Monster truck driver revs into Milwaukee
For the past 14 years, Muskego's Mark Schroeder dominated the national monster truck industry. Schroeder races and shows off his truck, "The Devastator," in more than 70 "monster jams" a year, and when he's not driving, co-hosts the "Monster Jam" television show on the Speed Channel.
Schroeder, 48, will compete and perform in this weekend's Monster Truck Jam at the Bradley Center, Jan. 16-17. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets cost $17-25 for adults and $5 for kids ages 2-12 years old.
The event features two elements: a race between the monster trucks followed by a freestyle event that allows the trucks to show off their tricks.
"This is the fan's favorite part," says Schroeder.
Recently, OnMilwaukee.com interviewed Schroeder about his career as one of the oldest and most successful monster truck racers.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us more about the Devastator.
Mark Schroeder: It has a 2006 Chevrolet body that's 12 feet tall and it weighs 10,560 pounds. The tires are 66 inches tall and 44 inches wide. It has a custom paint job by Hot Wheels of a crazy-looking rhino.
OMC: You got into the monster truck scene at 33 years old. What were you doing before?
MS: I was a boat drag racer. I raced boats all over the Midwest and the South. I actually left boat drag racing because, believe it or not, I thought it was getting too dangerous.
I had always been into high performance motor sports of all kinds, so I decided, 15 years ago, to build a monster truck. I had that truck for nine years, then five years ago, I built the Devastator.
OMC: How long does it take to build a monster truck?
MS: My first truck took me two years. The second one I built with my two friends in 62 days. We worked seven days a week, 18 hours a day.
OMC: What is the Devastator's special trick?
MS: The power wheelie. I can go from a complete stop to doing a straight-up wheelie by using raw horsepower. Only one, maybe two, other trucks in the country can do this. It's fun to show the fans what you can do, whether it's the power wheelie or driving over a boat or a car stack.
OMC: Do you travel a lot on the monster truck circuit?
MS: Yes. I do about 70 shows a year and travel around the country, east of the Rockies.
OMC: Do you work for anyone or do you run an independent business?
MS: I work for myself. I love it, although it can get expensive because if something goes wrong with my truck, or I get in a crash, I have to pay for the repairs out-of-pocket. In the blink of an eye, the body of my truck can get messed up, and that can be a $10,000-$12,000 repair.
OMC: Do you do the repairs and mechanics yourself?
OMC: Have you been involved in serious crashes?
MS: A few, but, luckily, nothing too bad. I try very hard to avoid crashes, but once in a while, they're unavoidable. Part of the job.
OMC: What was your worst injury during a crash?
MS: About 10 years ago, I tore some muscles in my back.
OMC: What is your audience demographic?
MS: All different people, from white collar to blue collar, and all ages from kids to the elderly.
OMC: How often are you on "Monster Jam" on the Speed Channel?
MS: As a co-host last year I put in 190 hours during the season. "Monster Jam" is now the most-watched show on the Speed Channel after NASCAR.
OMC: Do your kids think you have an awesome job?
MS: Yeah. They're older now, but my 5-year-old grandson thinks I'm pretty cool.
OMC: You are 48 years old and still going strong, but at what age do you think you'll retire?
MS: I am looking forward to being the oldest monster truck driver in the industry. There are a couple guys older than me right now, but we'll see. I'm hoping to make it to 55, or even older. As long as my body can take it, and I'm enjoying it -- which is most important -- I'll continue.
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