My relationship with the Monster Truck industry in 2023 is a bit interesting. It hasn't been what I'd wanted it to be per se for a while now, but I also know a ton of people that I consider good friends and others who are loosely connected within friend groups that are doing cool stuff all over the industry. Drivers, tech officials, event staff, etc.
Take Forrest Bernard, for example, who at just 22 years old, wrapped up the inaugural season of his Monster Truck promotion, Overdrive Monster Truck Tour. Running shows on the East Coast from May to September, mostly smaller fairgrounds and local speedway venues, Overdrive touted lineups that featured drivers such as former Grave Digger pilot Rod Schmidt, independent mainstays Jerry Beck, and Cory Snyder, as well as 2015 Monster Jam World Freestyle Champion Mike Vaters II. With year one being in the books, I wanted to get the chance to catch up and talk some shop on how year one went, what's next, and some other assorted Monster Truck-related topics, with things in the industry calming down before getting back up to speed in January.
Jack Gaffney: Well Forrest, it's been a good minute since we've talked, and you have obviously kept yourself busy these last few months with year one of Overdrive, and you guys just wrapped up shop about two months ago. Now that you've had time to reflect on things, how are you feeling after your first year of running your own ship?
Forrest Bernard: Very pleased, proud, and optimistic. I’m super proud of everyone on my team for stepping up and killing it in every aspect, I have one of the best teams out there, and they are the key to making it all function. However, I'm very pleased after year one. Having a successful tour that spanned seven months with countless successful events. You can’t ask for much more- it was surreal watching all the hard work that has led up to this year pay off and be a success. As well as optimistic about how we are going to be able to grow in years to come after laying a solid foundation in year one.
Gaffney: Most of these places you ended up holding events at are definitely on the smaller side, but that is not a bad thing, by any stretch. Monster Jam, Monster Truck Throwdown, Toughest Tour, etc, aren't all going to hit every single town in America. So there's always a place for what you guys are doing right?
Bernard: Yeah, so the idea is that we go into these untapped markets so that these families don't necessarily have to go long distances to see some Monster Trucks and get to do so at an affordable rate while still putting on some great shows.
Gaffney: So you had 21 different drivers and trucks run for you this year, with names like the Basl twins, the Seasock brothers, the Vaters, Jack Brown, and Jerry Beck that jump out. I'm not super vested in the industry like I used to be, as a whole, but I'd like to think that's pretty good, right?
Bernard: Absolutely, we have some of the best trucks on the independent circuit. We’re blessed to have everyone we have had on tour. I could write a book full of all the fantastic things I have to say about each one of the teams. But without a doubt, the class of competitors we have at Overdrive, you can guarantee it will be an action-packed event with the greatest Teams both on and off the track.
Gaffney: To switch things up real quick, last weekend, Monster Jam ran their second-ever All-Star event, dubbed the Superstar Challenge in Anaheim, and I think the idea of an All-Star event for Monster Jam is pretty solid. And, even while I equally understand why they based it around the two spinmaster toy lines and think that comes off a bit cheesy, I think it was a good event from what I saw. The track looked great, and I've personally hated what Feld has done with stadium tracks over the last decade with how cookie-cutter, basic, and catered-to two-wheel-skills things have gotten, much less so about the lack of cars, which I think is a bit overblown. But that track had stuff that stood out from other shows, the crossover-figure eight racing is objectively cool, and on the whole, they seemed to draw a great crowd. Do you have any thoughts on how that event went down?
Bernard: I thought it was a really good event, and I thought the track was equally as good. And to add on to some of the stuff they did pre-show, I know that El Toro Loco driver Armando Castro, had a hand in bringing in the pit party car show they had in Anaheim, and you add that with the drift shows and other stuff they had, it was nice to see things not be catered to just the core audience. But yeah, that Tom Meents stunt was something haha.
Gaffney: Yeah, so I heard from someone that would know that he was...let's just say not a fan of how much water was put down on the track during the day, but happy to see Tom walk away from that because that looked brutal in real-time.
But back to what you've been up to. Not only do you have Overdrive, but you also have your own ride truck now that you designed yourself, Hog Wild. How long did that take to get put together?
Bog Hog Ride Truck (Picture Courtesy of Overdrive Monster Truck Tour)
Bernard: So I came up with the design in a laundromat between shows one weekend, and I thought there weren't many pig/hog trucks out there. So I bounced this off to...Neil Vandenberg, who's responsible for a ton of Monster Truck designs (Maximum Destruction most notably) over the years, and he was the one that came up with the final product. The bike that the pig is riding is my own bike, which is another nice touch.
Gaffney: 10 Seats?
Bernard: There are a few extra seats in the cab that we only use for friends, family, etc, but yes, 10 seats in the back.
