any freestyle course. I think I’ve built a pretty good all around machine. Time will tell.

CP: You have a full-time job. How do you plan on scheduling Bugzilla? Will you race full-time or maintain your pipefitting job?

RB: I’ve been at my job for a long time, it is a great job, I like it, I don’t think I’d give it up, no matter how great things got with this. Luckily, I’ve been there so long, if I need to take off an extended weekend, no problem. Obviously, I couldn’t do it every weekend. I don’t know that I’d want to do it every weekend. If I could run this thing 15 or 20 times the first year, that will tell me more what I want to do with it. Hopefully, I put good enough parts in it that I’m not going to be replacing parts, because if I’m replacing parts, spending money, that is going to put a sour taste in my mouth. I figure, if I build a good solid machine and I have a lot of fun with it, that will keep me more interested in it and make me want to run it more

CP: What is your favorite monster moment as a fan?

RB: I don’t know if I have a favorite moment, but I remember standing next to Spiker’s All-American with the 73’s and polished aluminum wheels. That was really cool.

CP: If you could change one thing in the industry, what would it be?

RB: I really hate the stereotypes that have been placed on the industry. The idea that the sport is comprised of a bunch of rednecks with primitive vehicles crushing things annoys me. There is a bit of the redneck stereotype in all motorsports, but it seems to be especially prevalent in monster trucks. These vehicles are sophisticated pieces of engineering specifically designed for their purpose. There are also many well spoken people participating in the industry and hopefully that will begin to counter the stereotypes.

CP: What is your biggest fear about the industry?

RB: I suppose my biggest fear is unknowingly getting involved with some of the dishonest people in the industry. There are a lot of good people in the industry, but there are some bad ones as well.

CP: How do you see the industry developing in the future?

RB: I see the sport continuing to become more sophisticated, hopefully with more participation from sponsors. Bigfoot 8, Equalizer and perhaps Taurus 3 were really the last big jump from one level to the next. There has been a lot of progress, but those trucks were a big jump for their time. I think something will happen at some point that will be another big leap like that. I think a big A-frame, independent suspension monster truck is possible, and will come along at some point and will probably be the next big leap in monster technology. Scott Bryant and I have some ideas, it isn’t something we are working on anytime soon, but we talk about it regularly and believe the possibility is out there.

CP: When will you debut?

RB: Soon hopefully, but I’ve got a project that has placed Bugzilla on a backburner, I’m also waiting on my Hemi to be done, but as soon as that project is completely, I’ll put the finishing touches on and test it. Hopefully, The Monster Blog can come out when I test it and I don’t make a fool out of myself or it doesn’t make a fool out of me.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the premiere article of TMB’s In Focus, stay tuned each month as we bring you another detailed interview with one of the monster truck industry’s newsmakers.