I think I speak for a healthy amount of Motorsports fans in my generation when I say that Monster Jam from about 1999-2010 was appointment viewing across TNN, Speed, and Fox Sports 1 for a few years after. Grave Digger's Dennis Anderson was a gigantic part of that, but so was Tom Meents, who for a better part of the last 35 years has been a superstar in the Monster Truck industry, most known for driving Monster Patrol for Paul Shafer, then Bulldozer, Goldberg, Team Meents, and then Maximum Destruction. 12 Monster Jam World Championships between Racing and Freestyle, countless other victories and stunts later, the 56-year-old out of Paxton, Illinois, has announced the upcoming 2024 Monster Jam season will be his last.
Especially as a Motocross/Supercross fan, it's borderline comical to go back and look at some of the numbers guys like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, and James Stewart (so good, by the way) put up when they had everything clicking. That can also be said of Meents through the first five Monster Jam World Finals. Excluding the bye-run he got right away at World Finals 3, Meents won his first 12 races at Sam Boyd Stadium and had a total record of 14-2. The only two guys to beat him were the late great Scott Hartsock at World Finals 4, and then Pablo Huffaker at World Finals 5. 15 other drivers had practically zero answers for Meents in that right lane at Sam Boyd for about two decades. Hell, even if he was in the left lane, you were still probably dead to rights (Obligatory Damon Bradshaw was that deal mention)
To this day, Meents is still the only driver that has claim of 'Undisputed Monster Truck World Champion', and he did it twice...in back-to-back years...Stonewalling Dennis Anderson in freestyle both times. Did I mention this was all 21 years ago (I'm old)?
Even more than that, Meents is a guy who has been through close to every notable generation of Monster Trucks and was elite in every single one of them, which still applies to the present day. Really good at the tail end of the Penda/Monster Wars era, borderline unstoppable in the Motor Madness/Early Modern Monster Jam era, and from then on, hasn't been too far off at all. That's true longevity, folks.
Simply put, he's the best Monster Truck driver ever, and that may always stick. No one has the mix of his longevity, resume, contributions to the industry, etc. Guys like Dennis Anderson, Dan Runte, Gary Porter, Andy Brass, and Adam Anderson are all first ballot hall of famers (well...in theory, given the voting process for the Monster Truck Hall of Fame), but Meents has been so good for so long it's comical.
Outside of how good Meents has been over the years, much of his appeal was that he's this larger-than-life personality that jumps off the screen, much like Dennis Anderson, and was afraid of hitting absolutely nothing. Know that Meents never lied to me or you when he put "On a Mission" on the front bumper of Team Meents and Max-D. That especially rang true in the early 2000s when the hits these drivers took felt and looked rougher than they do nowadays.
This also marks a true shift in the Monster Truck industry. From 2017 to 2025, some of the greatest superstars in Monster Truck history will have gotten their final curtain call. Dennis Anderson, Dan Runte, Pablo Huffaker, Tom Meents, and Jim Koehler probably isn't far behind. Sad times for sure, but I think I speak for all Monster Truck fans, past and present, that guys like these were absolute heroes of ours when we were kids. Hopefully, Tom can bag home another title or two before he calls it quits, but if not, it was one hell of a ride.
Two Greats Talking Shop in Stafford Springs, CT Circa 2005-or-2006
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