In monster truck racing, no truck stands taller or flies higher than the mean, green wrecking machine itself, Grave Digger. On July 30, “Digger” makes its Bristol Motor Speedway debut at the Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness presented by Beef O’ Brady’s Family Sports Restaurant in what is sure to be an exhilarating evening of car-crushing, high-flying entertainment.

The man in the driver’s seat of the famous truck is none other than monster truck hero, Gary Porter, who has more than 25 years behind the wheel. Porter, who created and raced Carolina Crusher for many years, now finds himself in control of one of the most recognizable vehicles on the planet.

“I got started in monster trucks in 1985,” said the Wadesboro, N.C. native. “We built the first monster truck, the Carolina Crusher, to advertise my brother’s four-wheel-drive business. We built from there, and then in 2000, I sold Carolina Crusher. I was going to quit monster trucks altogether, and then Dennis Anderson called me and asked if I would drive one of his Grave Diggers. I’ve been driving one of those ever since.”

In the early days of monster truck racing, Porter’s Carolina Crusher routinely lined up against Anderson’s Grave Digger in a battle of the sport’s heavyweights. While they raced hard on the track, their friendship off the track led to Anderson’s offer for Porter to pilot one of his famous trucks more than a decade later.

“It is strange and very unique how we became friends,” Porter explained. “When we were running our own separate race teams, neither of us had enough money to pay for our motel rooms. We ended up rooming together to split the cost. We would travel up and down the road together to help each other change tires and work on our haulers. Our friendship grew out of necessity in a sense.”

Porter, who has seen many changes in the monster truck industry, understands the importance of the upcoming event in Bristol. 

“We used to think about how amazing it would be to run at Bristol Motor Speedway or Charlotte Motor Speedway, and now, it has happened,” he said. “It is all because of the great fans monster truck racing has developed. It has been an awesome ride. When I started, I thought I would be in it for a couple years and the fad of running over cars would fade away, but it has really been the opposite. The sport is still young and to see so many second and third generation fans coming out is awesome.

“Just the name of Bristol pretty much sums it up. The history that goes with that track. Just from me watching the NASCAR races on TV, to actually have the opportunity to go there and run, it is just amazing.”

While he has more experience behind the wheel than just about any monster truck driver in the world, Porter admits driving the famous Grave Digger adds pressure to his job.

“It is a huge commitment,” he began. “The fans expect nothing less than Grave Digger than to win or to crash, most of the time they expect both. We all understand the fans are where our paycheck comes from. 

“When you hear the kids say you are their favorite truck, it comes from their heart. It isn’t a script. It is exactly what they mean. I also hear them talk about other trucks as well, which is cool because you realize they are in it for monster trucks, not just Grave Digger. Of course, we like being the favorite, but all the trucks and drivers are unique.”

Fans will be able to meet Porter and all of the drivers, as well as pose for pictures with all the trucks, including Grave Digger, during the pre-event pit party which begins at 6 p.m. on the backstretch of BMS.  Porter anticipates meeting the fans and said he can’t wait to get to Bristol.

“We are going to have our work cut out for us,” he said. “We’re going to have to be on our ‘A’ game. There are some heavy hitters in the field. You’ve got the hometown boy, Randy Moore, there in War Wizard. All of the trucks are tough. We’re going to have to race really hard. From what I hear, BMS builds a great track with big air. For me personally, it is another milestone to get to perform at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Trucks currently scheduled to appear include Grave Digger, Spiderman, Avenger, Brutus, Samson, Gunslinger, Stone Crusher and Bristol’s own War Wizard.

Trucks will race around the Bristol Motor Speedway infield during two qualifying rounds. Racing eliminations will begin after qualifying is complete.  After the racing champion is crowned, the trucks return for everyone’s favorite event, freestyle. In freestyle, drivers will perform stunts and moves fans normally see on TV.

In addition, the Team FMX freestyle motocross team will put on a stunning display of awesome jumps, while the jet car burn down also returns this season.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Children 10 and under are only $5. The pit party, which is free for anyone with an event ticket, begins at 6 p.m. with racing at 7 p.m.

Additionally, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of BMS also will take place on July 30. The 50th Anniversary Fan Appreciation Day begins at 1 p.m. with track laps, which will take place until 3 p.m. The celebration will continue until the infield is cleared at 4:30 in order to prepare for the Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness.

Track laps, always a popular event, will be offered at no charge to any fan with tickets to NASCAR events at BMS. Guests who are not ticket holders also may take their own cars around the concrete oval after making a donation of any amount to Speedway Children’s Charities.

Food City will provide hot dogs and chips, and Pepsi will supply drinks while supplies last. Wings, supplied by BKW, also will be available while supplies last. Several local bandswill be on hand to provide entertainment.

While everyone who takes part in the celebration that day will receive 50th anniversary items free, guests also will be encouraged to register for a variety of giveaways, including a four-day Carnival Festiva Adventure Club Caribbean cruise, as well as a big screen television from Aaron’s, groceries/gas for a year from Food City, IRWIN tools, suite seats and tickets to the IRWIN Tools Night Race weekend.

To purchase Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness tickets in advance, please visit the BMS ticket office located on the first floor of the Bruton Smith administration building or call (423)-BRISTOL.