When Elvis Lainez was 2, he went to his first monster truck show at the Houston Astrodome.
“My mom just took me having no idea what it was,” he said. It was just a fun night out for the family.
When driver Tom Meents stuck a vertical wheelie and landed on a school bus, the crowd went wild. And from that moment, Lainez knew he wanted to be a monster truck driver.
Now Lainez is 21 and driving El Toro Loco. He’ll be in Spokane next weekend for the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at the Spokane Arena.
Triple Threat means Lainez and the other drivers won’t just be driving trucks – they’ll also be competing on ATVs and speedsters.
“It’s kind of like a triathlon. It’s pretty hectic, and it’s a lot of fun,” Lainez said.
And being in an arena, versus a stadium, ramps up the competition, he said. “With the small space, you kind of have to get creative.”
This is Lainez’s second season as a driver. As a kid, he stayed focused on his goal. He started helping out at shows at age 15, first in his hometown of Houston, then traveling to other shows.
“It was all in hopes of getting my name out there and also just kind of wanting to know more about these trucks,” he said. “That was one of the ways to get in, to get your name out at shows, to show them that you want to be there.”
It worked for Lainez. When he turned 18, they asked him if he wanted to drive. While he was still in high school, he auditioned. Then he went to Monster Truck University for about six months of training. Along with driving, he’s also pursing an engineering degree online.
“Hard work gets you anywhere no matter what color you are, what languages you speak. Hard work gets noticed regardless.”
And while he didn’t get to choose his truck, Lainez said he thought El Toro Loco was a good match. Lainez grew up in Houston, is Latino and speaks Spanish (his parents emigrated from Central America before he was born), and El Toro Loco was created by a Latino driver from Texas.
As a longtime fan of the sport, he just wants to have fun, he said. “That’s my ultimate goal.”
He recommends fans come early for the pit parties when they can come down and walk on the track, meet drivers and see trucks and other vehicles up close – and get pictures with the trucks and drivers.
And, he said, this will be the first time in Spokane one of the trucks does a backflip.
“It’s just crazy what we’re able to do with these trucks and the joy it brings to people.”
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