When Randy Brown jumps into the cab of Grave Digger, he doesn't think about the risk involved. He thinks about how much fun he's gong to have.
Brown and Grave Digger are one of eight truck/driver tandems making up the Monster Jam coming to Albany's Times Union Center for three shows Saturday and Sunday. A Camden, North Carolina native, Brown has been driving Grave Digger and other Monster trucks for more than 17 years.
"We have crashes and things like that, like any motor sport might have, but our safety equipment works so well I really don't think about getting hurt at all," said Brown. "We have 10,000 pounds of machine flying 30 feet through the air doing all kinds of tricks and stunts, but for me it's all fun. It's great family entertainment for all ages, and no matter how bad the crash might look, we're so protected in there we very seldom walk away with any kind of injury."
While he's been driving Monster trucks for nearly two decades now, Brown grew up on a farm in North Carolina working much of the time on the family tractor.
"I was always around motor sports growing up as a kid, but I also grew up with with trucks and tractors working with my dad on our farm," said Brown. "We were on the outer banks of North Carolina raising corn and wheat and soybeans. I can never remember not being on a tractor."
Brown first got involved in the Monster Jam series by driving his own truck, but after three years was invited to be part of the Grave Digger team.
"I originally had my own vehicle and built up my own team," remembered Brown. "I bought the chassis from Dan Patrick in Ohio and then installed the engine and all the other stuff. I was a hands on type owner and I'm still that way sort of. Since I got the offer to drive Grave Digger, I have this great crew that does all the work for me. But I still pitch in because I enjoy doing all that work as well as the driving. But it is nice not to have to worry about all the other stuff and just think about driving. It takes a lot of the stress off of me."
Monster Jam is a motorsport event tour owned and operated by Feld Entertainment. Sanctioned by the U.S. Hot Rod Association, the event typically involves some form of racing and freestyle stunts performed by eight different trucks. The sport has been held in the U.S. since 1992.
Expected to compete along with Brown and Grave Digger will be Bad News Travels Fast (Brandon Derrow), Barbarian (Devin Jones), Dragon (Darren Migues), Monster Mutt Dalmatian (Kaylyn Migues), Pretty Wicked (Lindsey Rettew), Scooby-Doo (Linsey Read) and Stinger Unleased (Zane Rettew).
"We're going to have a lot of fun," said Brown. "We'll have eight trucks competing and we'll have four different competitions. We do a racing competition, and then have an event where we do things on two wheels. Whatever we can do on two wheels we do it. Then we have a doughnut competition where we see how fast we can get the truck going and still do dougnuts. Then we have 75 seconds of freestyle. You just go out there and for 75 seconds do whatever it is you want to do."
Brown says he's busy about 30 weekends a year performing with the Monster Jam.
"Once we start in Albany, I'll be at it pretty much every weekend before getting a little break in May," he said. "We've been traveling all over the country, and also into parts of Europe, Australia, China, Japan. It's always been really popular in the U.S., and it seems to be picking up steam overseas."
When he isn't driving, Brown will held home to North Carolina and the family farm.
"I worked on the farm for many years, but when I got the chance to do this it just made a lot of sense," he said. "This whole series just took off so I wanted to keep on doing it. Now, we still own the farm, but my father has sort of retired and we rent out the land. When I'm home on the farm now I'm able to relax most of the time."
WHERE: Times Union Center, 51 South Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $27-$15
MORE INFO: www.monsterjam.com or www.timesunioncenter-albany.com