When Greg Winchenbach, owner of Bottom Feeder Motorsports in Jefferson, finished his Monster Truck Crushstation in 2009, he had big dreams and aspirations. He never expected he would grow so big, so soon.
After two years on the circuit, he and his “Monstah Lobstah” are crowd favorites across the country and they are winning against some of the biggest names in the industry. “We’ve come quite a ways,” Winchenbach said.
Winchenbach was a huge monster truck fan as a young lad. He started crewing shortly out of high school “for whoever would have me.”
In the mid-1990s he was given the opportunity to drive, which whet his appetite to own his own truck.
He moved back to Jefferson and started his own garage. He bought the frame for Crushstation in 1999, a brand-new Patrick chassis. It collected dust for 10 years, before Winchenbach finished it in 2009. The first time he fired it up, it roared to life and could be heard all over the small town of Jefferson.
The 11,000-lb. Crushstation, with black light eyes, roars into its third season in January, starting with an Advanced Auto Parts Monster Jam event in Manchester, N.H. Jan. 4-6.
He then will head to Detroit and then Toronto to be filmed for Speed TV. “They are going to have a stacked line-up. All the names on TV will be there. To give us a shot at it is pretty cool,” he said.
Crushstation is the only Monster Truck in Maine. “There are only five or six left in New England, and only three or four competing.”
In 2010, Winchenbach participated in 25-30 shows. “You could do more. You could do one every weekend,” Winchenbach said. He has traveled as far west as Missouri, south to North Carolina, and North to Canada. Sometimes he is gone for three weeks at a time. “When you go on the road, you set it up to do in a loop,” He said of packing in as many events on a circuit as he can.
He typically competes against company trucks (corporate). “There are only a few independents, and we’re lucky to be one of them.”
He beat nationally known Grave Digger and Son UVA Digger two out of four times at Bangor Speedway 95 in 2010 in the Wheelie contest.
“When you beat those guys, you know you must be doing something right,” Winchenbach said. He also won two free style contests in the grand finale. “We’re finally making it,” Winchenbach added.
In the wheelie contest, trucks go over a stack of cars, vans or busses, and try to bring their rigs as close to 90 degree vertical as possible. The wheelie contest is all about “who can get their truck straight up and down. I’m one of the top ones in wheelie.”
Each show typically lasts three days and has four events, including wheelie contest, racing over obstacles, donut contest, and freestyle where “you do anything you want for a couple of minutes. We usually do three or four shows a weekend. That’s a lot of shows.”
Winchenbach is constantly tinkering with Crushstation to make it better. He does all the work himself at his Mountain Road Repair shop in Jefferson, where he built her from the frame up.
“We’ve learned a lot. The first time I drove, [in a 2009 demo for LCN] I couldn’t move the next day I was so sore.” Winchenbach has adjusted the shocks, added better padded seats, and made many safety improvements for a safer and more comfortable ride.
He has grown from a four-tire outfit to 14. He has sets of tires, hand buffed to match up with different terrains.
He credits the work of the Maine Truck Racing Association for helping the industry make great strides in improving safety. “They formed a rule book. We meet every year to learn how to make them better and safer. Because of them we have one of the safest sports. We are always trying to improve,” he said.
One of the biggest things MTRA came up with is the remote ignition interrupter. “It should be in every motor sport. If I’m knocked out, a part breaks, or someone comes out in front of me, they can push a button and it kills the power and turns the truck off,” he said.
MTRA also came up with a way to prevent tires from breaking off and flying around at 30 mph with a specially designed rotor system. “They try to get us all on the same page. They inspect us using a check list before every event.” Winchenbach is a licensed MTRA driver.
Of the adventure, Winchenbach said, “you’re an entertainer out there. It’s a fun job until it breaks. When asked how often it breaks, he said, “Almost every time. I’ve been through a few engines. Bob Stevens of Finish Line Engines in Augusta has been helping me with the engines.”
“There are a lot of people helping me. Castle Products, ACI Bearings, Soules Auto Supply, Optima Batteries, and our major sponsor Kim and Reid McLaughlin of McLaughlin Seafood in Bangor.
“They saw the article in the newspaper (2009) and came on board and have been on board ever since. Sponsors keep our team going and we’re proud to say we have a great sponsor in McLaughlin Seafood.”
Crushstation makes several stops a year at the McLaughlin Marina, at 100 Marina Rd., in Bangor. McLaughlin ships lobsters and other seafood around the world.
In two years on the circuit, Winchenbach has rolled Crushstation three times. “Bob Matoon and Tom Bernardi built one incredible tough body. It has only cracked once, and they were able to fix it. I’ve ripped the tail flipper off numerous times. The kids love it when the tail flies off.” He now keeps extra flippers in stock for quick repairs.
Local artist Glenn Chadbourne does all the artwork on Crushstation.
His rookie year in 2010, Greg drove the Monstah Lobstah to 15 wheelie wins, seven racing wins and 7.5 freestyle wins. The combined 14.5 racings and freestyle wins were the most of any rookie in 2010.
In 2011 he won the Atlantic Monster Nationals Wheelie contest in New Brunswick, Canada. In his first major Checker Flag Production Point Series in Trenton, N.J., he beat the “king” Big Foot in two out of three races.
In 2011, Winchenbach and Crushstation moved to the top. He has 30 wheelie wins and 18 free style contest wins. “That’s good, especially against the corporate guys.”
He has been invited to compete in the Monster Jam Series. “They are the best in the business. It is like going from driving on a local track to NASCAR.”
He has been nominated for Rookie of the Year and Driver of the Year.
What’s next for Bottom Feeder Motorsports? “We are working into a two-truck team.”
Crushstation will also be featured in two video games, yet to be released, including Path of Destruction and Urban Assault.
“They have to be the biggest, baddest and run the hardest” against the corporate giants, Winchenbach’s manager and crew chief Kaedon Berry said. If inducted, Crushstation would become the first East Coast truck to make the grade. “Having them think of us is a big deal,” a modest Winchenbach said.
Fans can vote for Crushstation at monstertruckmafia.com. “We have the most votes so far. The contest ends Jan. 1, 2012.