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Brussels sprout farmer and monster truck driver Dan Rodoni says the giant tires--costing upwards of $4,000 each--can't be put on the truck until after he arrives at the event site because the truck won't fit into the transport truck with the giant tires. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ -- When the huge monster trucks thunder into the O.co Coliseum on Saturday for the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, you will find Santa Cruz resident Dan Rodoni behind the wheel of "The Patriot."

Rodoni will compete alongside the likes of "Devastator," "Destroyer," and "El Toro Loco" at Saturday night's show.

"I always knew that it was something I wanted to do," Rodoni said of the massive trucks.

And while monster trucks are a rare sight in Santa Cruz, Rodoni said he's had a passion for the trucks as long as he can remember.

"Santa Cruz is not typically a big motorsport town, though there are definitely some fans."

Rodoni got his big break while working at his business, Central Coast Four Wheel Drive in Santa Cruz.

A friend and a member of the Maximum Destruction team presented Rodoni with the opportunity to fulfill his dream.

"He told me they had four trucks, and if I was serious to come along and get my hands dirty, see if I like it," Rodoni said.

That was when Rodoni was 32. Two years later, he was behind the wheel. Now, at age 44, he's in his 10th season.

"Monster Jam has become entertainment," Rodoni said. "We're there for the fans.

His current two-truck operation is in the process of building another. But there's one problem: Weekend racing occupies a good portion of his day.


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"If I could work on it full time, I would have it up and running in four months," he said.

Rodoni won the Monster Jam Rookie of the Year award in 2005, and has been tearing up the professional monster truck circuit ever since.

For Rodoni, a third generation Brussels sprout farmer, the Monster Jam on Saturday is something of a homecoming.

But the Monster Jam circuit will keep Rodoni on the road in the next few weeks and months. After this weekend's show in Oakland, there's a stop in El Paso, Texas. And down the road, Rodoni plans to compete in Reno, Nev., and Fresno, among other places.

If local fans can't get to Oakland, there's a stop in Salinas on May 18-19.

Monster Jam competitions are divided into two main events, racing and freestyle. Rodoni and "The Patriot" will be competing in freestyle Saturday.

"I used to be a racer, but now I do freestyle," he said.

Freestyle is less structured than racing, and consists of the driver basically doing whatever he or she can imagine doing in a super-charged monster truck.

"Depending on venue, freestyle is usually about 60 to 100 seconds to do whatever you want, whether it be jumps, wheelies or doughnuts."

The Santa Cruz driver said he's looking forward to the Oakland event. "I'm just going to run the truck into the ground," he said. "I can't wait to see 35,000 to 40,000 screaming monster truck fans."

If You Go

Oakland Monster Jam

What: Monster truck rally in Oakland
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: O.co Coliseum in Oakland
Cost: Tickets range from $12.50 to $15 for children ages 2-12; $15 to $30 for adults; total access pass $125
Information: www.monsterjam.com