'Thrasher' gearing up for Monster Jam at Stafford Motor Speedway
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Fri., Jul. 27, 2012
Danbury resident Patrick Summa starts his day at 4:15 a.m. A part-time supervisor at UPS, he finishes that job at 9:15 a.m., when he moves on to the next phase of his day, as a landscaper. Then, on his own time, Summa pursues a hobby for which he has a monstrous passion.
Summa is a monster truck driver. He and his 'teammate,' Thrasher, have become well-known on the Monster Jam circuit, where they drag race, wheelie and free-style their way over obstacles, crushing them in their wake. Summa and Thrasher will compete in Monster Jam at Stafford Motor Speedway July 28 and 29, where they will face off against some of the 200 to 300 trucks that comprise Monster Jam's overall fleet.
Summa said that his passion for trucks began with mud-racing and truck-pulling at local fairs, a decade before he became a monster truck driver. He said that at those events, a monster truck occasionally would appear during intermission. Gradually, monster trucks became part of the show.
Summa began to operate what he called a “street truck,” participating in some parades and making appearances at birthday parties. Summa continually modified his truck. “If it broke, I made it stronger,” he said.
Summa said that ambitious drivers do not just become monster truck drivers, even if they own and operate one. He got started by attending every event within a four-hour radius. “That’s how I got my chance,” he said. If a driver did not show up or if a truck broke, Summa began to have opportunities to fill in.
“Today, it is so competitive. It is very, very hard to get involved right now… you’ve really got to pay your dues,” he said.
Summa said that monster truck drivers aspire for an invitation to attend the week-long world finals in Las Vegas, held each March. The drivers must consistently perform spectacular feats from January, when indoor season begins, through March, to be worthy of a world finals invitation, he explained.
“It’s everybody’s goal to be in Las Vegas,” said Summa.
Even as part of Monster Jam, Summa said that he still cannot get enough of monster trucks, which have become so widely popular that the events are regularly televised. He credits Monster Jam for making the sporting event such a thrill for so many fans. “They’ve taken a backyard sport and really made it main-stream America,” said Summa. “We’ve been in videos, we’ve been in movies.”
Now, the trucks are also appearing on toy store shelves as Hot Wheels, and they are featured on calendars, tee-shirts and hats. Monster Jam has also expanded its venues by scheduling jams in football fields, which accommodate 60,000 to 70,000 people, as opposed to the 7,000 to 8,000 usual spectators at speedways.
“We are accessible to our fans,” said Summa, explaining what he believes to be driving Monster Jam's popularity. He said that drivers' availability to fans for autographs is a key factor and personification of monster trucks is appealing the public. “The trucks all have a character,” said Summa, adding that some of the trucks are represented as dogs, Superman, Batman - even a lobster.
“My truck has a skull on it,” said Summa. “Each truck is unique – it’s not just a different number.” Thrasher, sponsored by Toyota of Wallingford, Conn., is a Toyota Tundra, which Summa said is the only one of its model in the U.S., or possibly in the world. Thrasher is blue, with a black and white skull and red, reflective eyes that turn a greenish color at night, described Summa.
According to Summa, who has worked for other promotional companies, he feels that Monster Jam sets the highest standards. “There is a level of comfort there, with Monster Jam, as far as safety goes… You cannot run for them if your truck is not safe,” he said.
Summa said that his favorite competition is the wheelie contest. “That’s where Thrasher pretty much steals the show,” he said, describing the event as “headlights to the sky as the truck goes over cars.”
Spectators will also witness side-by-side drag racing over cars and the Monster Jam free-style event on an obstacle course. Winners will be determined by the fans when selected members of the audience will hold up score cards.
“I used to go there and watch the monster trucks. Now I’m one of the ones who’s participating,” said Summa.
To find out more about Monster Jam, visit www.monsterjam.com. For more information about or to purchase tickets to the Stafford event, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway Box Office at 860-684-2783. Monster Jam at Stafford Motor Speedway takes place Saturday, July 28, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 29, at 2 p.m. Monster Truck 'Grinder' and driver John Seasock will be on site at Advance Auto Parts, 67 W. Stafford Road, Stafford Springs, for a Monster Jam preview event on July 27 from 2 to 6 p.m.