Vicki Widmar
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Bari Musawwir: From RC Racer to Monster Truck Driver

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Zombie Monster Jam truck driven by Bari Musawwir interview

Bari Musawwir is well-known as the driver of the Zombie truck in the East Coast tour of the Monster Jam featuring the AMSOIL Series, but he still fondly remembers his first vehicle, a red 1987 Jeep Cherokee. When asked if he used his first car to practice off-roading, he’ll admit, “Not on purpose, no. But I went off a few snow embankments learning to drive.”

So how did Bari Musawwir go from driving a red Jeep Cherokee to driving the Zombie truck?

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A Short Biography on Monster Truck Driver Bari Musawwir

Zombie monster truck driver Bari Musawwir is the first and only African-American to compete in Monster JamBari Musawwir developed a passion for automobiles at a young age in his hometown of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He spent much of his childhood building plastic car models and turning Legos into custom creations. Musawwir briefly lived in Detroit and it was there at the age of six that he saw his first Monster Jam show. This was the moment he wished he could drive a monster truck once he was older.

As Musawwir grew older, he began to pick up another vehicle-themed interest: hobby-grade remote controlled (RC) model vehicles. This interest turned serious as he started competing in organized racing events.

Although Musawwir took racing RC vehicles seriously, he still kept school a top priority. After graduating high school in 1998, he earned his associates degree in Computer Aided Design. In 2002, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Visualization Technology in Tampa, Florida.

While in Tampa, fate was on Musawwir’s side, as he met Scott Hartsock, a Monster Jam veteran who owned and operated the Gunslinger Monster Jam truck team. Hartsock mentored Musawwir, teaching him about the industry. In the meantime, Musawwir continued to participate in RC car competitions.

Zombie Monster Jam truck driven by Bari Musawwir interview

In 2006, Musawwir was racing at an event in Poplar Branch, North Carolina. This RC vehicle race was held at Diggers Dungeon, home of the world-famous Grave Digger truck. In addition to winning the freestyle competition there, Musawwir made connections with the right people. It was here that Monster Jam’s Bill Easterly took notice of Musawwir’s RC driving skills. The young man was invited to participate in a private Monster Jam truck test session.

When asked if he was scared when first transitioning from RC cars to a Monster Jam truck, Musawwir admits,

The first time was pretty intimidating, I’m not going to lie. It’s was definitely like, “Wow I’m here, I’m doing this, and this is what I want to do, so let’s just go and do it to the best of my ability”… There’s a learning curve there because you control an RC truck from the outside. Being in the Monster Jam truck, I tell people, “I’ve driven these things a thousand times in my mind, but it’s nothing like you think it is. Once you actually get inside the truck and do it—because sometimes a truck has a mind of its own—sometimes you’ve got to let it go where it wants to go first, then you take back over.” That was definitely something I had to learn.

Musawwir did well in the test sections and hoped for a call-back to begin professionally racing Monster Jam trucks. Although the call did not come, he kept in touch with the Monster Jam crew and went to many Monster Jam pit parties with the No Limit RC Monster Truck racing club. During these pit parties, RC racing and freestyle events were held.

Finally, after four years of making connections, Musawwir got another call to test drive.

Zombie Monster Jam truck driven by Bari Musawwir interview

In June of 2008, Musawwir had his second test drive. Even though this endeavor was also a successful drive, it took two more years to finally get “the call.” Almost exactly four years after he first sat behind the wheel of a Monster Jam truck, Musawwir was professionally driving Backwards Bob in Panama City, Panama.

Musawwir has been driving professionally since 2010.

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Now a veteran to the Monster Jam world, Musawwir began his career by winning Rookie of the Year in 2011—his first complete season. He also won the inaugural Young Guns Shootout in 2012, where newcomers to Monster Jam race in Las Vegas as part of the Monster Jam World Finals every year. Musawwir made history and everyone took notice.

According to Bari Musawwir, winning Rookie of the Year “really boosted my confidence. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, even as a kid. My mom took me to my first show when I was six, and it’s just something I’ve always aspired to do. So being awarded [Rookie of the Year] was kind of like icing on the cake: I’m here, I’ve arrived, and now I’ve competed with people I’ve dreamed of competing against. It was like confirmation that this was for me.”

Zombie Monster Jam truck driven by Bari Musawwir interview

Musawwir later became the full-time driver of the Spider-man truck, but since then has switched to the red Zombie truck. He is currently part of the East Coast More Monster Jam tour. He lives in Florida, and although he does not get back to Cleveland as much as he’d like, everyone from Ohio is very willing to travel to Florida.

Musawwir readily believes his experience with RC vehicles has helped him in the monster truck arena. According to him, the RC vehicles are “almost like a simulator because the laws of physics and inertia still apply. You jump an RC vehicle just like you can a real Monster Jam truck. I take that knowledge and experience and apply it to what I’m doing in the monster truck. It really helps out; you can set up for a turn the same way you set up a turn in an RC vehicle, for instance.”

Bari Musawwir has successfully gone on a journey from being an RC racer to monster truck driver, and we at The News Wheel are thrilled to see him continue on his journey as the driver of the Zombie truck.Next-Button

  • Vicki WidmarContributor

    Vicki Widmar is from the small Ohio town of Prospect. As a science and English teacher who also writes curriculum for a post-secondary program for adults with disabilities, Vicki loves writing about a range of topics, including the automotive industry. When not in front of a class or behind a computer, she enjoys being outside and exploring new locations with her husband and her 2014 Hyundai Elantra. Vicki is eager to share her stories with anyone who will listen—including her experience learning to drive in a manual-transmission 1986 Isuzu Turbo.