Cole Venard wasn’t even born when Grave Digger was first driven into Monster Truck history. The current driver of the legendary vehicle is only 30 and this is the 35th anniversary of Grave Digger.
“I am calling this the ‘Giveback Tour’ because Grave Digger has had the greatest fans over the years,” Venard says of his current turn in Grave Digger. “There is a lot of pressure on me because Grave Digger is a fan favorite. I have got to hold up that image.
“I want to make sure there is something memorable about every show with Grave Digger.”
The tour makes a stop here as the “Monster Jam – Triple Threat Series” returns to Fresno’s Save Mart Center for three days of high-gear action. This year’s stop is even bigger than the one last year because there will be two more trucks competing, bringing the total to eight teams.
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“Monster Jam” features drivers competing against one another in a points-based format that showcases the top Monster Jam vehicles. Venard is the defending points champion and leading the field this year. He has a 48-point cushion so he must do well in at least one day of racing if he hopes to qualify for the huge “Monster Jam” competition in Las Vegas in three weeks.
The first time Venard saw Grave Digger was on television and he didn’t see it in person until 10 years ago, when he was hired to work as a mechanic on the vehicle. Venard has been behind the wheel for two years.
There was a point six years ago that he was not certain if he would be able to continue with the Monster Jam program. He lost his left leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident. Having a prosthetic left leg affects his driving a little but his mechanic background came in handy as Venard fashioned a larger pedal for the brake so that he knew he would never miss it.
Venard laughs and says, “I always tell people I broke my brake leg and really don’t need that.”
“The Monster Jam – Triple Threat Series” is the definitive test of endurance, versatility and driving skills that showcases these premiere athletes as they go head-to-head in seven unique endurance competitions driving three different vehicles. Each race earns the driver points.
It’s a plus for Venard that he’s always been athletic, playing multiple sports in high school and racing dirt bikes. It’s not so much needing to be able to wrangle the huge vehicle but his sports background helps with dealing with the stamina needed to compete.
Each driver will race three different vehicles, which means Venard will be behind the wheel of Grave Digger, the Grave Digger speedster and Grave Digger ATV.
“There is also the safety equipment. I pull my seat belt so tight that I have to remember to breathe. The G forces are so strong there are head restraints,” Venard says. “Driving is 100 percent like a controlled car crash. If the safety equipment wasn’t working we would not run.”
If you would like to meet any of the drivers, go to the arena early on Saturday for the Monster Jam Pit Party pre-show experience. For more information on this event and Monster Jam, go to www.MonsterJam.com
Monster Jam Triple Threat series
- 7 p.m. Friday, March 10; 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 11; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday March 12
- Save Mart Center, 2650 E. Shaw Ave.
- Tickets $20, pit passes $10. Available at Ticketmaster.com, by calling 800-745-3000 or at the Save Mart Center Box Office.