ELIZABETHTON — Bigfoot was spotted by several people in Elizabethton on Friday afternoon.
It wasn’t in the bushes or a wooded area, but in plain view in front of Beef O’Brady’s.
After making a promotional visit at the family sports restaurant, the world’s most famous Monster Truck is now scheduled to compete in this evening’s Thompson Metals Monster Truck Madness at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For three-time monster truck champion Larry Swim, it’s an honor to bring Bigfoot to the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile’ for the first time in a decade.
“I’ve never been to Bristol Motor Speedway before so I’m excited,” said Swim, a a 43-year-old from St. Louis who has driven the big blue Ford for four years “There’s going to be a lot of great competition here this weekend, but Bigfoot is going to take No. 1.”
The competition he speaks of includes monster trucks Avenger, Brutus, Equalizer and Samson. There is also the defending champion War Wizard, piloted by Bristol driver Randy Moore.
When you drive ‘The Original Monster Truck,’ Swim said the competition certain intensifies.
“Everybody in this sport wants to win, but when you drive a Bigfoot truck, there’s an extra target on your back,” said Swim, the 2009 Monster Truck Racing Association Driver of the Year. “It’s the innovator, the ones that started it all. Everyone wants to go home and say, ‘Hey, I was the one who beat Bigfoot this weekend.’ But, we’re going to do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Swim competed in Tacoma, Wash. last weekend, one of 40-plus weekends a year he takes the truck on the road. Still, it’s a labor of love as Swim grew up near Crimson Giant monster truck driver, Marvin Smith, and always dreamed of getting behind the wheel of Bigfoot.
“I have kids come up to me all the time and say when they grow up, they want to race Bigfoot,” Swim said. “I was that kid years ago. Here I am, dreams come true. You just have to put the time and energy into it and you can do anything.”
Racing in the BMS infield is quite a bit different than racing inside arenas around the country. While Bristol is one of the smallest tracks on the Sprint Cup tour, it’s the one of the largest which the monster trucks race at.
“It’s a big area, and when we get a big area, we can open these trucks up,” Swim said. “When we go to the indoor shows it’s exciting, but when you get out like this, you can let it fly, up to speeds of 60-70 mph.”
Producing 1,500 horsepower from a 572-cubic inch motor and sporting tires over five feet tall, the trucks also get big air, particularly in the two-minute freestyle competition. Swim estimated the highest he’s ever been is 40 feet in the air, which made for quite an exciting landing. In 1999, Bigfoot driver Dan Runte flew 202 feet over a 727 jetliner.
“When you have something going that fast and that high, it’s a rush,” Swim said. “The things we’re doing with these trucks now, it’s a lot different than when (Bigfoot creator) Bob Chandler started. They were simply driving over cars, and now we’re clearing buses, going 40 feet in the air and 200 feet long. It’s an adrenaline rush. When I get out of the truck, I’m sweating and I can’t sleep for a few hours.
“When you’re in the air, there’s a point where you’re weightless. A lot of people compare it to a plane. It might not be as extreme with the G-Forces and negative G-Forces, but it’s my cockpit and I love it.”