United States Hot Rod Association
The United States Hot Rod Association (USHRA) is an organization owned by Feld Entertainment that markets various motorsports. These include monster trucks (Monster Jam and Thunder Nationals) as well as motocross, quad racing and others. According to their own statistics, more than 2.5 million people attended events in 2003.
The USHRA was founded as "Truck-O-Rama" in the late 1970s by Bob George, Ed Thayer, and Tony Vaccaro. By the early 1980s, the company became known as SRO Motorsports, and began promoting events under the USHRA banner. The early events focused on truck and tractor pulling and mud bogging, and were primarily held in stadiums and arenas. Often, specialty vehicles were booked for events as intermission entertainment between competitions. In 1982, one such vehicle, Bob Chandler's Bigfoot, was booked for an event at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was that event, during which Bigfoot drove over a pair of cars in its first stadium car crush, that launched the phenomenon of monster trucks.
In 1985, USHRA held their first monster truck racing event, The Battle of the Monster Trucks, at the Louisiana Superdome. Up to this point, monster trucks had only performed freestyle exhibitions, and although for several years exhibitions would be a part of smaller arena shows, racing became used in all events by the early 1990s.
Although monster trucks grew in popularity throughout the 1980s, the pulling and mud bogging (subsequently known as "mud racing") remained marquee events. Popular pullers included Art Arfons, who competed with the "Green Monster" unlimited tractor, David Willoughby, who pulled with his reputable "Back in Time" modified four-wheel-drive truck, Kenneth and Paula Geuin's Black Gold and Oklahoman four-wheel-drive trucks, Allen Gaines, who had an entire fleet of "Orange Blossom Special" truck pullers, and Gary Collins and his "Budweiser Boss" semi-truck. In mud racing, Tom Martin's "Mud Patrol" and "Super Trooper" police-themed vehicles dominated for several years, while a young Tom Meents began his rise to fame in the "Shake Me" machine.
In 1991, the parent company, now known as SRO/Pace, bought out competitor TNT Motorsports, and in the process acquired the rights to promote events at several more venues, as well as the booking rights to several of their best known trucks, including Carolina Crusher, Equalizer, and, most notably, Grave Digger. These trucks all competed in the "Camel Mud & Monster Series", which ran from 1990 to 1994. By the end of the Camel series, monster trucks were the headlining competitors.
In 1993, USHRA produced the syndicated television show "Monster Wars", which was controversial for its implementation of professional wrestling style characters representing the monster trucks. This was also the year that some events began to be promoted with the name "Monster Jam", which would become the official series name in 1995. 1998 saw competitor USA Motorsports bought out by USHRA's parent, now known as Pace Motorsports, which led to Monster Jam events being shown on TNN's Motor Madness television show. During the Pace Motorsports take-over, the fall of MTEG left an opening for PACE to create the US Off Road Championship Series, which was a stadium truck and buggy competition almost identical to Mickey Thompsons. The following year SFX Entertainment, later Clear Channel Entertainment and now Live Nation took control of the series, which was later sold to Feld Entertainment.
Today, USHRA officially sanctions Monster Trucks, Pro Arena Trucks, Freestyle Motocross, and ATV racing. Pulling was relegated to unlimited tractors by 1999, and eliminated a few years later. Mud racing evolved into sand drags, and again was dropped from a full class in the mid-2000s, although occasional competitions are still held. Monster trucks remain the top bill, and with the addition of freestyle back into events the series now crowns two champions each year. As of 2010 the "USHRA" logo has been dropped from monster jam events.