A few months back Josh Rhodes sat down with Bob Chandler (Owner and creator of the Bigfoot monster truck team) to discuss the teams future plans, Chandler’s thoughts on the state of the industry and the history of the sport.
Josh Rhodes – What is your opinion on the direction of the sport?
Bob Chandler- Well the direction I want it to go is back to a good race series. Right now there isn’t anything out there. We have a possibility of a series starting next year. There is a major sponsor involved, and the money is already there from what I understand. We need one bad I think.We can’t just keep going out there and doing the same thing over and over like we are doing, we need to put a series on. I’m hoping it will come next year.
JR – Would you have attended the last show in the Pontiac Silverdome?
BC – I would have. In fact Bob Trent or Jim Kramer had talked to some of the junior people at Clear Channel/Live Nation. They wanted to know if we would be willing to go up there. From what we understand, these people talked to their “higher ups” and they said no way. It’s not our doing at all, it’s them. They kind of act like we don’t exist.
JR – What are your plans for Bigfoot next year?
BC – Probably a lot of the same things we did this year (2006) unless we get a race series going. We’ll probably put two trucks in the race series.
JR – Bigfoot and Snake Bite?
BC – Probably would be a Summit truck and a Bigfoot, or a Mac Tools. One of the sponsors most likely would want their trucks in. I don’t know right now. I’m not sure who would be driving. Dan (Runte) for sure, and probably Dave Harkey. We have our trucks, for first quarter, booked pretty full already. So if they got a race series, hopefully they let us know pretty soon.
JR – Who do you feel is your biggest competition? The Hall Brothers?
BC – The Hall Brothers are very good. They are kind of at their peak right now. Doug Noelke is a very competitive guy, he’s good. That’s probably the main two. Between the three of us, two of us would be in the finals most of the time I think. What I’d like to see in a race series though, is not just a straight line race. I want to see a long race. S-turns, figure-8, something. To me that gives more people a chance because its more driver skill. Rather than just a high powered engine, where you put your foot to the floor, close your eyes, and cross the finish line. It’s not the same thing, your out there for five seconds. When you have a turning course, there is a lot more involved. You still need a good engine, still need a good chassis, and you need a good driver. That’s a big thing.
JR – Back in the days of TNT Motorsports, Bigfoot 8 was banned. Did you feel that was just?
BC- I didn’t feel it was just at the time, no. When you go back and think about it though, I guess overall it was a good thing. It gave everyone else a chance to get caught up. Andy Brass and John Piant went back in the series with Bigfoot 4 and ended up winning it anyway. So it worked out pretty well. I understand, it was ahead of its time. I didn’t think it was very fair at first. When you think about it as the whole industry is concerned, it was probably a good thing. Anybody that asked, I let them see it, measure it, do whatever they wanted. People were getting hurt in those old trucks. We had to make some kind of change. We were going so much faster. So the tube chassis, and the nitrogen gas shocks, were the way to go. Look around now, probably 99% of them run that.
JR – You have been involved with this sport for over 30 years. What would you say is your proudest moment?
BC – Well, one of the proudest moments is that earlier this year I was inducted into the Missouri sports Hall of Fame. I was there with Tony LaRussa, and one of the NASCAR drivers. It was really interesting; the guy walked up to me and said, we only allow you 3 minutes to talk. I said don’t worry, if I make it two minutes it would be amazing. I’m not a talker. It went over pretty well.
JR – What is your least favorite moment?
BC – Least favorite is probably a couple things. When people get hurt, I think I’m partly the cause, because of starting this industry. I don’t necessarily like to be patted on the back for things I do, I don’t need it. Like the direction were going with the air shock, the gas shocks, tube chassis, everything else. But it bothers the hell out of me when somebody else takes credit for it. It happens all the time. That’s probably the thing that grips me the most.
JR – When can we expect to see Bigfoot 16 completed?
BC – *laughs* I wish Bigfoot 16 was done now! One of our shop mechanics broke his foot. That has put us back at least a month, month and a half. It’s not that far from being done. Roy can’t work on it now, because he’s taking all the work right now for everything that comes in. Every truck that gets damage has to be serviced. He has to do it all. Until Brian comes back, nothing is going to happen to that truck.
JR – What will be different on Bigfoot 16?
BC – It would be new. *laughs* The frame won’t be bent. The other frames, like 14 have been run for so many years, and just been patched or replaced. The frame is strong as can be, but the frame is just not straight anymore. When Dan Runte jumped the airplane, it bent the stop, the front part of the frame. They brought that to the shop, cut it out, replaced that section, it’s not that big of a deal. The newer truck (16) will have different things. It will have a better shock setup. Jim Kramer has been doing a lot of R&D on the shocks. We have a shock dyno, probably nobody else runs a shock dyno hooked to a computer. He’s done a lot of work with them now, it’s a major change. Some of the drivers say it’s like going from the old leaf spring trucks to the nitrogen gas chassis. Now we’re going from the nitrogen shocks to the bypasses, it’s like another full jump. It’s that much better they say. That’s the main thing; everything else is pretty much the same.
JR – You were the only driver when this sport started, how do you think you would fair today, as a driver?
BC – *laughs* I feel sometimes, like I want to jump out there. Power steering and automatic transmission, it doesn’t take any genius to drive it. The problem is, you have to have seat time. When we setup a truck, the driver sets the seat where he wants it. Puts the shifter where he wants it. Everything is set so he is comfortable in that truck. Seat time is critical. So when something happens, you can’t think of what to do, it’s got to be an instinct, and that I wouldn’t have. I’m sure the younger you are, the better your reactions are. That’s important. Whether it’s a straight-line race, or a turning race, and if nothing happened. I think anybody could jump in a truck could do good. We had one of the NASCAR drivers drive a truck about 3 or 4 years ago; actually did good. He started out, made some nice passes. He got a little better and a little better. By the time he finished, he might have only been a half second behind one of our drivers. He was good. I think anybody can jump in these things and drive. Just as long as they understand it’s really big and you can’t see things real good; lots of blind spots.
JR – What advice would you give to an aspiring driver?
BC – Well if he’s going to build his own truck. Good luck! Lotta work. If he’s interested in driving, contact Jim Kramer, he takes care of it on my end. Contact Tim Hall. Just start calling around. Somebody might be needing somebody. On my end, they start out as a crew guy. Go out on the road for 6 months, and see how operations go. Slowly we would put them in a truck. My best thing is how I find out if the guy is a good driver, or race driver. I put a camera in the truck and watch the guy. You can tell whether he’s comfortable. You know, if the guy is a natural racer, everything is just so smooth. It’s a natural instinct.
JR – You’ve had a lot of excellent drivers come and go, If you could have one of those drivers back, who would it be?
BC – Andy Brass was great, but Dan Runte is still my best driver. Always has been. Jim Kramer was great, he really never raced in a points series. Andy Brass was probably one of the best ones out there. Rich Hoosier was good. John Piant was an excellent driver. He didn’t last very long here. He got married and ended up quitting; he’s an electrician here in town now. Dave Harkey is good. Rick Long is coming pretty strong. He’s one of the newer drivers.
JR – Thank you for your time Bob, it was greatly appreciated.
BC – You’re welcome!
We’d like to thank Bob Chandler for taking the time to do this interview. For more information on Bigfoot visit www.Bigfoot4x4.com/