In a lot of sports, if someone goes all out for a win, it often means they look like a hero. Sometimes it could mean they come up short, and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice and get hurt in the process.
For monster truck driver Tom Meents, that creed is one he lives by every time he straps into the driver's seat.
The Paxton, IL, native in the last 10 years has become not just one of the most popular drivers, but one of the most successful in the industry.
Meents began his motorsports career as a mud racer in the 1980s, driving a machine called "Shake Me." Although successful, he got his big break when he appeared on ESPN at an event in Pittsburgh, PA.
That night, he pushed his mud racer beyond it's limits, running the mud pit in just over two seconds, but then at the finish he took a hard bounce. His machine then tumbled into the catch net at the end of the course.
Crews rolled his car back on it's wheels, and Meents came out of the roll cage, not a scratch on him but one big smile.
In the 1990s, Meents got a big opportunity to take over running the "Mud Patrol" car in mud racing, made famous by Tom Martin, and continued to have success. In the middle of the decade, Meents got a major break when monster truck driver Paul Shafer asked him to pilot a second Monster Patrol for his team.
The young driver jumped at the opportunity and began his monster truck career in a big way. Along the way, he defeated some of the big names in the industry, including Bigfoot, Bear Foot, Grave Digger and Carolina Crusher.
During the 1999 racing season, Meents raced for the USHRA. Late in the season, the promoter asked Tom to switch to a new body on his truck. He put on the popular Bulldozer body, a truck that snorted and had horns on the roof.
Right away, Meents went after the biggest name the USHRA had, Dennis Anderson and Grave Digger. Having already beaten him before, he wanted to prove he was the new hot ticket in the sport.
Meents went on to defeat Anderson twice in the final three events of the season, and fans began to see that Meents was in it for real.
The next year, he got his biggest break yet. World Championship Wrestling began entering the realm of monster trucks, bringing out vehicles like WCW Nitro, Sting and the NWO truck. They wanted to put out a truck for their breakout star, former world champion Bill Goldberg.
Inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the home for WCW, the Goldberg truck debuted, and Meents was the driver at the controls. That first night, Meents defeated all the top contenders, putting the Goldberg truck to victory on it's first night.
The 2000 season was also the debut year for the concept of a freestyle competition. Meents already had a reputation of being spectacular, and in the Goldberg truck it was no exception. In Atlanta, he had a spectacular rollover, finishing second in the standings.
The next two weekends, Meents swept both racing and freestyle. He would go on to win three more racing and two more freestyles on the year as the USHRA entered it's biggest event of the season, the World Finals in Las Vegas.
That night, Meents set his name apart from everyone in the industry as he won the first ever World Racing Championship in the USHRA. It was a year that Meents thought he could never top, so he thought.
The following season, Meents again proved he was the dominant driver. The Goldberg truck was on top every weekend, taking six racing and five freestyle wins entering the World Finals yet again.
Meents would not be denied another championship as he would go on to win a second straight racing championship. Later in the evening, Meents would come out, with Goldberg himself watching, and put on an exceptional freestyle. Huge jumps, incredible air, and put on some big donuts even with a flat tire.
It would be enough for Meents to win the freestyle championship, pulling off an exceptional sweep of the competition.
After the 2001 season, WCW went out of business, leaving the Goldberg name out of the industry. But, Meents himself decided to take on a challenge. He would take over the team, and run the truck out of his own shop. He put the name "Team Meents" on his truck, the first time a truck was named after the driver.
It was a new name, but similar results as Meents would sweep the World Finals for a second straight year, culminating another successful season.
Then, in 2003, Meents changed the name of his truck once again, and it would then become a creed he would live by to this point.
His truck was named Maximum Destruction, decked out in flames, tubing and riveted steel. What would follow would be an incredible following that Meents never thought would be possible.
Meents had a successful year racing, but wound up short on winning two more world championships as his truck had issues in Las Vegas. In 2004, Meents lost in the semi-finals in the racing championship, but then lived up to the truck's name in freestyle.
Early in the run, after crashing through an RV, the truck broke a spindle, causing the right-front tire to not work. But, Meents would not quit running. He began raming the cars, spinning donuts and going full throttle the entire time.
He crashed hard into a box truck at one end of the course, and the truck kept going. Smoke began billowing out of the truck, as the transmission began overheating and the headers got crushed, but Meents wouldn't quit. Finally, the truck gave out in a huge white cloud, but the fans were on their feet.
Meents would have to share the freestyle title that year with Debra "Madusa" Miceli and Lupe Soza in El Toro Loco, the only time a championship would be shared.
Two years later, the Maximum Destruction name once again lived up to it's name. The truck came charging out onto the track onto the big water obstacle, but suddenly shut down. Fans wondered what was going on, until they saw the driver. It was the other Maximum Destruction driver Neil Elliot, who then left the track.
Meents came out in his truck and set up the moment of the night. With a very short run up, Meents gassed the engine and jumped his very own truck. He would continue with massive jumps and incredible air, until his rear steering gave out.
But he drove even harder with a broken truck, breaking an axle and losing front steering. His determination wouldn't keep him from victory as he went into a full-throttle, cyclone-style donut to end his run.
It would be enough to give him a record seventh championship, something no single driver has done in monster truck racing.
Over the next three seasons, Meents had a rough time as the competition became tougher. Meents failed to win a championship in 2007 and 2008, and throughout the 2009 season, failed to win a single racing or freestyle event.
That just gave him more motivation heading into the Tenth World Finals. That night, he beat all the odds, and won his fourth racing championship, his eighth overall. After a season of struggles and let downs, he won the event of the most importance.
After failing to win the freestyle competition, Meents came out for an encore performance he had been practicing for weeks prior. The second Maximum Destruction truck was modified in shocks, roll cage and tire cut for one reason only, to do a move no one in a monster truck has done.
Meents rolled onto the track, looking at the steep mound of dirt in the center of the track. He nailed the throttle, and did a back flip in his truck. It would have been a double back flip, but the back of the truck landed on the dirt.
The 2010 season is gearing up to be a big one for the entire Meents team. The second Maximum Destruction truck is again being driven by Kreg Christensen while their other two team trucks are piloted by young drivers.
Meents is looking to continue his reign at the top of the Monster Jam series, but many drivers are coming hard. The motto of his team is "Go Big or Go Home" but he will have to go bigger than ever to continue his legacy.
And you can be sure that there will be maximum destruction along the way.
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