•The monster truck El Diablo has 66-inch custom-carved tires and runs at 1,500-horsepower.
There are two basic possibilities for any Monster Jam rally: the truck crashes or it doesn’t.
That’s what makes watching Monster Jam so exciting.
“We’re constantly toying with that line,” says JP Ruggiero, one of the drivers in this weekend’s Monster Jam at the Save Mart Center.
“I’ve crossed that line many times,” says Ruggiero, who splits his time between driving a monster truck and working as a stuntman in movies and television. He has been in films such as “Spiderman” and “Transformers.”
Monster Jam rallies take traditional drag-style races and mix in free-style trickery. Drivers get points for hitting obstacles and jumps (the higher the better) and doing tricks. Wheelies and donuts get points. Sky wheelies — where the truck gets up to a 90-degree angle — get points, as does the bouncing wheelie known as a pogo.
Before he started competing in 2013, Ruggiero had never driven a monster truck, though he had worked as a stunt driver and had built a modified Jeep as an off-road rock crawler. His family called it his own little monster truck.
His actual monster truck is named El Diablo. It’s a 1,500-horsepower beast that sits on 66-inch wheels. Its fiberglass body is designed to look like a devil when it hits a sky wheelie — there are two red horns, a ghoulish grin and a long, wagging tongue.
It may seem like a far cry from the vehicles he has driven as a stuntman, but for Ruggiero getting behind the wheel of a monster truck is a bit like taking out a rental car.
“You kind of have to find out its intricacies and limitations,” he says.
Then, the job becomes “driving the truck to, and beyond, those limits.”