Monster Truck madness hits Georgetown

Monster Truck fans flocked to Georgetown Speedway last Friday and Saturday nights, July 6-7, for a chance to see the Monster Trucks and their drivers, who fans watch on television and in Hollywood movies.

Highlighting the show was the legendary Monster Truck Big Foot, with driver Darron Schnell, who won two of two of Saturday’s non-points competitions before a large capacity crowd.

Like the truck itself, Big Foot’s origins are legendary. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Bob Chandler of St. Louis returned home and began working in the family construction business as site manager and carpenter. In 1965, he married his wife, Marilyn. The young couple enjoyed the great outdoors and camping, so in 1974, they ordered a brand new Ford F-250, and they planned to enhance the cargo capacity and off-road ability.

To their dismay, they soon learned that there was a lack of parts and services for 4-by-4 owners. So, partnering with their neighbor and longtime friend Jim Kramer, they formed Midwest Four Wheel Drive. The business held its grand opening in 1975.

After a few years, the business outgrew their Ferguson, Mo., shop, and they moved to a larger facility in Hazelwood. Chandler’s truck became the errand vehicle, which he drove hard and fast. When the truck broke down, he replaced the broken parts with stronger, more off-road savvy, parts. He put on larger tires, military-type axles and larger military-style suspension parts — all of which required more powerful motors.

It was during this time that one of his employees, referring to Chandler’s hard-driving style on- and off-road, called him “Big Foot.” The nickname stuck. In the coming years, Bob and Big Foot began touring the country, and eventually the world. The name Big Foot transferred from the man to the truck.

Chandler and his crew showed the truck at fairs, farm shows, truck shows, mud bogs, and tractor and truck pulls, where Big Foot showed the competition that, despite his clean appearance when the pulling sled was connected or a mud bog was to be ripped across, fans saw a tough work truck when needed for competition.

As word of Big Foot spread from the Midwest to the rest of the country, requests for appearances at various events led to Big Foot’s first paid appearance, in 1975 at a Denver car show. Soon, the national 4-by-4 press got wind of Big Foot, and the term “Monster Truck” was added to the world’s vocabulary.

Big Foot’s popularity continued growing and, in 1981, Big Foot appeared in the first of its seven feature films, the iconic movie “Take This Job & Shove It.”

In 1981, it was also the year Chandler and Big Foot started crushing cars in an empty Missouri cornfield far away from the stadiums and arenas they would fill in future years. For no other reason other than to see if he could do it, Chandler placed two crushed cars side by side and, with a video camera capturing the historical event for posterity, he piloted Big Foot over the crushed cars.

As Chandler continued conquering crushed cars, curious crowds began showing up at his events. Soon after its birth, Monster Truck Racing over crushed cars became its own sport and a household name.

Fans at Georgetown Speedway got to see Monster Trucks competing in three styles of competition: wheelies, side-by-side and freestyle. Saturday night, Schnell and Big Foot won the first two, but fans shouted loudest for the freestyle show of Bad News Travels Fast machine piloted by Bruce Haney.

“This course is very slick, but the people are great here, and we’re looking forward to coming back again next year,” Schnell said while autographing a fan’s hat.

In addition to the full-size Monster Trucks, Mini Monster Trucks and Tough Trucks also competed. Mini Monster Truck driver Tucker Rife, 10, ran away with his division.

Racing returns to Georgetown Speedway on Friday July 20, with the Blue Hen Disposal All Night Sunoco Modifieds (30 laps) with $3,000 to win, and Super Late Models (25 laps) with $2,500 to win. Also racing will be the L&J Sheet Metal Crate 602 Sportsman, Delmarva Chargers, Delaware Super Trucks, Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Cars and Little Lincolns.

Looking further ahead, on Thursday Aug. 16, the Fulton Bank 40-laps World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series will make its annual visit to Georgetown Speedway, with a $10,000 purse. Delaware Super Trucks, Delmarva Chargers and Little Lincolns will also race that night. The rain date for that show is Aug. 29.

By Bruce C. Walls
Special to the Coastal Point