It all started with a Jeep and a dream.
As a child, Mark Hall was surrounded by the excitement of his father’s career as a motorcycle race announcer. After years of building trucks and racing them in the streets of Champaign, Ill., Hall now competes in monster truck competitions with his partner in crime, a 2013 Ram 1500 known as “The Raminator.”
“I tell ya, If someone would have told me all these years ago I’d still be doing this, I never would’ve believed them,” Hall said.
The driver’s talents were an attention-getter at the Lucas Oil Monster Truck Nationals, hosted Saturday at Breslin Center. Five competitors were judged by the crowd’s reaction to four categories: wheelies, donuts, race and freestyle, with the Raminator winning two out of the four challenges.
Breslin was filled with fans, which mostly included families. Mason, Mich., resident Maria Juras said the competition was a fun, nearby opportunity to bond with her two young kids.
“It’s very family oriented,” Juras said. “They let the kids go down in the pit and get close to the trucks. It’s more fun for the kids, and they get a hands-on experience.”
The competition included a visit from the three youngest U.S. monster truck drivers, ranging from 7-16 years old. Emily Boden, the event’s marketing director, said the age-appropriate factor is a main priority.
“We try to make it as family oriented as possible,” Boden said. “We try to make it fun for the parents as well as a 4-year-old who’s seeing monster trucks for the first time.”
Looking back, Hall said his early attempts at street racing and building monster trucks were laughable.
“My first cars were a bunch of junk,” he said. “We didn’t have any money and we just threw a bunch of junk parts together — but it got our foot in the door.”
Despite more than 20 years of experience, Hall said he gets a little gun-shy at times during competitions.
“The wheelies always kinda scare me a little bit,” he said. “You can mess up pretty easy doing those. You know when you get a good one, and you know when you get one that sucks.”
Although he travels across the U.S. in competitions with his wife, Hall’s monster truck garage remains at his mother’s house — and his family remains a constant support system.
“My mom always reminds me: ‘All the years you’ve been doing this, you’ve gotten to go to a lot of neat places and meet a lot of neat people, all because of that truck with silly tires on it,’” he said.