For more than 20 years, Kirk Dabney has made the gear-grinding, car-crushing world of monster truck racing his home.
Mr. Dabney, who drives the Monster Patrol truck slated to rumble and roll Friday and Saturday at the Monster Motor Nationals show at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, said the sport has evolved from a bigger-is-better building competition to big business.
"In the early days, monster trucks were just a way for us to show off our abilities," he said in a telephone interview. "We were just guys in the four-wheel-drive business. Then as they became more and more popular, and revenue became available, we had to keep improving on them."
In addition to monster-truck mayhem ("mayhem" is always used in conjunction with monster trucks) the show will feature freestyle motocross, lawn mower, quad and micro-monster racing.
The monster trucks today bear only a passing resemblance to the customized stock vehicles of early years. Where once a world-class monster ride might have been a Ford with fat tires and a lift kit, today it is a high-performance vehicle custom-built for speed, agility and car-crushing ability.
"There's a whole new element involved," Mr. Dabney said. "We went from $40,000 to $50,000 trucks to $200,000. Now, these trucks can jump 20 feet in the air without a rebound, can reach 50-60 mph in 100 feet and are very agile and very, very fast."
With the advances in performance and payouts, many early practitioners have found themselves priced out of the sport. Mr. Dabney said it's the unfortunate byproduct of any motor sport that becomes popular.
"There are a lot of guys that just can't afford to race anymore," he said. "The days of a guy building a truck in his back yard and competing are gone. Sure, I have mixed feelings, but that's the way racing - all racing - works. You look at any form of racing, and they all have the same history."
While the sport does attract a certain gear-head element - fans interested in the mechanical minutia of the big rigs - the destructive nature of giant trucks riding rough over helpless cars is still a big part of the sport's appeal, Mr. Dabney said.
"People, by nature, love destruction," he said. "You don't go to the Winston Cup races for the wrecks, but you know they happen. Here, they're intentional."
All the mayhem, however, comes with a sense of responsibility. Mr. Dabney said the monster truck safety record is a model in the motor sports world.
"Safety is always a concern," he said. "Yes, we have had accidents, but there has never been a fatality involving a monster truck driver. That's something we can be very proud of."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Monster Motor Nationals
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 605 Seventh St.
COST: Adults $15 advance, $17 the day of the show. Children under 12 $10.50 advance, $13 the day of the show. Friday all children's tickets $6. Call 724-2400.