Knoxville — Monster Jam is set to kick off in Knoxville for the first time tonight. Gary Porter, driver of Grave Digger, is glad to be in Knoxville.
Porter is the driver of one of several Grave Digger trucks. He got into driving monster trucks in 1985, with the Carolina Crusher.
The Carolina Crusher was intended to promote his brother's shop at home in Wadesboro, North Carolina. His involvement in the sport grew from there, and at one point, Porter was driving three monster trucks at once.
Porter also got to know the original Grave Digger, Dennis Anderson. In 2001, Anderson invited Porter to drive one of the Grave Digger trucks. Porter accepted and has not looked back.
Taking the wheel of Grave Digger is a task Porter does not take lightly. He knows the tradition and history behind the truck, and that the fans are expecting it to be the best performer out there.
In the years he has participated in the sport, Porter says he has seen it grow. Monster truck shows are family events, and he has seen families take advantage of purchasing all kinds of merchandise before and after shows. One family he recently met in Des Moines converted their little boy's train track into a monster truck track. The family also purchased the boy 78 of the 80 Hot Wheels monster trucks released last year.
Porter performs in about 20 shows each year. Even after long periods of time away from driving, he has no trouble picking up where he left off.
"It just comes back natural when you get back in the truck," Porter said. He is excited about coming to Knoxville, participating in tomorrow night's pit party (an extra $10 per person, will include photo and autograph opportunities) and making history, not only that of Monster Jam, but Knoxville Raceway history as well.
"I'm going to try to win it all," Porter said. The show will include wheelies, racing, a freestyle competition and car crushing.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, Sept. 20) and Saturday night, Sept. 21. Tickets are still available. For more information, visit http://www.knoxvilleraceway.com.