Monster Jam roars into South Florida

Admit it: While stuck in godawful rush-hour traffic you’ve fantasized about having the power to simply drive overtop all the cars in front of you to find sweet vehicular freedom. That might be a wildly irrational urge, but it’s also one that can be satisfied, at least vicariously, at the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, which hits Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night.

The show features 16 of the biggest, baddest Monster Trucks on the planet revving, ramming, slamming and jamming – they’re 12 feet tall, weigh 10,000 pounds, and can top 100 mph and jump more than 30 feet in the air. And they carry intimidating names like Grave Digger, Gunslinger, Bounty Hunter, Shock Therapy, Max-D and El Diablo. Talk about a testosterone junkie’s dream.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush for me,” says Tom Meents, who drives Max-D, which is cool teen lingo for Maximum Destruction, the truck he’s been driving for a decade. “In the beginning, the trucks were more like steamrollers – now in 2013, they’re a lot more like jet airplanes, because they fly around the stadium and put on an awesome show.”

Max-D’s philosophy is, predictably, similar to the other drivers’ mind-sets.

“You gotta get out there and drive with maximum destruction in mind,” says Meents, “and that’s what we’re gonna continue to do.”

This year’s Monster Jam features a new truck driven by JP Ruggiero called El Diablo, the name of which  was voted on by fans.

“They’re putting me in that truck because I speak Spanish fluently, and I think a majority of the fans that voted were Hispanic,” says Ruggiero, who lives in Los Angeles. “So it’s a real great honor to be in that position.”

There are three main elements of the Monster Jam experience: the Pit Party, the race, and the freestyle.

“I strongly recommend that fans go to the Pit Party,” says Ruggiero, “because they can stand right next to the trucks and they can talk to us and take pictures with us and get a better idea of what it’s all about. It’s a really fun time.”

For Max-D, it’s more about the rivalry.

“I love to race, because I am a true competitor at heart,” he says, “but freestyle is one of my favorite things to do, to just get out there and let it all hang out. You get two minutes to put on the best tricks and perform the best stunts for a panel of judges.”

It all sounds slightly risky, even dangerous, but serious injuries are apparently rare.

“Monster Jam has tons of safety requirements and rules, and after a 20-year career I’ve never had any serious injuries,” says Max-D.

Ruggiero agrees, sort of.

“There are many safety measures taking place to keep not only us but the fans and the crew safe,” he says. “But being 30 feet in the air and to come crashing down, we only have about 30 inches of suspension for that 10,000-pound vehicle that’s coming down. And once that suspension bottoms out, the rest is taken up by our bodies. So it actually is pretty rough on us – every single landing is a whiplash kind of car accident.”