Monster trucks crush competition this weekend

Friday, February 10, 2012
Larry Swim drives Bigfoot over a ramp during the Monster Truck Winter Nationals at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau on Feb. 12, 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

Editor's note: This story has been edited to correct the phone number

Monster truck fans, as well as fans of ATV four-wheeler racing and pit bike racing, can get their thrills this weekend at the Show Me Center.

Josh Hanlon, marketing director of the Show Me Center, expects around 5,500 people to attend the show.

"This is an opportunity to not have to travel a long distance to see some of the great monster trucks, one of motor sports most recognizable events," Hanlon said.

"My own 6-year-old will be there so he can see a life-size version of what he plays with," he said.

Though the truck show is considered a family event, because of the noise levels Hanlon does not recommended it for children younger than 2.

"It's just too loud for children that young," he said.

Checkered Flag Productions organizes the show and schedules appearances across the country.

Ed Beckley, the company's president, is a former professional motorcycle stunt rider. Early in his career he billed himself as the world's largest motorcycle jumper. At more than 300 pounds, he outweighed the motorcycles he rode. Beckley's last stunt jump was in 1995. He began Checkered Flag Productions shortly thereafter.

"We've usually gone to Cape one time a year for the last 10 years or so," Beckley said. "We really feel like we're coming home when we get to that event, plus it's so centrally located."

Beckley said the competition between the trucks is real.

"It's not like WWF. Every one of them is fighting for the sponsors," he said. "Winning can get them between $150,000 and $200,000 in sponsorship money."

The monster trucks scheduled for this weekends event include Bigfoot (the original), Get R Done, Robo Machine, Clydesdale and Strait Jacket. These souped-up trucks, which run on methanol, have enormous engines and even larger tires, stretching 4 feet wide and 5 and a half feet tall.

The show includes ATV 4-wheeler races, pit bike races and a Show N Shine competition where Checkered Flag will determine the best-looking street pickup or custom car. Visit www.badboysofracing.com to register.

Arguably the biggest stunt of the show will be performed by Tim Dyson, a world-class X-Games motorcycle jumper. Dyson is scheduled to fly off a ramp, travel upward to about 70 feet and complete a full back flip.

Despite little practice and past injuries that include multiple neck and back fractures, a cracked sternum and a ruptured appendix caused by a crash and four knee surgeries, Dyson is confident he can make the jump.

"Oh yeah, I know I can do it," he said. "I really don't practice very much, just sometimes before a show. I've been stunt riding professionally for 10 years."

Dyson, 37, began riding motorcycles about 26 years ago with friends, and after winning a battle with Hodgkins lymphoma at 19, became interested in stunt riding.

"My friends and I rode together, kept pushing each other, and a couple of us became good enough to ride professionally," he said.

Dyson cautions fans who might like to emulate his stunt tricks to be careful.

"There are only a couple guys in the Midwest who can do [motorcycle back flip jumps]. It took me a couple years in and out of foam pits to learn how," Dyson said. "Mess up just a little bit and you could die."

For those who aspire to be stunt riders like him, Dyson said: "Start young. Wear all your equipment. Stay in school."

The Monster Truck Winter Nationals and Thrill Show will open at 6 p.m. and start at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday. Upper level tickets are $9.50 for children; $17.50 for adults. VIP tickets are $15.50 for children and $22.50 for adults. All ticket prices increase by $2 on the days of the show. Purchase tickets at the Show Me Center box office, online at www.showmecenter.biz or by calling (573) 651-5000.

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