by Eric Oslund
History is being made at the ERX Motor Park June 23 and 24 when 18 monster trucks will be converging on Elk River to compete in the largest independent competition the United States has seen. According to one of the participants, never before has this many independently owned trucks competed in the same place, and even events like Monster Jam typically only have about 14 trucks.
Monster Jam also owns all of its trucks, where the ones heading to Elk River are not part of any corporation. Instead, they are coming from all over the country, places such as Texas, Maryland, Kansas, Ohio, and, of course, Minnesota.
James Trantina, the driver of Rat Nasty, is an Elk River native who is currently living in St. Cloud, and he is one of the racers that came up with the idea to host this event.
Trantina’s journey to ERX began with competing in demolition derbies, and then racing dirt-track cars, but he eventually moved on from both. Then, one day, someone asked him if he wanted to give monster trucks a try, and it was something he couldn’t pass up.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I’d try it.’ It’s kind of ever boy’s dream growing up, so we went and got a monster truck,” Trantina explained. “There aren’t many monster trucks in Minnesota anymore, so we just started picking up a show here or there, in Wisconsin, Michigan or whatever, and kind of got to know everybody through that.”
When he came up with the idea to host this event at ERX, he first reached out to a half a dozen drivers he personally knew. They then reached out to others and before he knew it his phone was blowing up with drivers from across the nation looking to be apart of the show.
“They asked what it takes, or what it’s going to take to be a part of it,” he said, “so we kind of knit picked our drivers, and, like I said, some of the best in the country are going to be here.”
Since the expansion at ERX, the motor park has been looking for different kinds of events to bring in, so when Trantina approached the Plaisteds and Carlsons about the idea, they were more than willing to do their part in helping make it a reality.
“They thought it was pretty cool. They are helping us out tremendously on getting it. They wanted another motor sport brought to their venue because that’s what they specialize in,” Trantina said of the ERX owners. “We just started talking and it’s kind of where we came up with it.”
Trantina and about five of the other drivers arrived at the park the Monday before the race, and they were all impressed by everything they saw at the facility, chomping at the bit to get out there and compete in wheelies, races and a freestyle competition.
But there is an extra excitement for Trantina. It’s going to be a homecoming for him, and the first time he has ever gotten to race at this venue.
“I’m excited,” he began. “I have a lot of people who are going just to watch me. I have family coming in from Washington and family coming from all over the state just to watch. Obviously you get butterflies thinking about it, but it’s going to be fun.”
This event, like so many others at the ERX Motor Park, is going to be geared towards the fans’ experience. Tickets will be $30 for adults, and $15 for kids. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with a free meet and greet at 6 p.m. There will also be a monster truck fans can ride in for $10 a person, a free monster truck bounce house, merchandise to purchase at a reasonable price, and then a free firework display after each show.
If everything goes well over the weekend, the goal is to then host a monster truck event once a year. And then hopefully to continue to expand their sport.