Gaffney: So a couple of guys that you brought up to me and some other people that have been to or competed in Overdrive events this year and had great things to say, was first Rod Schmidt, who drove Grave Digger for about a decade and is driving Redneck Rampage now, and then this is the surprising one, 1998 Monster Jam Points Championship runner up (might be wrong on that but I believe that's accurate) Eric Tack of Team Bigfoot fame. When guys like that are coming up to you in year one, not year three or five, but right away and are saying, "You have something good here", what does that mean to you?
Bernard: It’s hard to truly say what those moments mean to me. I tell everyone, I'm just a three-year-old who had a dream of playing with Monster Trucks, and now, 20 years later, I was never smart enough to stop dreaming. So eating, sleeping, and breathing monster trucks. To have a legend of the sport like Rod Schmidt give me that handshake and tell me how much he enjoyed running with me and how he is already anticipating the next time.
Or when you mentioned the Hall of Fame Legend Eric Tack, coming out to a show un-invited, just had heard about what I had going on and wanted to check it out and standing conversating at the end of the night and pats me on the back and tells me to keep digging and going because I have a good thing going. Those are things you can’t beat, being able to leave an impression on legends who have seen so much of this sport over the last 30-plus years.
Gaffney: And now you're bossing some of these guys around.
Bernard: Yep, funny how things turn out.
Gaffney: Alright, one last thing before we get you to some rapid-fire questions. Based on everything you did and experienced in 2023, if the Overdrive Monster Truck Tour is successful in...say 2026, what does that look like?
Bernard: There are a few. I would say own a pair of trucks, both from a personal goal and business-wise and by that I mean if we go somewhere and I decide "Hey let's give the people eight trucks instead of six", I can go and do that. But also, I’d be lying if I said my dream didn't involve driving at some point because it definitely does and has always been the ultimate goal. But to continue what got this started, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. Because I'm making a career out of a dream that started when I was three. I always strive to try and find people who also want to live out that dream and may have never been given a solid opportunity- I want to be able to provide them that avenue to chase that dream. It’s a rewarding goal.
Gaffney: Can't argue with that last part at all. Now, We had 10 rapid-fire questions for you, but we added one back at the last minute, so here we go.
Rapid Fire Questions
11. You have a blank check to run an Overdrive event anywhere you want. Where is that?
Bernard: So I'm from a small town in Virginia where everyone knows everyone, so I would love to run a local show and show all of my friends and family what I've been able to put together, that would be special.
Gaffney: Would I be wrong to assume Lane Stadium would be the venue?
Bernard: Oh, absolutely. Need to get some Enter Sandman in there as well.
10. With Tom Meents set to retire next spring, both he and Dennis Anderson, who've been the faces of the Monster Truck industry for the better part of three decades, will both be gone. Once that happens, who becomes the defacto face of the Monster Truck Industry?
Bernard: Either Tyler Menninga or Weston Anderson from the Grave Digger camp. We just talked about the Superstar Challenge, and Menninga swept that event, and he's so in control of what he's doing at all times it's crazy. As far as Weston, he's already at a point where he's gotten things figured out, and I think he has a bit more Dennis to him than the other brothers (Adam and Ryan) from a personality standpoint.
Gaffney: Hard to go wrong with either guy there. The first time I really got a chance to watch Weston was this year's World Finals, and off of that, I think he's excellent.
9. This is Kind of on the same topic. Who is someone who should be considered near or on the top rung of the sport that currently isn't on a widespread level?
Bernard: John Gordon (Bad Company). He's a guy who can compete with anyone on any given weekend, and he had a great weekend at the World Finals outside of some mechanical/electrical issues that took him out of a Final Four birth in racing. That and his equipment and just [Bad Company] looks so good.
Gaffney: There's been like a half dozen versions of Bad Company from what I've seen, and all of them are S Tier. Generational numbers in the design game, so you aren't wrong.
8. Seeing as there have been plenty over the years, what are the best Grave Digger and Bigfoot variants?
Bernard: So for Grave Digger, I'll say the Green Ghost. I think back to that 2006 Monster Jam season on SPEED and the battles that Dennis Anderson and Linsey Weenk had that whole year. That was a great time to be a Monster Jam fan.
Picture via AllMonster.com / Tim Groves (Monster Jam World Finals VII)
Gaffney: Oh, you want to talk about real cinema; Anderson vs. Weenk was appointment viewing in 2006, real hoop. That race they had in the last event in the Silverdome is timeless.
Bernard: As far as Bigfoot goes, Bigfoot 8 with the classic racing stripes.
