Drag racing Digger a smash hit
Nitro Jam Media
Apr 29, 2011
Drag racing is a sport that was built on trying new things and breaking new ground.
From traditional racing classes to exhibitions like jets, wheelstanders and more, drag racing has always been about putting on a show and providing fans something they can’t see anywhere else in the world.
So when Nitro Jam introduced a unique main event earlier this year matching two American icons on the drag strip, it was obvious Nitro Jam was once again taking the sport in a new direction all in the name of great entertainment.
And to anyone who has actually witnessed the awesome spectacle now known as the battle of the “monster trucks” between the Shockwave jet semi and Grave Digger monster truck they have just one word to describe the occasion – unforgettable.
That is because between Shockwave’s incredible fire show and earth-shattering launch to Grave Digger’s massive halftrack burnouts on six foot tall tires and ear-piercing takeoff, Nitro Jam’s main event in 2011 has been nothing short of impressive and the fans aren’t the only ones that have been taken aback by the spectacle.
“It is an intense experience to say the least,” said former Monster Jam world champion and Grave Digger driver Randy Brown. “When you are used to launching this massive truck 30 feet in the air, it is a totally different experience lining up and trying to reach maximum speed all within the confines of a lane just wide enough to fit the truck. It has been a different experience that is for sure, but more than anything it has been fun.”
And when you ask Brown it is safe to say that even the drivers themselves have been wowed by the popularity and shear insanity that ensues when you match a jet-powered semi against a towering 12-foot tall crushing machine.
Debuting two years ago at Rockingham Dragway before becoming a fulltime attraction earlier this year at the Arizona Nitro Jam, the “monster truck” showdown between two of the most recognizable race machines in motorsports today has been one of the most exciting additions to Nitro Jam in many years.
Joining a lineup that already includes as many as five nitro classes, additional jets, wheelstanders and more, the new Nitro Jam format has provided a unique and exciting atmosphere, even for someone like Brown who is used to performing in front of sold out arenas all across the nation with the Monster Jam series.
“It has been overwhelming the response we have had being a part of Nitro Jam,” Brown said. “It is neat because people are enjoying seeing the truck out of its element, doing something beside what they are used to seeing every day. It is a refreshing change of pace for the fans.
“They also don’t expect it to run as good as it does. That thing is a lot faster than what many of them expect it to be. It is neat seeing their reaction.”
And what a show it has been so far.
After a full evening of nitro dragsters, funny cars, bikes and altereds, when Grave Digger pulls into the lanes alongside Shockwave the reaction is generally overwhelming.
Each run begins with Brown lighting the hides and doing a halftrack burnout in a machine built for jumping cars, not racing them. The process requires quite a bit of tuning compared to a usual monster truck run, with a few adjustments to tire pressure, shocks and switching from full four-wheel control to just two, but the result has been more than impressive.
“It is weird running in two-wheel drive, learning how to control the truck once the tires start spinning for the long burnouts, but it is a challenge and that is what it is all about,” Brown said. “The ride itself is actually pretty smooth. I am obviously used to riding that high, but it is different having the guardrails beside you and the lane divider. You are confined in your own area so you have to concentrate on holding it straight and going all out as long as you can.”
And following Grave Digger’s unique burnouts, the Shockwave goes to work. Lighting up the night sky with an impressive fire trail from its trio of jet engines the Shockwave, driven by Kent Shockley, then really takes the crowd aback with burner pops that literally shake the ground with every punch of the throttle.
And if you think the show put on by the Shockwave is impressive from the stands, just ask Brown what it is like sitting in Grave Digger while a 30,000 horsepower semi sets the world on fire just one lane over.
“The funny thing is it is not all that loud because my engine drowns it out, but you can feel it,” Brown said. “I can feel it in my chest and I can feel the truck shake every time he hits the throttle. And when he goes zooming past us, wow. I don’t even see him until his shoots are out way in front of us.”
After both trucks are through putting on their show, the pair then gets to work with some actual racing.
Once staged, Grave Digger leaves first, getting a sizable gap of a few hundred feet before the Shockwave lets loose with its own jet-propelled launch and it is on to the eighth mile with the first machine to reach the finish line taking home bragging rights for the night and the title of baddest monster truck in the land.
And so far it has been pretty closely contested between the pair as the duo begin to develop a rivalry trying to prove that they are the real star of the show, although it is no secret that Brown and Grave Digger enter each event with a major advantage in the eyes of the fans.
“It is an honor to drive Grave Digger. I have been around the Digger team pretty much my entire life growing up beside the shop,” Brown said. “It is a lot of responsibility. You don’t really think about how many fans the Digger team has until you are actually in the truck and people are going nuts.
“We started with humble roots racing tractor pulls and then starting our own monster truck team and now to be in America’s most recognizable monster truck it is a dream come true. It is an honor to be behind the wheel and it is even more of an honor to take Grave Digger to another level as a drag racing star.”
And if you thought the show was impressive, just consider the stats.
In one lane you have the Shockwave jet semi. Producing 30,000 horsepower and 12,500 pounds of thrust from three J 34-48 jet engines that eat nearly 80 gallons of diesel fuel per run, the Shockwave has been clocked at over 370 miles per hour from a standing start making it the fastest fullsize truck in the world.
In the other lane is Grave Digger. Housed under a 1950-style Chevrolet body, Grave Digger weighs nearly 12,000 pounds and produces over 2,000 horsepower from its 575 cubic inch Chevy Big Block engine. Standing at nearly 12 feet tall with 66 inch tall, 43 inch wide tires, Digger makes its presence felt when it pulls onto any track.
And while the two machines have very few similarities and are designed for two totally different forms of racing, they both share one very common characteristic – when they pull onto the track, fans take notice.
Now, two of the most extreme machines on the planet are set to do battle at Nitro Jam events across the nation in an event that is sure to leave race fans talking for years about the night they saw Grave Digger take on the Shockwave.
Grave Digger driver Randy Brown