“With Bigfoot, the first monster truck, Bob Chandler built a whole industry,” Runte said. “Next year will be Bigfoot’s 40th anniversary. We’ve built 20 trucks and have just finished building an electric one which no one else has done. To drive one of these trucks, it is a privilege although it puts a big target on your back when it comes to racing.”
There are currently nine Bigfoots competing in competitions and exhibitions around the globe. With Runte, he’s on the road 35-40 weeks out of the year racing his particular Bigfoot model which is maintained out of shops in St. Louis.
Runte, 50, has been driving monster trucks since 1989. He’s made a huge impact with Bigfoot, which set a world record long jump of 202 feet in Smyrna in 1999. After that record was broken, Runte hit a new record mark over 214 feet two years ago.
“We had done long jumps before, but technology has come a long ways,” Runte said. “We actually did it with this particular truck, Bigfoot 18. I did the long jump and turned around and freestyled it at that same show.”
With Runte behind the wheel, Bigfoot has reached a top speed of 87 mph in the 1/8-mile. Runte estimates he’s been as high as 35 feet in the air with the 11,000-pound truck. The machine boasts a 565 cubic inch engine and has Firestone tires that are 66 inches tall. For safety purposes, there aren’t ordinary seat belts or even the standard racing belts, but rachet belts where the driver is literally racheted into the seat.
The drivers and trucks compete at arenas, stadiums, fairgrounds and race tracks all over the country. Runte said the annual visit to Bristol Motor Speedway is an event at the top of any driver’s list.
“It’s a privilege to go where NASCAR goes, but Bristol is the one of the elite tracks in motorsports,” Runte said. “There’s not a bad seat in the house and you put monster trucks down in the bowl and it’s awesome. We run hard at every event, but Bristol is a big event for us. We’re going to put it all out there.”
The Bristol race is unique in it’s a one-night show. Runte explained that means everyone goes wide-open at Bristol with a little less pressure than some of the two and three-day races. He still knows there will be tough competition, especially Bristol’s own Randy Moore competing in his War Wizard truck, which is maintained out of shops a few miles up Volunteer Parkway from the speedway.
“We know Randy is going to be a tough competitor,” Runte said. “This is Randy’s hometown so that makes it a little tougher for us. Randy is going to run his stuff harder because it is home for him. Then you have Equalizer with Mike Hawkins and Stone Crusher with Steve Sims, and they always run hard. As far as the eight trucks they’re bringing this year, it’s going to be a good show.”
There will be two qualifying rounds, followed by eliminations. After that is over, there is a freestyle event where the drivers perform stunts. The Team FMX motocross stunt show and Transaurus, a 30-feet, fire-breathing, car-devouring robot dinosaur will also be part of the evening’s entertainment.
A pre-event pit party where fans can meet drivers and get autographs is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
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