Recently Josh Rhodes spoke with Tom Meents about the progression of monster truck racing, his early years in the sport, and the incident from Jacksonville in 2005 with Jim Jack and Reptoid.
Josh Rhodes – What is your opinion on the direction of the sport?
Tom Meents – I like the direction it’s headed. I think the tracks are getting bigger; there are more obstacles out there, more things to hit. They have been letting us go 50/50 on some of the freestyle obstacles again. We have done a lot with safety. Several of the trucks, including mine, now have wheel tethers. I’m looking forward to make sure we can keep the shows safe.
JR – When the right front wheel came off in Atlanta, in 2005, do you think that could have been what prompted you to add the wheel tethers?
TM – I wouldn’t say it was that particular case, no. Several wheels have come off of several trucks. People wanting to take the lead in making sure stuff like that doesn’t happen.
JR – Besides Dennis Anderson, who do you think is your biggest rival?
TM – Man, there is a lot of them. So many people anymore have a lot of solid teams, a lot of solid drivers. It would be hard for me to pick one. Adam (Anderson) has proved to be a real big force. Obviously he’s got a really good truck and a really good teacher. Also Pablo Huffaker is a real good driver.
JR – In the past, a lot of people have thought that you have came off a little cocky, and arrogant in some of your interviews. Also, some people don’t like the fact that you tap into other trucks during your freestyle runs. Do you have anything you would like to say to those people?
TM – I’ve never intentionally hit somebody’s truck. If anybody watches my runs, or sees them on T.V., or watches them live. I like to hit the floor with a lot of speed. Go back and forth with a lot of speed, get a lot of air and fly further than anybody. When I land, it’ll rebound, a lot of times it’s a matter of the floor not being long enough for me to get the truck slowed down. I like to have more floor speed than anybody if possible. I’ve never hit anybodies truck on purpose. I have tapped a few trucks. I’ve apologized to every one of the drivers. Perfect case would be this year in Atlanta. I hit the big jump, my foot actually slipped off the brake pedal. I missed a lot of valuable space, because I was going higher than anybody, and further than anybody, I bumped (Allen) Pezo and (Scott) Hartsock. I apologized to both of them. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t cause any damage to them. I can’t recall ever doing any damage to them, ever.
JR – Some of the people I’ve talked to, are more upset over what happened with Jim Jack and Reptoid in Jacksonville 2004.
TM- Well, if you actually knew the whole story about that. He came down to me. I backed back in my parking place. He drove down to where I had already backed in and parked. He pulled right up to my door and blew smoke all over me. *Laughs* Ok? Now since that point. He’s done a ton of complaining about it, and I really haven’t said anything about it. The fact of the matter was, I run over tires. I pulled up to his tire and went to run over it. He gassed ahead on me, that’s what hit the fender. It had nothing to do with me; I had a clear shot to go over his tire without hitting his body.
JR – I figured there would be a little bit more to that story.
TM – Yeah, he provoked me. He started it. Am I arrogant and cocky? No. I often get tired of being second fiddle to Digger fans. I’m out here right now, working on my own truck. I do that all the time. I haven’t gotten anything given to me in this sport, and I’ve worked really hard to get there. I worked from 8 in the morning yesterday till midnight. Is it hard for me to go up against a team that has 7 trucks when I have two? Yeah. If you look at any of the freestyles I win, very seldom do I have one given to me. I have to go a good 30% more than them just to win typically.
JR – What ever happened to Cheapfoot?
TM – Oh it’s still out there, still around at my cousins house. He still has it, it doesn’t have the big tires on it right now, but they are there. His son actually did a bunch of work to it about two or three years ago; got it running. Some people like to think I came into monster trucks at about 1993. I was building monster trucks with my cousin and messing around with them on the farm in 1985. That truck, as funny as it was, was about the fourth truck in the world to have 66’s on it. Well, maybe more than four, but something like that.
JR- Back to what you were saying earlier about playing second fiddle to Grave Digger. I have a quick story about that. I actually signed autographs in a Maximum Destruction jersey two years ago in Quincy, Illinois. Phil Foster was driving the truck, but it had a lot of drive shaft problems that weekend. Rob Knell asked me if I’d like to go up and sign the autographs for Phil, so he could work on the truck. As I sat up there all of the kids would come up and say “I don’t want his autograph, I want Grave Digger’s.”
TM- Yeah, we’ve come a long way. We’ve got away to go. We get a ton of respect now. A lot of people know Tom Meents first and foremost. I mean, some people have had problems following me around because I’ve been in so many trucks over the years. Not by my design. Things happen. I also think Tom Meents has gotten to be one of the most popular drivers. A lot of people know me. A lot of people just call the Digger drivers “Hey! Digger driver!” They don’t know the name. I’m okay with that.
JR – Where did you get the name Shake Me (Tom’s old mud racer)?
TM – I just stole it. I’m a big heavy metal fan. I like Cinderella. I wanted a catchy name, to kind of explain what the car did. Something quick with two syllables. The Cinderella song “Shake Me” just fit pretty good.
JR – Paul Shafer gave you your first shot in monster truck racing. What is your relationship like with Paul now?
TM – Still good, I would never burn any bridge that was laid out for me. Whenever I’m around, or near his town I’ll call him and we’ll go out to dinner. I have a ton of respect for him. I hope people have the same for me that I’ve given their start to. I appreciate everything he did for me. I’ll never forget it.
JR – What do you remember most from your days in Monster Patrol?
TM – Just being able to get out there and begin to compete. It was even more fun, to start beating the big boys, and run with them. By the time Goldberg came along it was already expected of me to win and be top dog. As far as getting from A starting to B having a good time and being able to win.
JR – There are a lot of rumors that have been flying around. The rumor being that you had sold your operation to Live Nation. Have you?
TM – We’ve made a different arrangement that what we’ve had before. I’m getting a lot more help from them. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s actually really beneficial to me. It’s able to let me go out there, and drive as hard as I ever have.
JR – If given the chance. Would you consider running the Special Events circuit for the points championship?
TM – That’s a good question. I haven’t seen their stuff in a long time. I’m not a big fan of straight-line, two sets of cars racing. It’s alright, but I think their needs to be some more challenge to the driver. I mean we got people here who could drive a straight-line for 6 months just as good as anybody. Part of what their limited to is that there isn’t any barriers on the side, to keep the parts and pieces of the trucks from getting into people.
JR – Are there any plans to build a new chassis for Maximum Destruction?
TM – Absolutely. starting on it in April-May.
JR – Would you like to see some change in any of the future Monster Jam shows?
TM – More challenging race courses. They know it’s no secret that I’d like to see a school bus on the starting line, go over it and make a big double jump. You know? That challenging of a course.
JR – What goes through your head, when you have a huge save, like for example in Indianapolis or in St. Louis from this year?
TM – It really excites me. It means I can keep the performance going. After that happens, I just want to put a capper on it. I don’t want to stop. I love that kind of stuff.
AllMonster.com would like to thank Tom Meents for taking time out of his very busy schedule to conduct this interview. For more information about Tom Meents, and Maximum Destruction. Please visit www.monsterjam.com