How did you get started competing on the Monster Jam circuit?
Charlie Pauken: Well, Mike Nichol and Dave Marquart of Excaliber both had street trucks and were close to my brother who also had a street truck. I would occasionally hang out with them. It was a Monster Jam show that inspired them to build a Monster Jam truck of their own. They began building a Monster Jam truck in their one-car garage in their backyard. I remember when I used to get done with my paper route I’d ride by their house while they were slowly building this Monster Jam truck in their yard. It was comical to ride by every day and see them trying to build this big thing in a little one-car garage. But they got it up and running and they’d alternate weekends taking it out and running it because they both had regular jobs. Back then, you couldn’t just drive Monster Jam trucks, a day job was a must. Then one weekend, they were going out to Richmond, Virginia, and asked me if I wanted to go. That was the first show that I went to. I videotaped the driver’s performance and helped him work on the Monster Jam truck. After I saw the show and the excitement it brought to the fans, I was just in awe and it was so cool; I knew that I had to be a part of it. Following that event, I started going on the road with them more and more. Soon after, we went to compete in a TNT race. Dave drove the first day and he told me to drive the second day. This was my first chance to get some seat time….I did all right. The next thing you know, there was a show in New York and they told me to just take the rig and go do it. And here I am, competing on a regular basis. This is how it all got started for me.
What do you enjoy doing while on the road with Monster Jam?
Charlie Pauken: I see Monster Jam as a family experience. Everyone’s cool to hang with. The camaraderie is great. If you need a hand, they are right there to help you. It’s a big family out on the road and we all look out for each other.
What do you do with your free time?
Charlie Pauken: My son, Chuckie, has been involved with quarter midget racing. It puts me right back in a place of being a pit crew member, which has given me a whole new level of respect for our crew. You work so hard on these cars trying to get them just right; and it’s funny because my son will come back to the pit area and tell me it’s not right and it’s doing this and it’s doing that or it’s not fast enough, and here I am trying to cater to him. It’s truly a great experience.
What is your greatest memory as a Monster Jam truck driver?
Charlie Pauken: The greatest memory for me was driving the Excaliber Monster Jam truck when Tim Bush and I had just purchased it. We didn’t have a whole lot of money to purchase a high-end motor or anything like that. Our first event with the new Monster Jam truck took place at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. We rolled up with a one-ton dually, an open bed trailer, among a line of semi-trucks and big rigs, and I’m thinking what am I even doing here. The funny part of all this is that I actually ended up winning the racing event. I never thought that we’d come out of there a winner. Beating one of the best drivers out there was one of the biggest moments for me. To own a Monster Jam truck yourself and go out and compete and to pull off a win in our first show out there meant a lot to me.
Do you have any pre-show rituals that you run though?
Charlie Pauken: I’ve become so relaxed in what I do, but I’m kind of meticulous about what I do. You’ll see me pacing before a show. But then I’ll get into the Monster Jam truck and once I’m in the seat, that’s my comfort zone. People have actually caught me snoozing there in the Monster Jam truck before going out; I’m just that secure in there. The seat holds you in place, I like to say that my ISP seat holds you like somebody cares! It’s wrapped around you, it just feels really comfortable.
What’s your favorite food?
Charlie Pauken: Lasagna
What’s your favorite movie?
Charlie Pauken: The Hangover
What’s your favorite television show?
Charlie Pauken: Family Guy
What’s your favorite color?
Charlie Pauken: Blue