Greg Winchenbach, of Jefferson, has spent a lifetime dreaming, building, and driving monster trucks. His goal now is to watch his two sons, Zachary and Nathan, take over driving responsibilities while he watches from the sidelines.
Nineteen-year-old Zachary “Scoob,” a 2022 graduate of Medomak Valley, just completed his first year of competing in monster truck Lumberjack. Like his older brother, 13-year-old eighth grader Nathan “Little Boy” has already started driving the trucks in the dooryard and loading and unloading them off their large trailer, which will haul two of the monsters.
Just out of high school, it was Jesse Birgy who gave Greg the opportunity to drive his first monster truck, which was named Playing for Keeps. Greg worked hard and saved enough money to purchase parts and eventually built his own monster truck, Crushstation. When Crushstation fired up 15 years ago, the roar of the 1,200 horsepower engine could be heard all over Mountain Road in Jefferson.
The wear and tear of climbing in and out of the giant truck, driving the big rig, and rollovers and physical mechanical work is beginning to wear Greg out. And nothing has pleased the father more than watching his two sons show an interest in the sport. The three gearheads love working on anything with a motor, especially a monster truck. From an early age, anything motorized driven by the boys, from a snowmobile, four-wheeler, or dirt bike, was repaired by them with help from their father.
“I definitely knew I had the craziest dad (growing up),” Zachary said. “Everything we have done together has been motorized. He taught me how to drive and fix it.”
Greg and Zachary compete head-to-head on the Monster Truck Throwdown circuit. Greg competes in Crushstation, a lobster shaped monster truck, and Zachary in Lumberjack, which looks like a logging truck. Crushstation has three bodies, the traditional red lobster, a blue lobster for special occasion, and an unbaked (green) shell.
Lumberjack’s chassis was originally in Crushstation. The chassis and engine have been upgraded over the years. Crushstation houses a 1,500 horsepower motor, while Lumberjack has a 2,000 horsepower motor.
The new chassis in Crushstation is built lower to the ground with a lower center of gravity.
“It is supposed to run better and be easier to drive. You have to work harder to make it do what you want. For racing, it is faster,” Greg said.
In 2022, while doing a show in Michigan, Greg surprised his son Zachary when he told him it was his turn to drive.
“It was a big place and the people were a long ways away,” Greg said. “I did not tell him in advance. He did an awesome job.”
Prior to that moment, Zachary had worked hard as a crew chief and had driven trucks in the yard.
“It was our biggest show of the year. I was a little scared,” Zachary said.
“You can’t see way up there in the air. You have to understand how big the truck is. Once he proved he could maneuver the truck with no close calls, that’s when I gave him the chance,” Greg said.
“As soon as I got strapped in and hit my first jump, I knew I had found my calling,” Zachary said. “It is a big adrenaline rush. Just hearing it start up with its 1,500-horsepower motor. That’s a lot. Not every kid gets to do that.”
Unlike his father, Zachary has never rolled a monster truck.
“He came close a couple of times. I’ve been upside down at least 100 times,” Greg said.
They split driving time in 2022, but in 2023, Zachary had earned the right to drive Lumberjack. The two do 20-plus events a year, all over the country.
Greg said the most fun monster truck he ever drove was Crushstation, the first one he built from scratch. He has performed at Spud Speedway in Caribou for 15 straight years and “every indoor civic center in New England.” He loves to perform in New England in front of hometown fans, especially at local fairs like Topsham and Windsor and at local raceways.
“It is fun anytime you are home,” Greg said.
Greg said their goal is to make it through a show without breaking anything and to put on a good show.
He, the boys, and their Pomeranian, Little Dog, travel together, sometimes driving 10 hours or more to get to a venue. Greg estimated it takes three to four hours to unload the monster trucks, and get the trucks ready before a show, including the pre-show pit party and interviews. It takes an hour alone just to unload the trailer.
“Everything is big and heavy,” Greg said. “You’re jumping around checking the truck, putting your fire suit on and climbing into the truck. It wears you out.”
Typically they perform two shows a day and have three hours to fix anything that breaks.
When Greg first started in the business, he had four tires, a truck, and no spare parts. Now they have two trucks, four motors, four transmissions, and an “endless” supply of front ends and rear ends, tires, and tools, he said.
Loading their trailer has to be done like clockwork. Both trucks fit in the trailer, but first tires have to be loaded up front, tools have to be laid out meticulously on the floor, and the trucks have to be driven up custom made ramps above the tools once smaller wheels have been put on. Greg designed an elevator system in the truck to load the tires.
For Zachary, his favorite trip was with his dad and brother to Michigan where they performed four shows in three and a half weeks. He enjoyed the competition, hanging out with friends, meeting new friends, and fixing the trucks “if needed.”
Zachary’s favorite event is freestyle, when he can do what he wants “to please the crowd.” One of his biggest thrills was when he drove up a dirt ramp and jumped the bus from its nose to the back without destroying the truck.
Both father and son love to do wheelies. Greg loves to push the envelope, and put Crushstation past vertical and “hit the back wheeler and bring it back down.”
“You see nothing but clouds and you don’t know where you are going,” Zach echoed.
Nathan’s role is as an apprentice, helping move equipment, set up the big rigs, and assisting with repairs. One responsibility he has is to fill the monster trucks with fuel between shows.
Greg estimates he goes through 30-40 gallons in Crushstation per show.
“(Nathan) always has to add 15 gallons between shows to get me through,” Greg said. “He has to do it in a quick minute. He has to dump it in in a hurry.”
While putting gas in the truck doesn’t sound like a big task, it is the kind of responsibility and attention to detail that will someday land his younger son behind the wheel of a monster truck.
Like doing a pre-flight on an airplane, starting a monster truck has to be done in a certain sequence.
“Just starting it is a routine. You have to do it in a certain order. You have to push buttons and pay attention,” Zachary said.
If things are not done in the right sequence “you risk damage to the motor, and that can be an expensive mistake,” Greg said. “There is not a nut or bolt we don’t look at,” Zachary added.
In his first full season, Zachary has seen success, winning freestyle, racing, and wheelie events. But, he has yet to beat his father.
“I’m never going to let him,” Greg said.
The shows play up the competition between father and son, especially when they go head-to-head in the finals.
Greg has not revealed all his driving secrets to his sons, as he wants them to figure things out on their own.
There is one thing about driving a monster truck Zachary knows for sure.
“There is nothing that compares to it,” he said.