It was common knowledge inside Tyler and Travis Groth’s social circles on Fox Island and while attending Gig Harbor High School that if you were having mechanical problems with your Jeep, ATV or dirt bike, you’d pick up the phone and dial the twins’ number.
“Everybody knew us as the mechanics,” said Travis, a 2002 GHHS graduate.
Both loved to tinker, troubleshoot and take apart and put back together almost anything on two or four wheels.
A trip to a monster truck show at the Kingdome in 1993 (the twins went especially crazy for the legendary Grave Digger truck) led the Groth boys to start thinking about combining that automotive knowledge with a career a little off the traditional path: driving a monster truck.
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“It’s every kid’s dream,” Tyler said.
“I don’t think anyone knew you could make a career out of it,” Travis added.
Once the identical twins graduated high school, they went on to study at Tacoma Community College and eventually WyoTech, a college in Laramie, Wyoming specializing in automotive, diesel, motorcycle, marine and collision repair and refinishing career fields.
Some connections in the industry led the twins, now 33, to eventually become a part of Monster Jam, which hosts the Triple Threat Series presented by AMSOIL, which makes an appearance at the Tacoma Dome this weekend. The series is a points-based format that showcases racing, freestyle events, and basically huge trucks revving up their 1,500-horsepower engines and spraying dirt in every direction while mixing in 35-foot jumps off dirt ramps.
Travis drives “New Earth Authority,” the “law enforcement vehicle of peace, on a mission to terminate anything that threatens the purity of a perfect world,” according to the truck’s biography. Tyler takes the wheel of “Zombie” — clad with grayish, high-density foam arms that dangle from the chassis — which was chosen in a fan vote as the truck they would most like to see be created.
The twins participated in 12 events around the West Coast when they first started driving in 2009, but that number has ballooned to 36 now. The brothers are on the road hauling their trucks from event to event from January through November. The twins, in fact, are the only drivers on the tour who not only drive their trucks but work on them as well.
It would be hard to do it all without (Travis). It takes both of us to keep the trucks running.
Tyler Groth, monster truck driver
“It would be hard to do it all without (Travis),” said Tyler, who also shares a house and massive garage with Travis in Port Orchard. “It takes both of us to keep the trucks running.”
One could argue the fact that because the two are intimately involved with the mechanical workings of the trucks, it might give them an advantage over the other drivers on a nightly basis (“You may know the limits of the truck more,” Tyler said), as many of the truck events feature full-throttle bursts from the engine and hard takeoffs and landings, putting stress on the suspension and frame.
“(Tyler’s) hard on equipment,” Travis said with a laugh.
Despite the grind — this year there are 10 back-to-back weekends of shows — the twins love what they do. When there is an off day on the tour, the Groths will take one of the trucks to local elementary schools or book readings to show it off to kids and give them career advice.
“It’s the relaxing part of the job,” Tyler said. “To see kids get that excited makes everything worth it.”
But ultimately what keeps them coming back for more after long nights and short turnarounds is the rush of adrenaline that comes when the 1,500-horsepower engine roars to life and the adoration from the diehard fans who pack the arenas and stadiums.
“You look out at the people (in appreciation) and you’re like, “How did I get here?” Tyler said.
Where: Tacoma Dome
What: Drivers go head-to-head in seven different competitions driving three different vehicles: Monster Jam trucks, Monster Jam Speedsters and Monster Jam ATVs. Drivers battle for points in challenging racing and freestyle events that push themselves and their machines to the limit.
When: Friday (Jan. 13) through Sunday (Jan. 15). Showtimes include 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. There is also a Pit Party at 1 p.m. Saturday, which requires a ticket to the afternoon show in addition to a $10 pit pass.
Prices: Tickets start at $15, and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or by visiting the Tacoma Dome box office.