Breaking News

Monster trucks fly at Sprint Center

Updated: 2014-02-10T05:20:10Z

By MIKE McGRAW

The Kansas City Star

There was a pretty eclectic list of events around Kansas City Sunday for those willing to slosh through the slush.

The Spencer Theatre had a production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and there was a teddy bear tea party at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop in Olathe.

And then there was Monster Jam.

Grown men piloting 5-ton, 1,500-horsepower “trucks” — more powerful than some locomotives — popping wheelies and flying over junked cars to the delight of ardent fans, including lots of 9-year-old boys.

“How tall is your house?” professional driver John Seasock asked during an interview before Sunday’s final Monster Jam show at the Sprint Center.

“Imagine a 10,000-pound truck flying over it and never touching it. I could do that,” said Seasock, a 48-year-old who thinks of himself as a kid and whose girlfriend puts his virtual age at somewhere around 16.

As if he needed to explain, Seasock acknowledged, “I’m a really bad adrenaline junkie.”

He also skydives, drives stunt motorcycles and says he’s deathly afraid of black cats.

Monster truck shows aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They’re motorized professional wrestling, some say.

They aren’t what the Green Party would call environmentally friendly. They’re smoky and loud, up to 95 decibels (more than a train whistle and less than a jet engine). Fans are encouraged to wear ear protection.

But Seasock and millions of screaming fans clearly love the sport. Or, as Shakespeare said in his famous love story unfolding across town, “Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.”

And for young boys at least, what’s not to love? Big, loud machines racing across 400 cubic yards of dirt and junk cars.

The adoration is obvious in Seasock’s voice as he takes a reporter on a tour around his $250,000 Batman.

A seamless steel tube frame supporting a 575-cubic-inch supercharged methanol-injected big block American (what else?) V-8 engine, topped with an $18,000 custom fiberglass body shaped like the Batmobile.

Seasock’s machine gobbles so much gas, it requires 1-inch fuel lines (the ones in your car are 3/8-inch) to deliver 5 gallons of methanol for every mile (an MPG of about 1,000 feet per gallon).

Your SUV may have four-wheel drive, but Batman has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering.

“It’s a full-blown racing vehicle and a work of art,” said Seasock, winner of two Monster Jam World Finals Championships.

Seasock and other monster truck operators like to think of themselves as pilots.

In fact, Batman, with Seasock strapped in its custom-molded center seat with five-point restraints, spends a fair amount of time in the air. “The 6-foot tires are rotating masses that act like gyroscopes in guiding it through the air,” Seasock says. While airborne, Seasock says, “I accelerate and the front moves up, and I can hit the brakes, causing the nose to go down.”

Seasock says safety is a priority for show promoters.

And that’s not surprising in light of accidents over the last few years: The Associated Press documented five deaths and 40 injuries at monster truck shows from 1992 to 2007. Two people died at shows in 2009, including a 6-year-old boy in Tacoma, Wash., struck by a piece of metal.

Seasock, a monster truck pilot for 25 years, is popular with fans and gets about 150 emails a day, he says, all of which he answers personally.

He appears at hospitals, schools and charitable events and is active in the Make-a-Wish program for children with life-threatening illnesses.

“It’s pretty humbling to get an email through Make-a-Wish, saying that some child’s last wish is to meet you before he passes,” Seasock says.

If he wasn’t piloting trucks, says Seasock, of Frackville, Pa., he’d be a firefighter. His favorite food is steak (he’s in the right town for that), favorite movie is “Caddyshack” and favorite TV show (he really claims this) is “Scooby-Doo.”

So maybe his girlfriend is right.

To reach Mike McGraw, call 816-234-4423 or send email to mmcgraw@kcstar.com.

Deal Saver Subscribe today!

Comments

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here