Toughest Monster Truck Tour 2016

An Exclusive Interview with Triple Crown Winner Dan Runte

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 821   By: Robert E Martin

14th January, 2016     0

Monster Truck driver Dan Runte has been behind the steering wheel of Bigfoot – one of the most daunting and formidable vehicles ever assembled throughout the history of Monster Truck events – for nearly 27 years now. Currently regarded as one of the most daring drivers in the history of Bigfoot and Monster Truck Competitions, Dan presently holds three Guinness World Records, including the Longest Ramp Jump in a Monster Truck and the Fastest Speed in a Monster Truck.

In 2012 Dan debuted Bigfoot #18 and won the Toughest Monster Truck Tour indoor series championship with a total of 943 points, along with setting the world record for the longest ramp jump in a monster truck (214 feet, 8 inches).  In 2010 he set the world record for top speed in the 1/8 mile (86.56 mph) and reset the track record in the figure 8 race course in Salt Lake City in 27.78 seconds, posting six national event wins. And in 2009, Dan set the world record for top speed in the ¼ mile (84.49 mph) and won 23 times in 41 race and freestyle events.

On Friday, February 12th & Saturday, February 13th Dan will be bringing Bigfoot to Saginaw’s Dow Event Center for the 2016 Monster Truck Tour. With a competitive line-up that includes Bigfoot, Overbored, Quad Chaos, Heavy Hitter and two brand new trucks, Dirt Crew and Dawg Pound, in addition to Megasaurus and the Jet Powered Smart Car, the action kicks off with a Pit Party from 5:30-6:30 PM on Friday, Feb. 12th, with the competition beginning at 7:30 PM.  Saturday, Feb. 13th competitions are held at 1 PM and 7:30 PM, with the Pit Party running from 11 am – noon before the 1 PM performance, and 5:30 – 6:30 prior to the 7:30 performance. Free Pit Passes are available at Draper Auto, or can be purchased for only $5.00 at all points of purchase. Tickets are available at the Dow Event Center Box Office and all Ticketmaster locations; and kids tickets are only $12.00.

Recently, Dan sat down for an exclusive interview with The Review to discuss his record breaking career, his thoughts on the current generation of drivers, and what plans he has for the future with Monster Truck competitions.

Review: How did you get interesting in Monster Truck activities and what is it that sparked your interest?

Dan Runte: When I was quite a bit younger I worked for a guy that had two modified trucks that he had built for Truck and Tractor pulling, which he did at a professional level back when Monster Trucks were first getting going around the country.  When I started 27 years ago, Monster Trucks were more just for exhibition as opposed to race vehicles, but it was something that I thought would be neat to get involved with because of my mechanical background with those types of vehicles.

Review: Securing top spots in the Guinness Book of World Records is fairly amazing, yet must be incredibly daunting. Do you recall the first time you attempted to complete a serious ramp jump?

Runte: We did the first one in Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome. We didn’t jump over anything, but it was the first time we took a group of Monster Trucks and tried to do a long jump during an event. We used the ‘Down’ ramp into the Silverdome as an exit tunnel, which was very intimidating.  But that was not as intimidating as the first time I attempted to jump a 727 jet.  I went a couple days early to study the size and contours of this jet and people kept asking me when the ramp was going to be finished. I had a lot going through my head that day.

Review: Do you get very banged up doing this stuff?

Runte: Honestly, no. Knock on wood. I’ve been hurt and had some very close calls, but a lot of it has to do with the safety aspects invested into the whole industry. I’ve had a lot of pulled muscles and have gotten pretty sore here and there, but never to the point where I didn’t go right back into it again.

When we did the Jet Jump, the launch device was very new and since then they’ve come a long way. When I finally jumped the jet it actually cracked the harness device, but its something I don’t talk about a long because it goes back to the safety aspect. Each truck is custom fit for each driver. We have seven different race trucks as far as Bigfoot goes and each version evolves improvements with regards to safety equipment. But once you get placed into a truck, it’s your truck – you run the same truck every week for every event.

Bigfoot weights about 10,500 pounds and when I set a speed record at 86 mph it was in the 8th mile that I accomplished that at a couple different drag strips. That was a handful. Like anything else, it was easy to get up to that speed, but everything went out of balance in terms of size and proportion; and its hard to shut down. Basically, I let out the gas and and the vehicle was free-playing, as the gear lash and tires weren’t really balanced at that speed, so it was a handful. I used a bit of the drag strip to shut it down.

Review: What do you feel is the most challenging component involved with these types of competitions?

Runte: A lot of it now is with the competition itself. When we first got started Bigfoot was light years ahead of everybody else, but everybody else brought their vehicles up to our standards, so it is definitely more competitive now. Other trucks can run just as hard as you and it much more competitive now. This makes a better show for the spectators, but at the end of the day, we all want to win and everybody wants to beat you.  Now with facebook it gets even more competitive, with people going on after shows and bragging themselves up. It’s all fun and games until we put our helmets on and then it gets very serious.

The Toughest Monster Truck series is now in its sixth year, but they keep putting together a better & better group of trucks, all in freestyle and racing. The vehicles are constantly reinvented and brought up to par for current standards and older trucks are consistently updated. If you find something working on one truck somebody will try to incorporate it into another.

Review: How much does it cost to build these trucks?

Runte: To build a new one like we run now can cost anywhere north of $250 to $300,000 dollars. Plus, you need to add the maintenance on top of it, because the trucks get beat up pretty good. The motors can run anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000 alone and the axle is also very costly because of the weight of the vehicle and the fact you keep landing on it. Those are built better each year and with design advances, the trucks are running longer now.

Review: What do you attribute your Triple Crown win towards? What do you feel distinguishes you from other drivers?

Runte: I’m a pretty modest guy, so am going to say a lot of it is the equipment. The last three trucks we built have all been improvements and I’ll take the new truck each time we develop one. I’ll run it and test it and work the bugs out.  But a lot of it is not letting other people get into your head, like with any sport. If you have those guys in your head while you’re racing, they’re going to get you. So a lot of it is experience. The longer you drive, the better you get at it. I was kind of a natural when I first got into these types of competitions and I’ve always been a Motorhead, years before I even got my first driver’s license.

In terms of new guys, Gene Wexler secured Rookie of the Year and is a natural. You can tell the difference between a guy that wants to drive, but isn’t really good at it; or a guy that’s a natural. Honestly, you can feel it.

Review: How much longer do you anticipate doing this?

Runte: Actually, I’m probably going to announce during one of these first quarter competitions that this will most likely be my retirement year and my last full year of driving. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years now and its time. I’ll still work in the office and continue next year to drive a few of the bigger outdoor events, but I’ll mainly work on doing a lot of driver development for Bigfoot and help to train and work with the new guys.

I’ll still be involved full time with Monster Trucks, just not the driving.

 

 

 

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