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Bigfoot Headlines Circle K Monster Bash
Dan Runte is one of the lucky few to live that dream, and the 40-year-old native of Freeport, Ill., will be behind the wheel of Bigfoot Saturday night, Aug. 20, when The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the sixth annual Circle K Back-to-School Monster Truck Bash.
Bigfoot is powered by a 572-cubic-inch fire-breathing Hemi engine, rides on giant 66-inch tires and tips the scales at a metal-mashing 10,000 pounds. It features a 2005 Ford Super Duty F-Series fiberglass pick-up truck body and shakes the ground with more than twice the horsepower of a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stock car.
Today's Bigfoot evolved from an early 1970's Ford F-250 4x4 pick-up truck that construction contractor Bob Chandler used on the job during the week and took off-road for family entertainment on weekends.
After struggling to find four-wheel-drive parts in the St. Louis area, Chandler and his wife, Marilyn, decided to open Midwest Four Wheel Drive & Performance Center. Chandler continued to modify his Ford truck-which earned the nickname Bigfoot because a friend said Chandler had a "big foot" when he was behind the wheel-and used it as a promotional tool for the family's new business.
Bigfoot made its first paid appearance at a Denver car show in 1979 and then began appearing at truck-and-tractor pulls and car shows across the country.
In 1981, Chandler decided to see what would happen if he drove Bigfoot over a couple of junk cars. A few months later, he duplicated the stunt during a stadium show and a new form of motorsports entertainment was launched.
Runte is among seven drivers who pilot the fleet of Bigfoot Monster Trucks.
"I started in motocross, did some tractor pulling and then went to work as a member of the Bigfoot crew, hauling and helping maintain the Monster Trucks for Bob Chandler," said Runte. "Eventually, I became a driver and I've been driving Bigfoot for 14 years."
Runte has won countless Monster Truck races, but his biggest accomplishment came when he jumped Bigfoot over an airplane.
"I hold the long-jump record in a Monster Truck at 202 feet," Runte said. "We actually jumped over a grounded Boeing 727 at an air show and it was pretty extreme. It went way beyond what we do during a normal event, but it's pretty exciting for Bigfoot and I to hold that record."
A majority of the time, Runte is a one-man operation. He drives the transporter, prepares Bigfoot for competition, races the truck, loads it back into the transporter and then heads down the road to the next show.
"I work about 43 weekends of the year and we have raced all over the United States and Canada," he said. "I have even been out of the country for shows. We have traveled to Australia, Aruba and Puerto Rico, to name a few.
"I love the competition part of it," Runte noted. "Also, it's really neat the huge number of fans that Bob (Chandler) and Bigfoot have attracted during 30 years in this business. In the end, it's all about the fans-especially the kids."
Bigfoot will be joined by Samson, Avenger, Brutus, Equalizer, Gunslinger, Raminator, Rap Attack, Cowboy and Stone Crusher for an evening of motorized mayhem during the Circle K Back-to-School Monster Truck Bash on Saturday night, Aug. 20.
Activities begin with the Circle K Pre-Race Pit Party where fans can meet Runte and the other Monster Truck drivers, get autographs and have their pictures taken alongside the trucks. Early entry passes for the pit party are available at area Circle K stores and those with an event ticket and an early entry pass will be admitted beginning at 4 p.m. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. and the Circle K Pre-Race Pit Party runs through 6:30. On-track action starts at 7:30 p.m.
If purchased in advance, reserved seats for the Circle K Back-to-School Monster Truck Bash are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Adult seats are $5 more the day of the event while parking for all events at The Dirt Track is free. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.