Interview with Illuminator’s Jay Snyder

Today I got to chat with Bethesda based monster truck driver Jay Snyder. My son and I first got to witness his truck Illuminator at the Montgomery County Fair three years ago (see video below), and have been trying to keep up ever since. Next weekend at Monster Jam in DC, Illuminator will be competing against Crushstation, Man of Steel, Iron Outlaw, Bounty Hunter, and of course, Grave Digger. I wanted to ask Jay a few questions about driving a monster truck, and he delivered. Check it out.

What is your favorite part about driving a monster truck?
Any opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive is very exciting. Whether it’s on dirt, or a cement track; racing, or in competition, when you put your foot on the gas and anticipate a jump, it makes it all worth it. There’s a lot of time spent calibrating almost every aspect of the truck, from the suspension, to the safety equipment, to the placement of the steering wheel, it’s all exciting when you finally get to drive it. Also, it’s visible in your attitude if you love what you’re doing. People pick up on that, and they can share the joy.

Speaking of driving, what is your favorite thing to run over?
That would have to be a van stack. There’s lots of safety considerations put into all that destruction, but we know how to make it look great.

What’s the craziest place you’ve driven Illuminator, like a fast food drive-thru?
Everyone asks me how great it would be to have a monster truck in rush hour traffic or finding parking when there is none, but the truth is that they’re not street legal, at all. But it is really fun appearing at birthday parties. In your backyard, when you see the size of the truck up against your house, it’s mind blowing.

Give me the specs on Illuminator
It’s a 2008 Ford F250 body, with 565 cubic inch Big M motor, which gives you around 1600 horsepower. It’s 10 feet tall, 12 feet wide and 15 feet long. Illuminator is known for it’s distinctive lighting, but now we have a new chase effect on the lightning bolt, so look for that at the show. Plus Illuminator is great at doing donuts. They make you feel like the king of the world.

We love the Illuminator Hot Wheels truck, what’s in the future for Illuminator?
My son Corey, 20, is my crew chief right now, and my brother comes out on the road with me too, forming the 3 Snyders Racing Team. Corey will be taking over more of the driving duties starting this spring, so that’s exciting too. We just had a show in South Carolina, and there were people cheering for us all the way down there. That was amazing. It’s great having our local fanbase here, but to know that the excitement goes even beyond that is fantastic.

How can interested kids one day drive a monster truck?
One of the greatest things about our country is you really can grow up and do just about anything you dream, if you keep at it, and work at it. If you’re serious [when you finish high school], you can reach out to local teams, and see if you can help out with the crew and go from there. In the meantime, there’s so much you can do to have fun with monster trucks. There are monster truck video games, toys, the Party in the Pits, and there’s nothing quite like the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas. That event is three days in Vegas, completely catered to the fan experience, it’s packed with fun things to do, demonstrations to watch, and drivers to meet. Check it out in March. There’s also tons of information on the internet such as stats on the trucks, the histories of your favorite drivers, videos, photos and more.

You see the families come out… young kids, older kids, moms and dads, and they’re all having a good time. And the experience lasts for hours afterwards too. Just like a good rock concert, you’re all there to just watch and have a great time. Everyone is smiling and happy to be there.

Thanks Jay!

Come out and watch Jay Snyder driving Illuminator at the Verizon Center, and meet Jay at the Party in the Pits on Saturday afternoon. Discount tickets are available at MetroPCS stores in the area. Check out the official Monster Jam event page for more details. I have my favorite pics of Illuminator below, as well as video from the first event I saw Illuminator. This interview originally appeared on our Dad blog NonToxicReviews. Check out all of’s Monster Jam coverage.

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Monster Jam at Verizon Center -2011

2010 MoCo Fair

Scroll to 2:55 to see Illuminator, but the whole thing is awesome

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