Brutus at Circle K Monster Truck Bash
Still considered a newcomer to the sport of Monster Truck racing, the five-year-old Brutus, with its pinned-back ears and snapping chains, has become a fan favorite.
"We really like to drive hard and race aggressively," said Chris Bergeron, who pilots the snarling dog. "That's kind of what Brutus is known for and the fans really get behind him for it."
In this case, the Monster Truck's personality is merely a reflection of its driver.
"It's just my nature to drive really competitively and that gets me into trouble sometimes," continued Bergeron, a former mud racer who earned that sport's premier championship in 2000. "I've always loved doing wheelies and wild stuff like that. Now wheelies are one of the most requested stunts I get and over time they've sort of become a signature move for us."
Another thing that makes Brutus such a hit is the truck's unique theme. Sculpted and painted to resemble an angry dog, Brutus is particularly popular among the sport's younger fans.
"The kids really get behind Brutus," explained Bergeron, who also works as a plumber in his hometown of Columbus, Mich. "They always come up to me and say stuff like, 'Hey, I've got a dog named Brutus.' That's really cool because it means they identify with the truck and are pulling for him."
While Brutus has built a sizable fan following, the truck actually had a rather inauspicious start.
"Originally, the concept of Brutus revolved around the theme of a Greek God," said Jim Koehler, who owns Brutus and also owns and drives the extremely popular Avenger Monster Truck. "It was a standard pickup that featured a guy wearing a toga and holding a sword. We ran that scheme for about a year, and realized we needed to go back to the drawing board. But we felt it was important to keep the name.
"When we started thinking of new concepts, it occurred to us that the animal-themed trucks were huge with the little kids," Koehler explained. "There was already a Bull-Dozer, which is a giant bull, and Snake Bite, which is a snake, so we thought, 'Why not Brutus the dog?' Needless to say, the fans loved it."
In a sport where history and tradition play a huge role in defining a truck's identity, it's often difficult for newcomers to find their niche.
"When we'd go to shows, especially the smaller shows where there weren't many competitors, Brutus would have to run against established trucks like Avenger and that made it tough," Kohler said about the 1957 Chevrolet-bodied Avenger which is one of the world's most popular Monster Trucks. "So Brutus had a hard time getting started because fans didn't know who he was or what he was all about."
But that has changed with time and Bergeron believes the K-9 themed Monster Truck brings something for fans of all ages.
"Brutus and I are all about freestyling," Bergeron said with a big smile. "The fans absolutely love these types of competitions because we have the freedom to really get crazy with the stunts we do. As a result, that creates a great show for the people, which is really what this sport is all about."
In addition to Brutus and Avenger, Equalizer, Hot Tamale, Eradicator, Backdraft, Predator and Nitemare are scheduled to participate in the Aug. 19 Circle K Monster Truck Bash. The trucks will battle in a series of one-on-one elimination matches over an obstacle course and then compete in a radical freestyle competition.
The Circle K Monster Truck Bash begins with the Circle K Pit Party where fans can meet the Monster Truck drivers, get autographs and have their pictures taken alongside the gargantuan machines. Fans presenting an event ticket along with an empty Monster Energy drink container will be admitted to the Circle K Pit Party 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 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 by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.