Monster Jam flattens Hartford

“Crushstation” suffered a rollover during Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, which visited Hartford for the ninth consecutive year.
“Crushstation” suffered a rollover during Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, which visited Hartford for the ninth consecutive year. Photo by Nick Levine.

Last weekend, the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam pulled into the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., the home of UConn basketball. Mud flew.

For two hours, a bonanza of motorized sports turned the arena into an X-Games-like experience, as the largest monster truck tour — Monster Jam — made its annual trip to Hartford. A crowd of 5,000, mostly families who protected their children with protective ear equipment, cheered on the destruction at hand.

Each Monster Jam features two monster truck competitions. The most anticipated event was the freestyle competition, where drivers are evaluated on a one-to-10 scale by judges, who take into account a variety of factors including “hitting the most obstacles on the track,” “[completing] sky wheelies” and “[doing] something unexpected or seemingly impossible,” according to the Monster Jam official rules. The red, bull-themed truck named “El Toro Loco,” closed out the night with a crisp performance and took in the crowd’s adulation at center stage as the driver, Marc McDonald, exited the vehicle. McDonald was then tasked with giving out multiple copies of the new Nintendo Wii “Monster Jam” video game to lucky members of the crowd.

Monster Mutt, left, was one of seven monster trucks that competed in the freestyle competition of Saturday’s Monster Jam. Monster Mutt finished in second.
Monster Mutt, left, was one of seven monster trucks that competed in the freestyle competition of Saturday’s Monster Jam. Monster Mutt finished in second.

When asked how the behemoths of the automotive world travel around the country, an XL Center employee explained, “The trucks came in other trucks.”

As the dirt was trucked in to fill up the arena, there were initial concerns that the weekend would be marked by poor conditions. As Joe Lowe, a longtime Monster Jam announcer wrote, a winter of such drastic proportions like the one Hartford has experienced makes for “wet muddy conditions when the frozen dirt is brought inside the XL Center to create the track.” Fortunately for the fans, the track had dried out enough to give drivers the traction necessary to achieve substantial air and wheelies by the night session on Saturday.

In attendance were 10 members of the Coast Guard Academy varsity swim team. The freshmen were in uniform, while seniors such as Ted Blorny took time off from wondering whether they would prefer to be stationed conducting “migrant interdiction” off the coast of Florida or “[hang out with] a lot of nothing” in Alaska. Some of the cadets found the show to be surreal.

“It’s outrageous,” Lyam Bell said in reference to a fight between the New York and New England ATV racing team captains. “[It was] about exactly what I expected … it’s entertainment.”

Local truck Thrasher, driven by Danbury resident Pat Summa, broke his motor in the Saturday afternoon session and was sidelined for the night. He did, however, replace an entire motor on no sleep and was able to compete the next day. Other fan favorites included Monster Mutt, who won the race and Crushstation, a lobster-themed vehicle.

Some members of the crowd, however, were disappointed that the most famous truck in Monster Jam, the green and black three-time World Racing Champion Gravedigger, failed to make an appearance. “Where’s Gravedigger!?” one man screamed in frustration as the crowd headed to the exit.

The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam will return to Connecticut when it comes to Bridgeport on Friday, March 11.

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