What happens at a Monster Truck rally

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Monster Jam is back in Denver this weekend, bringing with it some thirty tons of flying truck. You know the basic idea here -- overgrown toys flying over dirt and crushing old junked sedans -- but there's structure to a Monster Jam show that many may not be acquainted with. We break down the mayhem below.

1. Pit Party The shows are preceded by a Pit Party, where fans can go meet the drivers, who will sign autographs and pose for pictures and the like. They can also see the trucks up close. This is incredibly atypical behavior for sports of any type, but it makes a lot of sense. Especially here, where getting up close to the trucks is really the only way to wrap your head around the scale of these things: 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide with 66-inch tires -- each one weighs five tons. And when you're in the stands at the Pepsi Center watching them hurtle over jumps, it's hard to conceive just how huge these things are. The six trucks performing this weekend in Denver are Grave Digger, El Toro Loco, Tasmanian Devil, Stone Crusher, Black Stallion and Iron Warrior.

2. Race The actual show contains three elements; the first is a race. The trucks all do a time trial to be seeded into a bracket, where they compete head to head in elimination rounds. The course is short, obviously, and tests the drivers ability to accelerate on a straight line, turn a ridiculously tight corner, and handle the truck over a jump. Skip to 1:26 in the video below for highlights from last year's world championship.

3. Wheelie Contest Pretty self explanatory -- the trucks each get as vertical as possible. This one sounds lamer than it winds up being because they don't just pull the front wheels of the ground for a bit and then set back down. They fly over jumps vertically, they topple sideways and skid upright for half the length of a football field. Check it out below.

4. Freestyle When you think of a Monster Truck rally, this is what you think of. Each truck gets 90 seconds and an open course filled with obstacles, jumps, and rows and piles of old cars. El Toro Loco driver Bari Musawwir explains the goal of the freestyle: "Just wow the crowd with big jumps. You try and tackle the course with as much momentum, speed and big air as you possibly can," he says. "And you're judged by crowd response." There are three judges in the crowd, and each can award a maximum of ten points. More highlights from last year's world championship below.

There are three shows this weekend at the Pepsi Center. Each is self-contained, so there will be different winners in all three contests for every show. The totals are logged and contribute to the driver's Power Rankings. Which drivers will appear at which shows is mostly a matter of chance and is predetermined.

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