Gaffney: I'll go with the 1998-1999 rendition of Grave Digger 12 and then the Pink and Teal Bigfoot on the square body F-150 because I have good taste [bring it back @BobChandler, I'm begging you].
Picture via now defunct MonsterPhotos.com
7. What's the best-looking active truck body/design?
Bernard: Toxic, something about the green and orange wheels just looks good, and it's just a very good-looking truck in general.
Gaffney: Give me Bad Company or Black Pearl. The gap from those to just about everything else is pretty big if you ask me.
6. Of all the cities, not venues, you went to with Overdrive in 2023, which was your favorite?
Bernard: Swansboro, North Carolina. So [Carteret County Speedway] is like a mile away from the beach, so we got there three days ahead of schedule and just had some beach days and ate some great seafood, great place.
5. Given that we know a decent amount of people who have been or still are tech officials. How underappreciated are they across the board?
Bernard: Very underappreciated, they're the most crucial part of an event. They're there from stage one of every event to the last stage and are responsible for all the safety and teardown-related stuff that goes into an event. That and you never really get to see their faces. So yeah, I'd say very underappreciated.
Gaffney: As someone who has seen what those guys and gals do in real time for a whole weekend, they do some very underappreciated work that the average fan doesn't get a chance to see.
4. The best style of Monster Truck racing is what?
Bernard: I'd say anything where the trucks come across the finish line side by side. I think Chicago can get a little confusing for the fans. But I love the crossover racing style in Charlotte for the Back to School Bash.
Gaffney: Yeah, I had a feeling you were going to say that.
Bernard: Having been there, it's hard to stress how big that crossover jump on the front stretch (pre-2023 tracks) is, it's like 30 feet tall.
Gaffney: Preposterously massive.
Bernard: Yeah, that and with the step-up bus going into the finish line section, that'd probably be my answer.
3. Between the Astrodome, Metrodome, Silverdome, and Sam Boyd Stadium, which venue holds the most significance to you?
Bernard: I'd go [Sam Boyd]. World Finals felt different there. It was an atmosphere that can't be replicated in this industry.
Gaffney: As someone who went to a couple of World Finals, there was no stadium environment like it. Less than 40,000 seats and not a state-of-the-art venue, but you were on top of everything, the crowds were always top-notch, it was the only place you could do that racing, say, outside of the original Citrus Bowl layout, and the floor plan was pretty unique. Not the widest floor ever, but the track guys had a ton of room to play with. That, and I'll probably remember that Todd Leduc run from 2014 to the day I die. So, yeah, Sam Boyd, then probably the Astrodome.
2. What are the five Crown Jewel events in Independent Monster Trucks
Bernard: I'd say the Back to School Bash in Charlotte is certainly one, Monsters on the Beach at Virginia Beach is another, and then Monster Truck Throwdown's Soaring Eagle Casino event. I'll add in the Miami, Oklahoma, and Wheatland, Missouri shows too, but those first three stand out.
Gaffney: Agreed on those first three. I remember going online when I was like five and seeing MOTB pictures (Wildwood) for the first time and thought that was the coolest thing. Instantly stands out from any other event with size, scale, and environment. Even Virginia Beach is a great spot with the fans on top of everything.
1. Last up, a couple of our longtime friends, Alex Bardin and Devin Winfield, and we could probably add Berto Trevino into this equation as well, all got confirmed for Monster Jam Arena Championship rides for 2024 for Team Throttle Monster and the Sims in the case of Bardin. Not a question, but just thoughts on those three finally making it.
Bernard: So cool, Talking about being a part of the Monster Truck industry through Xbox for literal years and years, and to see those two and Berto finally get to the top rung of the sport is just so awesome. Couldn't be happier for those guys.
Gaffney: Couldn't agree more. I mean we've practically known Devin and Alex for over half of our lives to this point, and know the work they've put in. I couldn't be happier for them, and Berto, for that matter. I have a feeling those three will be doing some good things this first quarter.
Gaffney: So one last thing before we let you go, I was told through the grapevine, which may or may not have been you, but that's neither here nor there, that you had a bit of a big announcement about 2024. Something involving a 10-truck show?
Bernard: Well, actually, now we have a 12-truck show.
Gaffney: 12, A dozen, in THIS economy???
Bernard: And we are heading out to the venue soon to do some track planning...and this will all be on Dirt.tv pay-per-view, but we will give out some more details here shortly.
Bernard: Absolutely. Our social media pages are the best way to keep up with our upcoming events. This one will certainly have some social media presence, so you will want to stay glued to those in the coming weeks.
Gaffney: Will do. Appreciate the time, as always, and I think I speak for a bunch of people in saying we are very happy with all the early success you and Overdrive are having and hopefully will continue to have.
Main Image via Overdrive Monster Truck Tour