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Big fun in store at Monster Jam

Monster Jam fans will be able catch Firestorm actiAllstate ArenRosemont.

Monster Jam fans will be able to catch Firestorm in action at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

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♦ Feb. 8-10

♦ Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont

♦ Tickets, $10-$57.50

♦ (800) 745-3000;

Updated: February 6, 2013 3:36PM

It’s really loud, really fast and really, really big. It’s the Monster Jam truck series, and it’s in town this weekend.

Ten trucks will compete at the Allstate Arena event, including Grave Digger, El Toro Loco, Maximum Destruction and the newest member of Team Hot Wheels, Firestorm, driven by Elgin native Scott Buetow.

Buetow, who has been on the circuit since 2010, is no stranger to motor sports, having grown up in an area where rural roads and fields provided plenty of turf for motocross.

“I’ve been riding [motocross] since I was a little kid,” said Buetow, who previously drove Monster Jam favorite Iron Man. “Driving these trucks really is no different in a lot of ways. Once you’re in the cage [truck cab] you really don’t get any more banged up than you would on bikes, I suppose. In many ways it’s a whole lot safer. So it was a real smooth transition for me.”

When it comes to safety, monster truck drivers are required to wear a full fire suit, harness and helmet including the HANS device used by NASCAR drivers.

So what exactly constitutes a monster truck?

“Monster trucks are about 10 to 11 feet tall and weigh about 10,000 pounds,” Buetow explained. “And there’s about 1,500 horsepower under the hood.” (In case you were wondering, the tires are 66 inches.)

In the case of Firestorm, the truck is the first of its kind, made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and E-glass (similar to the grade used on the International Space Station), which all combines to make the body weight half that of traditional fiberglass.

When it comes to speed, Buetow said it all depends on the arena and the type of maneuvers the trucks have to accomplish in the competitions.

“In the smaller [indoor] arenas it’s slower speeds just because of the limitations of the space. The trucks have two independent steering [systems], one for the front and a toggle switch for the rear tires so we can turn real quick on a dime. Outdoor, major arenas, such as the one in Las Vegas where the finals are held, we get clocked in the straightaway at about 70 miles per hour. It’s a very different type of competition.”

In competition, drivers must complete various tricks including aerials. Getting a 10,000-pound truck up on its back tires, propelling forward off the ground for more than 100 feet or nearly straight up into the air 30 or 40 feet is no small feat.

“It’s all about power — hammering down to get that truck up on those hind wheels,” Buetow said, with a chuckle. “[To get the truck airborne] You don’t realize how high you are, and you have to keep that throttle going or you’ll dive pretty quick. We’re making these trucks jump, stop on a dime, do wheely competitions, doughnut competitions, a freestyle with obstacles. We’ve got a minute and a half to do as many tricks as possible. The goal is to be among the finalists in Vegas [March 21-23]. I’ve won 12 individual races but no championships — yet. I’m having a great time with all of it.”

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