Our Q&A Interview with Monster Truck Driver Bari Musawwir
The driver of the crowd-favorite Zombie monster truck speaks to The News Wheel
Although monster truck racing may have begun with a “country boy” reputation, the high-power motorsport is starting to cross boundaries and break stereotypes thanks to the efforts of people like Bari Musawwir. The first African-American monster truck driver, Bari didn’t grow up in motorsports but instead approached it after studying graphic design in college. Now, a decade into his driving career, Bari has earned a place in the arena as the official driver of the Zombie truck.
The News Wheel sat down with Bari to ask him about his experiences as a monster truck driver and how leaving Spider-Man for Zombie has affected his career.
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TNW: You were driving the Spider-man Monster Jam truck until last year before transitioning to driving Zombie. Tell us about that transition.
Bari: “I drove Spider-man for two years. I was selected to drive that truck the year after I won Rookie of the Year. We had a great run with that team and did it for three years.
“Now, we’re in Zombie, which is unbelievably popular. I can’t believe it myself. I mean, zombies are ‘in’ right now, as far as the mainstream media. The truck looks like a zombie—it even has the arms—and we have the crowd doing the “zombie arm dance” all night. It’s really cool to see.
“The fans actually voted it in to be one of the next tucks to hit the circuit back in 2013, and there was a web poll held for the fans to choose which design they wanted to see next. Zombie was the top vote-getter, and the Monster Jam art department turned out the Zombie design. It’s been a big hit ever since. It definitely has a face that only a mother can love.”
TNW: How does driving Spider-man compare to driving Zombie? Is it different at all?
Bari: “It’s not very different from a driving perspective. I would say the first time I climbed into the truck and saw it had arms, and I started moving it, I was like, “Whoa, look at these things waving around as I’m driving it.” After I got used to it, I didn’t even pay attention to the arms anymore; I just focused on the job at hand. Sometimes the fingers break off or the whole hand will break off—just like a zombie. But man, the people react [to it].”
TNW: Do you have to fix the truck every time after those things break?
Bari: “I have a pit crew that takes care of everything. I don’t have to touch it unless I want to, but they make sure everything is ready to go for each show. We pretty much have to replace the arms every week that we run the truck. They don’t really last that long, but the people love to see the fingers and hands fall apart.”
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Bari: “Spider-man was a global brand with Marvel and the whole superhero mystique was awesome. There are so many people who recognized Spider-man. The movies that came out really helped its popularity. It was sad when I had to climb out of that one, but Zombie was a whole new world, and the fans embraced me. They remembered what I did in Spider-man, so it just carried over. With Zombie, I’m going to try to increase the popularity of it as much as I can.”
TNW: Which of the three vehicles do you prefer driving the most: the speedster, truck, or ATV?
Bari: “You know, the truck is always going to be my passion for sure, but the speedster is actually a lot of fun. They’re agile, nimble, and you can switch them between two-wheel and four-wheel drive. We do a lot of cool stuff with them, and so far I’ve gotten quite a few wins with both the speedster and the truck this season. The ATV I’m still a rookie at, so it takes some time to learn how to control that. Those things are pretty labor intensive; you definitely have to hold on.”
TNW: Do you get to pick the music that plays while you are performing?
Bari: “No; when Zombie came out, I was still driving Spider-man and I got added to the team the year after. The team had already picked Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music. It actually fits well.”
TNW: Do you have any particular artists or songs you listen to before a show to get your mind ready?
Bari: “Not really; I’m pretty laid back. Until I get into the truck, or the speedster, or ATV itself, I’m pretty calm going through the motions. I like to joke around a lot with my friends and peers; that’s probably what you’ll find me doing more so than anything—just laughing and having a good time.”
TNW: What has been your favorite moment in your entire career?
Bari: “It had to be when I won the Young Guns Shootout in Las Vegas at the World Finals [in 2012]. That’s what put me on the map when it came to driving these Monster Jam trucks because that’s the biggest show in the world, as far as Monster Jam is concerned. People come from all over the world to see it. Besides the fans, my family was there: Mom, Dad, and my wife, so it was really cool to be able to accomplish that in front of them.”
TNW: What’s the worst thing that has happened to you at a show? Have you been injured?
Bari: “No, I’ve never been injured. These trucks are really safe. They actually have a custom-made, tailored seat that fits each driver’s body. They take measurements of your body and build a seat around that. You can hardly move once you’re strapped in. Once you got your helmet and seatbelts on, you can’t hardly move, so that’s what makes it safe. You “become one with the truck,” as I like to call it. I’ve never been injured; just a few wrecks that hurt my pride. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to getting hurt. I’m fortunate, knock on wood; I’ve never broken a bone in my life. It’s just one of those things where all my peers have been, but I’ve never been stung by a bee even.”
TNW: What is the most incredible trick you have ever performed?
Bari: “The back flip is by far. It’s wild to be able to flip a 10,000-pound Monster Jam truck completely vertical, upside-down, and back on the tires—I just never would have thought that you can do it. That’s definitely a rush. It happens so fast you get disoriented, but one thing I’ve learned is that if you can see the dirt out of the windshield, then you’re in good shape.”
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.