Mike Hawkins and Equalizer at The Dirt Track Aug. 18
On Friday afternoons when Mike Hawkins leaves a job site and heads off to enjoy a relaxing weekend, the Catlett, Va., resident appears no different than his co-workers at R.C. Hawkins Construction.
But while his peers spend Saturday and Sunday mowing grass, riding four-wheelers or lounging by the pool, Hawkins is thrilling fans across the country as he smashes cars and crashes through campers behind the wheel of Equalizer, the gargantuan Monster Truck he owns and drives.
Hawkins and Equalizer will be at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway Saturday night, Aug. 18, where they will battle 11 other trucks, including Bigfoot, Avenger, Samson, Brutus, Raminator and King Krunch, during the eighth annual Circle K Monster Truck Bash.
Equalizer debuted in 1982 when the sport of Monster Truck racing was in its infancy and Hawkins purchased the popular machine in 2002.
"I started going to Monster Truck shows and I wanted to drive one," Hawkins said. "I started calling around and Jimmy Koehler, who drives Avenger, told me Equalizer was for sale. He told me that the truck kicked his butt all the time, so I should take a look at it."
Since purchasing Equalizer, Hawkins' Rebel Pride Racing operation has grown to include a trio of Monster Trucks. As he acquired new Chevrolet S10 bodies for Equalizer, Hawkins used the old ones to produce Hot Tamale and Ragin' Rebel.
"The original Equalizer, which is now Ragin' Rebel, has always been a good truck, so we still run it," Hawkins explained. "Once you build a truck, it lasts a long time because you can pretty much fix anything on it."
Hawkins' three-truck team is on the road 40 to 45 weekends a year, traveling all over the United States and Canada. He has three men who travel with him, two of whom drive the other Monster Trucks.
"It definitely takes a toll on you. It means a lot of time away from your family, but it is definitely worth it because of the fans," Hawkins said. "That's why we're out there, for the fans. I never see an unhappy kid at the track."
Hawkins' experience in the construction industry proved beneficial when he learned to drive Equalizer.
"I run heavy equipment all the time for my job, so it was second nature to me," he said. "I built a track in my backyard and practiced out there for a few months, mostly trial and error. I would tear the truck up, put it back together and go out and practice some more."
Even though he has competed in hundreds of Monster Truck races, Hawkins says his favorite was the first time he squared off against the legendary Bigfoot.
"I was probably 18 or 19 years old when I started watching Monster Truck racing. So getting to race Bigfoot, a truck I had seen on TV many times, and actually beating him was awesome," Hawkins said. "I still get butterflies in my stomach until I hit the first obstacle, land and look around and see the truck is still in one piece. Then I just go wide open."
Hawkins also enjoys the camaraderie among the Monster Truck drivers.
"At the track, I'm just hanging out with friends," he said. "Before and after the races, it's like family. But when the helmet goes on, friendships go out the window and it's every man for himself.
"Equalizer and Avenger have a nice little rivalry going on in Charlotte and I'm definitely looking to turn it up a notch this year," Hawkins concluded.
The Aug. 18 Circle K Monster Truck Bash will see the Monster Trucks compete in a series of obstacle course elimination races and then go all out in a radical freestyle competition. In addition to Equalizer, the lineup includes Bigfoot, Avenger, Brutus, El Matador, Hot Tamale, King Krunch, Nitemare, Raminator, Samson, Scarlet Bandit and T-Maxx.
Activities begin with the Circle K Pre-Race Pit Party where fans can meet the Monster Truck drivers, have their pictures taken with the gargantuan trucks and obtain autographs. Ticket holders can gain early entry to the Pit Party by purchasing a can of Full Throttle energy drink at a Circle K store and presenting the empty can at the gate.
Early entry for the Pit Party starts at 4 p.m. and spectator gates open at 5. The Circle K Pre-Race Pit Party concludes at 6:30 p.m. with on-track activities starting at 7:30.
If purchased in advance, reserved seats for the Aug. 18 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 online or by calling the Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.