Jeff Murphy is addicted to monster trucks.
The 45-year-old driver from Pine Prairie works all year to race for three months on the Monster Jam circuit — the major leagues of monster trucks.
That’s three months full of sleepless nights repairing his truck, nonstop travel and catching air with his truck called Fatal Attraction.
Driving the powerful, 12-foot-tall, custom-built truck is like climbing into “a top-fuel dragster,” Murphy said.
“If you ever do it once, it gets in your blood,” he said. “Strapping into a 1,600-horsepower truck that you put 30 feet in the air, that’s fun. That’s my escape.”
Murphy and his truck will appear Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Monster Jam show at the Baton Rouge River Center, where the top monster trucks will crush cars, pop wheelies, cut doughnuts and fly through the air.
Driving a monster truck on the country’s top circuit isn’t a full-time job. For nine months of the year, Murphy works drilling lines and installing fiber optic cable. That helps feed his monster truck habit.
Every week during his three-month tour with Monster Jam, Murphy has to spend $1,500 or more to repair and replace parts. An engine can run $50,000, and he has no sponsors to pay for it.
His crew during the work week and in the pits at truck shows is his two younger brothers, Justin and Ryan.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit family,” Murphy said. “You have to be to stay together that much.”
They started working together two decades ago in a much less expensive sport.
At 19, Murphy began mud racing in an 800-horsepower 1972 Ford Bronco. He raced mud tracks throughout the South, then decided to adapt the Bronco for bigger truck racing shows in arenas.
But the Bronco didn’t hold up to the bigger obstacles and couldn’t launch 15 or 20 feet in the air.
“We were snapping our front ends in half and got hurt two or three times,” Murphy said.
Murphy and his brothers eventually decided to build their own monster truck. It took more than three years and a quarter of a million dollars.
In 2010, he started competing with Fatal Attraction, a nod to the irresistible pull he feels to compete in motorsports.
“At one point, I wanted to get away and not do this,” Murphy said. “But it always pulls you back.”
Even though racing monster trucks becomes expensive and time-consuming, Murphy enjoys the travel and camaraderie.
“You’re everywhere with this,” he said. “You meet people all over. It’s great people, different cultures and different foods.”
Racing every weekend gets tough. Crashes don’t hurt too much because of the safety precautions and his truck’s built-in roll cage.
“You have some mornings when you’re sore,” Murphy said. “Every time you hit something, it’s like a crash. We’ll run at a van at 40 mph and broadside it.”
The soreness, the expenses and the days on the road aren’t enough to pull Murphy away.
“I’m living the dream,” he said.