KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – History was made on the second day of Operation Appreciation, the annual Summit Racing-sponsored trip to visit troops overseas. The diverse group of drivers – including Summit Racing NHRA Pro Stock competitors Jason Line and Greg Anderson, Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, and Summit Racing BIGFOOT 4×4® Monster Truck drivers Dan Runte and Larry Swim – spent the day touring Camp Buehring, an installation located in the northwest region of Kuwait. They finished the evening with the first-ever BIGFOOT Monster Truck show for the men and women of our armed forces on station in Kuwait.
Notably, the BIGFOOT 4×4 Monster Truck chassis beneath the Summit Racing desert camo-themed Operation Appreciation fiberglass body is the same one that Runte wheeled to one of the most memorable jumps of his career, the record-setting 202-foot journey over a Boeing 727 jetliner that took place at an aviation show in Smyrna, TN, in 1999.
For Runte, a career of crushing cars with the powerful, loud, and legendary BIGFOOT Monster Truck has been a way of life for 28 years, but his time behind the wheel is coming to an end following Operation Appreciation. The spectacular show at Camp Beuhring was one of two crowd-pleasing events in which he will make jumps and crush cars for the troops as an enthusiastic salute of gratitude for their service.
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Runte retired in April of this year following a fifth consecutive championship season, but he is back in the seat for these two events in the Middle East before fully handing over the reins to Swim. Runte shared his thoughts following the evening show that drew a tremendous crowd and included everyone from commander Lt. Col. Christopher Leung to what appeared to be every soldier off-duty for the night at the 6,000-troop strong installation.
“We’ve talked about bringing a truck over in previous years, but then it came up again last year, and Summit Racing got together with Armed Forces Entertainment and got it done. There is a lot of paperwork, red tape, and preparation you have to go through to make something like this happen, not to mention the cost, so I just thought it was a thought in the wind. But it all came together.
When we found out the truck would be shipping over here sooner than we thought, it was already on schedule for a car crush [the weekend it was supposed to leave]. So we did the car crush on Saturday night, and on Sunday a bunch of us met at the shop, took it out, cleaned off all the dirt and mud, and then put it back together with this new body. On Sunday night it left for Baltimore to begin the trip here.
It came over by boat, and it was a long trip – they told us it would take anywhere from 45 to 60 days, depending on seas. I was nervous when I got a call on Thanksgiving Day from the boss that it was released from Kuwait customs. I was worried we weren’t going to be able to get it to the base before we got here. When it came down to crunch time, we didn’t know if we were going to have it, but everything came together and ended up working out in the end.
It took a lot to get the truck here, but the motivation was there for all of us. The whole reason we did this was for our troops. After 28 years driving and 30 in the business, to be able to say that I’ve been to Kuwait and run over cars in front of our troops is a rare privilege, and one that means a lot to me. That’s heartfelt, and it goes all the way through our group. This trip and this whole experience mean a lot to every one of us.
The guys and gals over here protecting us, they made this possible. We couldn’t have gotten the truck here without them. There were so many people here to see us tonight, and they just kept coming across the desert from the bunkers and the chow hall and everywhere. When the truck came back down to idle, I could hear them cheering – that’s when you know you’ve got a good crowd, and I love them all.
This is emotional. Very much so. It’s pretty intense, and then to get to see everyone and sign autographs and shake hands. I still have an adrenaline rush, and it’s great to be here with the group of guys we’ve got – Jason and Greg, finishing No. 1 and No. 2 in Pro Stock; Eddie and Andrew, they always run hard; I have my partner Larry with me, and our guys Bryan and A.J. This is just an awesome group, all with the same mindset as to why we’re here. We’re here for the troops. You know, we just want to bring some happiness over here for them, and I think we did that tonight.”