Monster Jam is in Denver this weekend as part of its 2012 tour, and 2011 MVP Bari Musawwir, driver of the Spider-Man truck, took some time out of his busy schedule (driving awesome trucks, doing sweet tricks, crushing cars) to talk to us about his job, and why getting in an accident doesn't scare him.
Before you were a Monster Jam driver, you were a radio-controlled truck driver. How did that prepare you for monster-truck driving?
It's actually pretty similar. The R/C truck kind of reacts the same way a real truck does when you're dealing with braking and turning and throttle rhythm. There's a big difference between the weight, of course, and that you're driving in it, but it's just the same type of physics. Like the physics of how the vehicle reacts when it's in the air. Of course, there's a learning curve, but it actually helped a lot.
Did you get to pick your truck?
No. They wanted me to drive the Spider-Man truck, and I said, "Okay!" No complaints there. It's very popular, and I was surprised. I thought the truck I drove last year, El Toro Loco, was popular, but this one is even more popular, because everybody loves Spider-Man.
What's your favorite trick to do?
Slap wheelie, where you jump the trunk and land with the front end bouncing up and you can drive on two wheels and pull the truck back to you. That's pretty fun.
What's one thing you think most people don't know about driving monster trucks?
Stuff actually happens a lot faster than you think it does when you're on the outside. You may think you're going really fast when you're in the cab, but later, when you're looking over the video, you're like, "Oh, that's all that happened?"
Do you like being on tour?
Oh, yeah, it's a blast. It's pretty cool to be able to see the world and see the country. I get to go home every week. I fly into each city every week; I just got here not too long ago.
Do you like Denver so far?
I really like this city. I was anxious to come back here because I was here last year and the weather was about the same as it as it now. I live in Orlando now and I am from Cleveland originally, but I would consider Denver as a cold-weather city to live.
Do you think this is pretty much the awesomest thing anyone could do for a living? Oh, yeah. I've got the best job in the world. This isn't even a job. I just get paid to have fun.
Do you ever worry that you won't pull off a trick, or that you'll get in an accident?
No, not really. We're really safe inside the cab. The only time I get butterflies is right before I start. You just hope everything goes right. When they're doing the pre-show stuff, I just get anxious.
I know a lot of little boys are into monster trucks. How about little girls?
There are -- it's a whole family thing. We have female drivers, too, and they are really popular, especially with the girls. It's evolved into a family environment.
It seems like you have some pretty die-hard fans. What surprises you the most about them?
The fans know more about me than I do. But really, just their enthusiasm about the sport. I am a fan myself, so I look at other drivers and see what they are doing, but the fact that they show support all year long, and on Facebook and Twitter. They definitely like the fact that I get to do this, and they are always really interested in what I do.
What's the best part of your job?
The fan interaction. The fans give you the energy to go out there and perform because you know they spend their hard-earned money to see you, and you don't want to let them down.
Do you think monster trucks represent Americana?
Absolutely. It was started here 35 years ago or more, and people can identity with it wherever we go. I've been to Europe and Central America. It's an American sport for sure, but people seem to love it all over the world.
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You were a fan before you were a driver. Why do people love monster trucks so much?
I think it's the fact that when people see these trucks, they are bigger than life, and the fact that they can move so fast and do the things they do, like flying through the air, and wheelies and crushing cars -- you don't see too many vehicles do that on a regular basis, so you're in awe. It's pretty wild.
Monster Jam begins tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and continues through Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. For tickets ($20-$25) or more information, visit www.monsterjam.com.