Joe Sylvester is a determined man. Keeping his right foot planted while a 1,200-horsepower, 512-cubic-inch supercharged engine wails in his ear and a dirt ramp rapidly fills up his vision takes guts. It requires supreme confidence in your machine and your team. Joe Sylvester is a determined man because he wants to do something which no one else has done. Mr. Sylvester's goal is to take a monster truck... and make it fly.
Lots of folks in this country remember a time when they attended a monster truck event. It's an American rite of passage no matter which part of this country you live in. These events turn an average Sunday into a Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY! The vendors charge for the whole seat but as kids we only needed the edge. The sights and sounds stirred emotions in one's soul, which created lasting effects into adulthood.
The monster truck world may have peaked in September of 1999, when Dan Runte drove the iconic Big Foot off a ramp and over a Boeing 747. That jump put him in the record books when his tires touched down 202 feet from where they left the Earth. Joe was 15 years old when he watched a truck turn into a plane and it made a lasting impression.
Now 26, Sylvester is an adult employed in the monster truck industry. He started working with the beasts in 2005 and by 2006 had his own team. He is now the youngest independent driver and owner in the professional monster truck world. Joe is a fortunate man who gets to live out his dream. He travels the country, and often the globe, with his skilled team and his monster truck known as Bad Habit.
Living the dream is not simply enough for this adrenaline junkie. Joe is a determined man and he has an idea scratching at his brain. It's been 11 years since the world saw a man make the impossible happen and Joe Sylvester was ready to change that. That idea itching away at him? Take Bad Habit and break Big Foot's long distance jump record.
Related GalleryBad Habit World Record Jump
Taking a 10,200-pound truck and launching it into the air is no easy task. OK, it's easy if you don't care about landing safely. Sylvester wanted to break a record and be around to talk to about it afterward. Joe and his team crafted their ramp and did numerous speed tests. Practice jumps were going well and the team was excited for their chances – until one bad practice jump. The problem with turning a truck into a plane is that it prefers to stay on the ground. Bad Habit took off from the dirt ramp during practice and played the part of a bird until it came time to come in for the landing. The nose pitched down and the front end got a personal introduction to Pennsylvania soil. The wreck looked horrific. As we said earlier though, Joe has confidence in his truck and team – and he simply unbuckled his harness and climbed out of Bad Habit unharmed. Joe may have been fine, but the truck was in rough shape. You know by now that Joe is a determined man. His team is just as determined and the whole crew put their heads down and got to work. Putting Bad Habit back together required 17-hour shifts for seven days straight.
All that hard work paid off and both Joe Sylvester and Bad Habit were soon ready to make their leap into history. It was raining the day prior, but on Sunday (Sunday, SUNDAY) September 5th, 2010, the sun came out and the ground dried up. The crowds began filing in to experience the Cornfield 500. It's a day of lots of various motorsports events but only one lay heavy on everyone's mind. Everyone knew about the crash a week before but the focus today was on a successful takeoff and landing. With the crowd watching, Joe lined up Bad Habit and floored it. He hit 75 miles per hour before leaving the ground and flew 195 feet before coming back to it. The old record was laughing him the face. Sylvester and crew let Bad Habit cool down for a bit but were determined to grab history. It was time for another shot. Joe Sylvester pointed his truck toward the ramp and watched the speedometer climb to 79 mph. Bad Habit flew.
Driver and truck reconnected with this planet 208 feet away from where they left it.
The new official long distance record for a monster truck is 208 feet. The names attached to that are one 26 year-old Joe Sylvester and his truck, Bad Habit. Joe is a determined man... who is now a world-record holder.
We caught up with Mr. Sylvester and had a few questions for him regarding this amazing feat.
AB: What goes through your head before leaving the ramp?
JS: I am incredibly focused and confident. There are not many thoughts going through my head actually, just a ton of adrenaline! I am an adrenaline junkie, its my drug... I do not drink, smoke, and I sure don't do drugs... adrenaline is my addiction!
AB: What does it feel like to fly a 10,200-lb truck some 208 ft through the air and how long were you actually in the air? How high were you off the ground?
JS: I am not sure how long I was actually in the air, although during my test run where I crashed, I was about 60 feet high and cleared 195 feet distance... and it felt like an eternity. During my actual record breaking jump, I was about half that height. It is a rush that cannot be explained.
AB: How did you feel after that practice jump crash?
JS: Honestly? I was pissed! It just fueled my fire all the more to get that record. We started working that night on fixing the truck and continued to work 17 hours a day 'till Sunday to get it back together.
AB: Did that crash affect your nerves at all?
JS: It did not affect me negatively at all. I like to concentrate on positive energy and when something bad happens, I just put my head down and get to work. I donlt like to make excuses, I just like to make things happen.
AB: Finally, what is it like to put the pedal down on a 1,200-horsepower engine and what does it sound like?
JS: Once again, it is a rush! Monster trucks are big, fast, heavy, violent machines! Mashing the pedal pushes you into the seat, and to go almost 80 mph in one and then hit a jump is probably enough to make a normal person go into cardiac arrest! It's very loud and intense!
You can watch the herculean effort of Joe, Bad Habit, and his entire team by heading over to DirtVision.com (a pay-per-view site). You can also help Joe Sylvester and Bad Habit in future endeavors because they are on the hunt for sponsors and every bit helps. Head to Joe Sylvester Motorsports if you are interested.