Avenger Takes Aim at Aug. 19 Monster Bash
Avenger isn't actually a truck.
Sporting a body that resembles a timeless 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, Avenger's unique appearance and aggressive style have made the one-of-a-kind machine a favorite among Monster Truck aficionados around the world.
"My dad used to run a drag car in the '60s and '70s called Avenger, which is where the idea came from," said Jim Koehler, Avenger's owner and driver. "Growing up, I always wanted to be just like my dad, so everything I owned had some sort of Avenger logo on it. Naturally, later in life, it only made sense to name my Monster Truck after dad's drag car."
While the Avenger concept was inspired by his father, it was Koehler's idea to build a body that mirrors one of the most popular automobiles ever built.
"Originally, Avenger started out as a pickup, but I wanted it to be different," said the 40-year-old resident of Columbus, Mich. "I'm really into hot rods and old cars, so I figured a '57 Chevy seemed like the way to go. Plus, it's no secret that the Bel Air is one of the most popular cars ever designed, so I thought that might help give me a leg up with the fans."
However, in the car-crushing world of Monster Truck racing, a cool-looking body is only half the battle when it comes to attracting fans. The other half rests squarely on the shoulders of the driver and it's here that Koehler believes he earns his money.
"Avenger and I can hold our own on the obstacle course, but the freestyle competitions are our bread and butter. That's where we've scored all of our biggest wins," said Kohler, whose list of freestyle victories includes last year's Circle K Monster Truck Bash at The Dirt Track.
"This year at the World Finals in Las Vegas we didn't win, but we took home the 'Extreme Air' award which is given to the driver who catches the most air in a jump," Kohler continued. "That's the stuff that really riles up the people in the stands."
While Koehler thoroughly enjoys owning and driving Avenger, he says that, just like in all forms of motorsports, success in Monster Truck racing doesn't come without a price.
"It isn't the cheapest hobby in the world, that's for sure," he said with a chuckle. "These trucks take a beating, which means a lot of wear and tear and maintenance. Sometimes you can't afford to pay for everything, so you fix what's there and just make due with what you've got."
As a husband and father of four, maintaining Avenger and hauling it all over the country for 40 events a year takes its toll on Kohler and his family.
"We're real weekend road warriors," Kohler explained. "For example, we'll drive in to do the show at The Dirt Track and, as soon as it's over, we'll be on our way back to Michigan because we've got families waiting for us and real jobs during the week."
Despite the often tough demands, Avenger fans can rest easy knowing that Kohler plans to continue thrilling Monster Truck spectators for years to come.
"Avenger has been a part of the World Finals out in Las Vegas the last seven years, and we won the freestyle competition in 2003," Kohler said. "We've also enjoyed competing in several SPEED Channel events. Racing Avenger is still just too much fun."
In addition to Avenger, the Aug. 19 Circle K Monster Truck Bash is scheduled to feature Brutus, Equalizer, Hot Tamale, Eradicator, Backdraft, Predator and Nitemare. The eight Monster Trucks will battle in a series of one-on-one elimination races over an obstacle course and then compete in a radical freestyle competition.
The Circle K Monster Truck Bash begins with the Circle K Pre-Race 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 a 16-ounce 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 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 here.