As a child pushing toy trucks around on the floor, Brandon Derrow’s dream was to someday drive a monster truck. From the time he witnessed his first monster truck show at age 1 1/2 – the same age his son is now – he was hooked on the big engines, massive horsepower and huge tires.
“My dad tried to get me into tractor pulls and NASCAR growing up, but he just couldn’t get me away from monster trucks,” says Derrow, calling from his home in Elkton, Va., north of Charlottesville.
“You can go to a NASCAR race and hear the big engines, but you can’t really get the thrill of 11,000 pounds going through the air,” he says.
Today, Derrow and his family own the Bad News Travels Fast truck, which competes in the first Monster Jam show of the year Friday and Saturday at Spectrum Center. But before they bought the truck in late 2011, Derrow had never actually driven one.
“We’d been following the Bad News truck for five years and I always loved the truck. It always came to local shows in Fishersville, Virginia,” says Derrow, 27. “The announcer said the truck was for sale, and I kind of looked at Dad.”
A few months later at another show, they heard the truck was still for sale.
“I said, ‘Dad, should we go down and talk to them?’ ” Derrow recalls, with a chuckle. “Dad started laughing. ‘You’re crazy. We can’t buy a monster truck.’ ”
It wasn’t easy to convince a bank that letting a 23-year-old with no experience drive a vehicle with 66-inch tires was a good reason for a loan.
“I went to eight or nine different banks. None of them wanted to give me a chance on something like this. ‘$200,000 for what?’ ” he remembers the responses. “ ‘What are we going to do with it if we have to re-possess it?’ ”
Derrow and his father weren’t completely new to auto mechanics. Derrow’s grandfather owned a car dealership. His dad started working on cars there when he was 18.
“Dad has been the backbone of this whole thing,” says Derrow. “When something breaks, he says, ‘We need to beef this up so it’s not going to happen again,’ to make the truck stronger.”
He also brings his machinist background to the team.
“He was a machinist for 30 years. He can tie that into it. He knows exactly what he wants and can tell them when he goes to the machine shop,” Derrow adds.
The truck’s previous owner/driver, Bruce Haney, told Derrow not to worry about his inexperience – that he could really only learn from behind the wheel. Haney also suggested Derrow keep his day job.
Derrow still works at Target full-time while traveling to Monster Jam events on the weekends. He’s taken a month-long sabbatical in January to focus on the truck, and will work overtime this spring to build up vacation days to keep him on the road with Monster Jam this summer.
The Derrows are one of few family-owned teams left. Feld Entertainment, which owns Monster Jam, also owns more than 60 trucks, including household names like Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction, Derrow says.
“A lot of times, it’s hard to compete with those guys. We don’t have the backing and connections they do. A lot of people own their own businesses before they buy a monster truck, which makes it easier,” says Derrow. “But I really wouldn’t have it any other way. If I’d scripted it as a child, this is how I would’ve wanted it.”
When: 7 p.m. Friday and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.