February 6, 2014

From little cars to monster trucks

Kids want to be like Bari Musawwir, even if they don’t know his story.

Kids want to be like Bari Musawwir, even if they don’t know his story.

Musawwir drives the Spider-Man truck in Monster Jam, which will be at Colonial Life Arena Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8. But more than that, he represents the dream of every kid who ever got a remote control car for a birthday or Christmas.

Musawwir went from directing toy-sized trucks with a radio controller around scale-model tracks to driving monster trucks over a bump-studded course in packed arenas. That’s a unique career arc, but Musawwir insists it was his goal all along. “I just didn’t know how I’d do it,” he says.

Radio-controlled trucks were more than a pastime for Musawwir, who designed his own line of after-market parts and formed a racing promotions company. At one of the radio-controlled events Musawwir helped organize, Monster Jam senior director of operations Bill Easterly noticed his driving skills.

Even though Musawwir had no experience driving in full-sized motorsports competition, Easterly asked him to test his skills on the big trucks during a private Monster Jam session. He did better than anyone expected, and after more test drives and several years of waiting, Musawwir finally got the call to drive the Backwards Bob truck at an event in 2010.

Turns out he is as skilled with a big steering wheel as with a remote controller, and he has been a staple in Monster Jam ever since.

“Certain things translate (from the little vehicles to the big ones),” Musawwir says. “The laws of inertia still apply. It’s just you’re in the truck now, so you have to drive by feel as well as by sight. But it’s the same laws of physics.”

Of course, the other big difference is the danger. He’s inside a big piece of machinery that flies through the air and sometimes slams into other big pieces of machinery. But with all the special equipment designed to keep drivers safe, Musawwir says he’s more sore after sleeping with his neck in an awkward position than he is after a weekend of driving monster trucks.

Musawwir, 33, loves to talk about his background, and he gets plenty of chances. He and the other Monster Jam drivers routinely meet before and after events with fans, some of whom know his background, and some of whom don’t.

“I drive Spider-Man, and that’s a kid draw in itself,” he says.

If they want to talk about his unusual route to the Monster Jam team, he uses that as an example that they should follow their dream – even if they don’t really know how they’re going to get there.


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