After 2-1/2 years away, Bendzick returns to Monster Truck circuit

Jim Bendzick of New Prague shows off his new monster truck, “Rollin’ Thunder,” which will make its debut at the Monster Jam in Des Moines, IA, this weekend. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

After 2-1/2 years away from the Monster Truck circuit, Jim Bendzick decided he missed the sport and decided to get back into it.

Bendzick, who recently moved back to his hometown of New Prague after living in Faribault for the past 30 years, spent six months building his new truck, “Rollin’ Thunder.” It is set to make its debut at the Monster Jam in Des Moines, IA, this weekend, and will be at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on January 19.

Bendzick spent nearly 10 years developing and competing with his monster truck at events throughout the country. He decided to get out of the business about three years ago and sold his truck and equipment.

“I missed doing it, and decided about six months ago to get back into it,” he said. Bendzick, who operates a tractor parts business and owns a storage facility north of New Prague, says working with a Monster Truck is not a hobby.

“It started as a backyard toy, but became a business,” he said. He primarily stays in the Midwestern States due to the cost of hauling the truck to the different events.

He spent 2-1/2 years building his first truck, beginning in 1999, which made its debut at an event in Mankato in December, 2001.

This truck is the fourth one he has built, and he spent 1,500 hours on it over the past six months. After each show, he will spend two days going over the truck part-bypart to make sure everything is ready for the next outing.

The trucks are built to soar high above the ground, something Bendzick says people can’t really appreciate from the stands or from watching on TV.

“The cab is 16 feet off the ground, and on some of these jumps, you are 25 feet in the air,” he said.

One change for him is the name of the truck. His first three trucks were named “Rolling Thunder.”

“I had been tossing out a few names, trying to decide what to call the truck. One day I was in church, and the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ was sung. There is a line in there about the ‘Rolling Thunder,’ and I said ‘That’s it!’”

The name had been trademarked and was used in merchandising... He has several Hot Wheel Monster Jam toys in his office.

When he sold his truck and got out of the business, he let the trademark lapse on Rolling Thunder and was not able to use that name anymore. So he dropped the “G” and named his new truck “Rollin’ Thunder.”

He says his son Tyler, 22, has been helping him build the truck, with support from daughter Jessica and girlfriend Debbie Ann.

“Tyler really enjoys it. He wants to be a driver some day. He works as my pit guy.”

The winter Monster Truck season goes from December through March, and he is booked for a number of shows, almost on a weekly basis. He’s hoping to be invited to an event at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in February and to the series finale in Las Vegas, NV, March 20-22.