“Terrify me,” I told Stadium Super Trucks’ founder Robby Gordon. “It’ll make a better video.”
I love watching sweet jumps, and Stadium Super Trucks feels like that old Super Off-Road arcade game come to life, but with even more ridiculous jumps. It’s a wheel-to-wheel series full of identical 600-horsepower tube-frame race trucks with hilariously compliant suspension and a trusty Chevrolet LS V8 engine up front.
I’ve jumped cars myself before. I’ve been itching, yearning to jump a car again. Do you know how painful it is to put together Hoon of the Day but not be able to go outside immediately to catch air and rip donuts in the beater of my choice? It’s torture.
But somehow, thought of a relatively tame ride-along in a Stadium Super Truck made me more nervous than anything I’d done in a very long time. Here, in the Stadium Super Truck, I was a passenger instead. Everything relies on the nut behind the wheel, which thank goodness was an ace like Gordon.
[Full disclosure: Texas Motor Speedway wanted us to check out their upcoming race weekend so much that they arranged a ride-along in a Stadium Super Truck. I didn’t die. But now I need to hoon an off-road truck—badly. Stadium Super Trucks race at Texas alongside the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and IndyCar on June 9-10.]
Maybe it was the height of the big jump. Heights are up there with snakes and Porsche electrical repairs on the great Nope-O-Meter scale of stuff I fear. The jump I kept staring at on this course was just taller than the container units used to shore up the launch-side of a gap in the middle, towering over me in person. I kept wondering how hard you would bounce if you missed and accidentally hit the other side of the jump.
But Stadium Super Trucks are known for some truly insane, seemingly physics-defying moves, so I knew what I was getting into. I was shaking a little as I was getting situated in the truck, wearing a borrowed firesuit and a loaner helmet that was just a bit too big for my head. My excuse was that I hadn’t eaten yet.
I’d be fine, I insisted. If anything, the louder I scream and the more I squirm, the better it would be for the internet. I wasn’t just here to meet some hero-trucks. I was here for the internet.
Gordon kept trying to gauge how nervous I was before we set off. He knows Jalopnik, and was glad we’d posted about his kid driving the very truck we were in. I made some small talk about how jealous I am of Andrew’s off-road racing attempts, trying to ignore any lingering trepidation about that tall jump with happy thoughts of desert Beetles.
First, Gordon drove over to the jump to double-check that I was really okay with it before he got on with the ride. I think he could smell my fear despite my unwillingness to admit it. But was I going to let an actual zip-tied-on stuffed chicken be less of a chicken than me at this point? No!
“That’s not that bad,” I said. Lies.
Gordon backed up slowly, as if he were about to go back around the jump to start off on the easy, smaller bumps and jumps. To my surprise, he went right into the jump from a distance that looked impossibly close to the big incline, but wasn’t.
My eyes ignored all the dust flying into the windowless cockpit and grew as wide as they could mid-jump. The truck’s nose dipped down at the end just enough to scare the crap out of me, but not nose-dive straight into the pavement. It bounced onto all fours and kept going like a boss.
Later, Gordon admitted that he was tapping the brakes before the truck launched to get the nose down on landing. This also has the effect of filling my view with pavement on the way down. Evil, I say. Evil. But there’s no doubt that the guy knows how to control these trucks.
I burst into giggles after we landed. This truck makes every jump, turn and wheel-lift feel like you’re getting away with something physics shouldn’t allow. Sure, the front is made to be forgiving if you land nose-heavy after a jump, with its minimal front overhang, big tires, and meaty skid plate under the engine. That didn’t make what this truck was doing feel any more based in reality, though.
It’s incredible how short every distance feels when you’re riding in a Stadium Super Truck. With 600 HP moving only about 2,900 lbs of truck, it can get up to speed ridiculously fast, yet the short bursts of rumbles from the LS V8 as it navigated Texas Motor Speedway’s course made it feel like we were moving slower than we probably were. The truck’s pattern of noises reminded me of a really busy autocross course, except we were in a hilariously lean-prone race truck capable of ridiculous speeds.
After a couple laps, I started to get comfortable with Gordon’s driving and how the truck behaved. I even started to get used to the jump! Then he put the truck up on two wheels to show off.
The massive tires’ tall sidewalls let Gordon two-wheel around the infield with ease. Well, at least Gordon made it look easy, after I got over the initial shock that we weren’t going to keep rolling over. If we did roll, it would be a pretty gentle slow-speed roll anyway. I’d have still probably climbed out of the truck laughing like a maniac.
If any one thing sums up my thoughts about Stadium Super Trucks, it would be how my face felt after my ride-along. My mouth was full of sand from grinning too much, and the muscles around it kind of hurt a little like I’d pulled something. But I needed it, badly. It was the most welcome relief I’ve had in some time from the world’s constant stream of bad news and my own general malaise.
Few things bring me as much real, honest joy as ridiculously overpowered race trucks built for sweet jumps and stunts.
When things look their bleakest, just remember: a world where Stadium Super Trucks exist can’t be entirely bad.