Inside the life of a Monster Truck driver
Feb 17, 2020 14h37
By Spencer Belnap
Tristan England loves to compete in Monster Jam with his truck, the Earth Shaker. (Photo courtesy Monster Jam)
By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]
Just about every year in January, Salt Lake City residents are given the opportunity to be entertained by mighty monster trucks. Vivint Smart Home Arena, home of the Utah Jazz and various touring acts, becomes a dirt-filled and raucous palace for one weekend as Monster Jam takes over.
Drivers from all over the country go from town to town to entertain thousands of fans of all ages. One such driver is Tristan England, who was part of the Monster Jam action in Salt Lake that first weekend of the new year. He took some time away from his busy touring and charity schedule to shed some light on the life of a monster truck driver.
England hails from Paris, Texas, and has competed in Monster Jam since 2016. His beast of a truck is called the Earth Shaker. England has made the sport a family business of sorts by following in the footsteps of his father, Shane, who drives the Big Kahuna truck.
“I started monster truck driving when I was 18 years old,” England said. “I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’ve been around the trucks since I was 7, helping crew and build them. I definitely come from the dirt.”
The England family has been farming in northern Texas and involved in motorsports for decades. When father Shane began competing with Monster Jam in 2013, it was only a matter of time before Tristan hopped behind the wheel, too. All the family experience and immersion in the sport helped his journey into the big arenas, but he also attended Monster Jam University. This is where driver skills and personas are formed.
“There’s media training, running and weights, all that crazy stuff. Then eventually we do a 12,000-pound monster truck with 16,000 horsepower,” England said about the program.
To compare, an average truck like a Toyota Tacoma weighs roughly 4,000 pounds and has upwards of 275 horsepower. Machines like Earth Shaker and Big Kahuna truly are trucks that have been modified into monsters. They are built to roar and snarl and crush smaller trucks and cars.
“I’ve always driven lifted vehicles, lifted pickups,” England said. “So being over normal cars is nothing new, but crushing them is a crazy feeling for sure.”
Monster Jam athletes are touring across the country all year long. In addition to all the main shows and tournaments, they participate in charity events and pre-show fan meet-and-greets all the time. Families can purchase pit passes and pit parties, giving them the chance to meet their favorite drivers and see the trucks up close. In that sense the sport is very different than other motorsports like NASCAR and others, which typically don’t allow such fan interactions. The hardcore fans are the true source of inspiration and motivation for drivers such as England.
“That’s why I keep coming back,” England said. “I love meeting fans and kids. They can even pay to have one-on-one time with me.”
After delighting fans of all ages in downtown Salt Lake City, England and other drivers continue a tour across the country. England estimates around 60 shows total in 2020, maybe more. He encourages everyone to check out a Monster Jam arena show if they’ve never been before.
When not driving Earth Shaker and competing, England relaxes back in Texas with his family. He and his spouse welcomed their first-born son, Karson Crash, in 2019. It’s probably only a matter of time before Karson is introduced to the monster truck world his father and grandfather laid out before him.