Darron Schnell thinks driving a monster truck is pure adrenaline.
"The best way I can describe it is, it's like driving a roller coaster," said Schnell, who drives Bigfoot Bessie in the E3 Spark Plugs Monster Truck Nationals series. "It's the biggest adrenaline rush I've ever found. In fact, the first few times I drove one, I was shaking from the adrenaline. That's how much it will get you going."
Schnell and the other drivers in the series will travel to the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park for shows at 7:30 p.m. on both March 30 and 31.
Monster truck driver Darron Schnell drives Bigfoot Bessie during the E3 Spark Plugs Monster Truck Nationals series.
The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. each night for a free pit party, featuring country singer Jason Sturgeon, and driver autographs.
The monster trucks will compete in four events throughout the show.
"We'll start with a wheelie competition," Schnell said. "Whoever the crowd chooses is the winner. We'll then do side-by-side drag racing, with each person getting a set of cars to crush."
If you go
What: E3 Spark Plugs Monster Truck Nationals
When: 7:30 p.m. March 30 and 31. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for free pit party and autograph session.
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
Tickets: $21.50 for adults, $15 for Penn State students and $12 for children ages 2 to 11. They are available at the BJC ticket office, Penn State Altoona, Ticketmaster outlets of by calling 865-5555.
The trucks will also compete in a doughnut contest during the show.
"We'll finish up the night with a freestyle competition, where we can do whatever we want," he said. "The crowd gets to judge that, too."
According to Schnell, 100 points will be awarded to the winner of the drag racing competition, with 50 points to the second-place finisher. Victories in the wheelie, doughnut and freestyle competitions are judged as "overall event wins."
The shows will also feature Kid KJ and Team Lil' Mighty Monsters, a 1/2-scale monster truck team featuring a 14-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old; and Transaurus, a fire-breathing, car-crushing dinosaur robot.
Entering the Jordan Center shows, Schnell sits in second place in the points standings behind his Bigfoot teammate, Rick Long, who drives the E3 Spark Plugs Bigfoot truck. Bobby Holman, who drives the Lucas Oil Stabilizer truck, holds third place.
Two weeks after the BJC shows, the series will conclude for the winter in Columbus, Ohio.
"It's getting exciting. There are six of us running for the championship right now," Schnell said. "Everyone has a chance at it."
Bernie Punt, the director of sales and marketing at the Bryce Jordan Center, said that the Monster Truck Nationals is "definitely one of the area's favorite family shows."
He does, however, offer one word of advice to those attending: "Bring ear plugs."
Schnell, 27, has been driving one of the Bigfoot trucks competitively for two years, but he worked his way up through the St. Louis-based organization for the opportunity.
"I started out as a fan, and then I volunteered when I was 18," said Schnell, a native of Sturgis, S.D. "I finally got the opportunity to drive the display rig [the Bigfoot truck that makes event appearances]. That's where everyone in the organization starts. Once they know you can handle the PR aspect and that you like traveling, you start working your way into a race truck. It takes quite a while to pay your dues."
Schnell sees an upside and a downside to driving for arguably the most famous monster truck brand.
"A lot of people remember Bigfoot, remember the old days with the big, blue truck, so there's that fanbase," Schnell said, "but you find that, with the Bigfoot name, every [driver] is going to be running you as hard as they can.
"It's a double-edged sword, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Punt anticipates a wild time at the Jordan Center on both nights.
"Big trucks, big engines, crazy drivers. Who knows what will happen?" he said.
Schnell chuckled when he was asked what fans could expect at the shows.
"Personally, I haven't kept a tailgate on my truck all year, so good, bad or otherwise, you are going to see something crazy," Schnell said. "It's a lot of fun. It's a good time."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.