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Monster Jam returns to Tacoma Dome this weekend, and Gig Harbor local will be driving

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 9/15/2021 Craig Sailor, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Sep. 15—Monster truck driver Travis Groth hardly recognizes the sport he began competing in with twin brother Tyler.

The Gig Harbor locals began driving the trucks that seem to defy gravity in 2010. Since then, little has stayed the same about the trucks, drivers and the tricks they perform in front of packed arenas.

"The stunts that we do now with the trucks are way above what they've been in the last couple years," Groth said. "They've really come a long way since we started."

Groth will be in Tacoma this weekend driving Wild Card in five Monster Jam shows at the Tacoma Dome. Tyler will be crewing.

Audiences that once thought wheelies were the height of a monster truck stunt are now treated to stoppies (balancing a truck vertically on its front wheels), moonwalks (reversing the truck while it's on two wheels) and crashes. Lots of crashes. He's had to learn them all.

"By learning comes the rolling over and the crashing," Groth said.

Groth, 38, credits younger drivers with introducing the new stunts.

"I might be the oldest one driving there this weekend," he said.

Monster Jam drivers include a good proportion of women. However, the roster remains overwhelmingly white. Groth said that's changing now that the sport has made it easier for drivers without a family history or financial means to get involved. They don't need to own trucks, just how to drive them.

"They just learn how to drive the truck, and they're really good at it," he said. Potential drivers can now attend Monster Jam University. Graduate Armando Castro will be driving El Toro Loco this weekend.

The trucks themselves have evolved into characters. Groth spent several seasons driving Megalodon — a truck fitted with a fiberglass shell to give it the appearance of a shark. Other trucks with horns, tails, arms and other appendages include Dragon, Monster Mutt and Zombie.

It's unlikely any insurance company would cover the damages to a monster truck. The fiberglass shells can be heavily damaged in a single show.

"They get repaired as best they can for the weekend and then get more extensively fixed before the next event," Groth said. "All it does is really just ruin the fiberglass."

The brothers and their immediate families relocated recently to Laramie, Wyoming, but their parents and extended family still live in Pierce County.

Both brothers still race under the Double Trouble team name. They spend about half the year on the road racing their own trucks, Double Trouble and Troublemaker.

Monster Jam performances are broken into three areas: Skills, racing and freestyle.

The popular Pit Party at Monster Jam, which requires an additional ticket, is still an option for fans, Groth said. But drivers will not be able to sign autographs or pose for photos due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"The trucks are still going to be on the floor," Groth said. "You'll still be able to do all your normal stuff. You just don't have quite the interaction with the drivers."

Monster Jam

When: 7 p.m. Sept. 17; 1 and 7 p.m. Sept. 18; noon and 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19

Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma

Tickets: Ticketmaster.com

COVID-19 restrictions: Face coverings are required for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, per state order. Children under 5 are exempt (but face coverings are strongly recommended for children ages 2-4). More Tacoma Dome policies are at tacomadome.org/dome-info/covid_reopening.

Information: MonsterJam.com

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