Monster Jam  to fire up crowd at River Center

Photo provided by The Ehrhardt Group<p>  Rod Schmidt, the driver of the Monster Mutt Rottweiler truck, says he always tries to top the vehicle which goes out before his in a Monster Jam. Show caption
Photo provided by The Ehrhardt Group

Rod Schmidt, the driver of the Monster Mutt Rottweiler truck, says he always tries to top the vehicle which goes out before his in a Monster Jam.

The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam is set to deliver big truck-jumping thrills to the Baton Rouge River Center on Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9. Rod Schmidt, the driver of the Monster Mutt Rottweiler truck, is looking forward to firing up audiences of all ages.

“If a truck goes out before me and achieves something cool and the crowd goes crazy, I’ll try to go bigger,” Schmidt said. “Always try to top what is in front of you. That’s how I like to drive.”

Drivers topping one another is tough, considering the horsepower and talent at every Monster Jam. In addition to Schmidt’s Monster Mutt Rottweiler, War Wizard (Randy Moore), Iron Man (Morgan Kane), Gunslinger (Scott Hartsock) and Nitemare (Andy Hoffman) are just a few of the big trucks making a car-crushing appearance at the event.

Monster Mutt Rottweiler has a 1,500-horsepower engine, but Schmidt insists that despite that massive motor, he can hear the audience as they gasp or cheer during his stunts. Even though the drivers may get the glory in the arena, Schmidt said it is his dedicated behind-the-scenes crew that makes it all possible.

“I’ve got two crew guys that absolutely work their ‘tail-gates’ off to make this truck 100 percent. They touch every nut and bolt in the truck and make sure it is up to snuff and up to par,” Schmidt said.

Besides a great crew, Schmidt also gets his mind into gear by walking the track before each Monster Jam performance to look at the obstacles that will make up each driver’s high-octane “playground.” Schmidt believes many things affect how drivers approach their time on the track. The surface of the arena floor, the angle of the jumps, and the height and width of the arena are all factors that drivers consider before getting into their trucks.

“On some of the tracks we get big air,” Schmidt said, “all the way from big air jumps to back flips to wheel stands. The better the track builders are, the better the stunts are.”

Despite the high-jumping fun enjoyed by the crowd and the drivers alike, professionalism and sharp attention to safety are what Schmidt and other drivers strive to keep in mind at all times.

“Time teaches you, so you know what to expect. With some of the younger drivers, we help those guys to learn that as well and learn to be safe about it,” Schmidt said.

That level of safety while delivering arena-sized stunts is second nature to Schmidt. He has years of experience that began with competing in mud. Schmidt, a 40-year-old family man, started out racing trucks through mud and sand. His career eventually evolved into driving some of the most popular monster trucks in recent history.

“I went from being an independent truck owner to racing for Monster Patrol, then I went to Gravedigger for 14 wonderful years, and this year I took on the Monster Mutt Rottweiler,” he said.

At the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, fans will have the opportunity to meet Schmidt and other big name monster truck drivers face to face.

“We do autographs after every show until the last person gets an autograph,” Schmidt said. “It’s a way for us to connect personally with our fans.”

Schmidt has been a professional driver for almost half his life, and his connection with his fans runs quite deep.

“I’m still a fan,” he said. “I love to watch people entertained. I love to see what other people love to see. I truly am living the dream, and I get up every morning thankful for that.”