By Gene Axton - [email protected]

Monster Jam takes over Mohegan Sun Arena Feb. 19-21; Lancaster resident Zane Rettew to compete behind the wheel of Stinger

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2007 Monster Jam Freestyle World Champion Pablo Huffaker will drive Grave Digger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows.
Submitted photo
Lancaster native Zane Rettew will drive Stinger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows.
Submitted photo

WILKES-BARRE — Zane Rettew, 29, attended his first Monster Jam event when he was 2. The trucks that competed inside Philadelphia’s Spectrum left an impression on the Lancaster native and influenced his decision to join a Monster Jam crew after his 2005 high school graduation. When Rettew chose to pursue his dream of competing in Monster Jam events like the one at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, his partner in life became his partner in the garage.

“A lot of people that are in this business, they have a side business or something like that that they use to help offset the costs of the truck,” Rettew said. “We didn’t have it, so when my wife and I decided we were going to quit our day jobs and pursue my dream to have a monster truck, who better to help? We actually bought all of our components from builders and assembled the truck like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”

Rettew and his wife, Lindsey, built Stinger, but the truck’s design was left to their then 4-year-old son.

“My oldest son, CJ, he’s 9 now, he saw a cartoon on TV and thought that’d be a cool thing to make a monster truck look like,” Rettew said. “His drawing wasn’t as intricate as the truck ending up being, but he came up with the general idea of it and we sort of just rolled with it.”

Rettew and Stinger worked fair shows and local race track events for four years before they got the invite from Monster Jam in 2014. Stinger was given its first full Monster Jam schedule a year later, and this year both truck and driver are back for another full set of dates.

“Monster Jam is as big as it gets; it’s equivalent to NASCAR or the NFL,” Rettew said. “It’s awesome; we’re running with Grave Digger every single weekend and we’re neck-and-neck. We have a couple wins under our belt this winter and there’s nothing better than going out and beating Grave Digger.”

Grave Digger driver and Monster Jam veteran Pablo Huffaker is one of many competitors standing between Rettew and a victory in Wilkes-Barre. Huffaker was a member of the Grave Digger team for 23 years, and when in 2007 when it was time to debut a new truck, Captain Curse, Huffaker took it to an eventual victory in the Monster Jam Freestyle World Finals.

“I’ve competed in the world finals pretty much every year except the first year they had a world finals,” Huffaker said. “I was a runner-up several times, but in 2007 to be able to pull off a freestyle victory competing against what are truly the best trucks in the world was a highlight in our career for our team to make that accomplishment. It wasn’t as Grave Digger, so we weren’t working off being a fan favorite.”

During this year’s competition, drivers will compete on a new track that’s similar to what Huffaker called the “hybrid track.” The redesign includes a new ramp that launches trucks into the air for big wheelies and enhanced hang time, Huffaker said. As time passes and new drivers enter Monster Jam, the veteran is impressed by their ability to push the boundaries of freestyle competition.

“All of these extreme sports that you see … when I was a kid that stuff was unheard of,” Huffaker said. “They’re bringing that into monster trucks, the fearlessness they have, a lot of ideas and things that they do. It’s helped grow our sport, some of the young, up-and-coming guys really have a lot of talent when it comes to that.”

Rettew is one of those up-and-comers, and considers Mohegan Sun Arena’s Monster Jam events a hometown show. The Stinger driver said he’s going all-out for the friends, family and local sponsors in attendance, but he’s going to have to get through Huffaker’s Grave Digger and other trucks if he wants to add another victory to his second Monster Jam season.

IF YOU GO:

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21.

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

How much: Tickets range from $10 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster outlets or Ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased on-site from the arena’s NBT Bank Box Office.

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

Four shows scheduled throughout the weekend

By Gene Axton

[email protected]

2007 Monster Jam Freestyle World Champion Pablo Huffaker will drive Grave Digger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_Pablo-Huffaker.jpg2007 Monster Jam Freestyle World Champion Pablo Huffaker will drive Grave Digger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows. Submitted photo

Lancaster native Zane Rettew will drive Stinger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_Zane-Rettew.jpgLancaster native Zane Rettew will drive Stinger during Monster Jam’s Feb. 19-21 Wilkes-Barre shows. Submitted photo
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Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

IF YOU GO:

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21.

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

How much: Tickets range from $10 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster outlets or Ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased on-site from the arena’s NBT Bank Box Office.