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Denair's Monster pro switches gears for fair truck pulling
bounty hunter pic1
Monster Truck professional driver Russell Steeley competes in his first truck pulling contest at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds on Friday. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Denair’s Russell Steeley is known by many as a small town celebrity.

For over 13 years, Steeley has enjoyed a steady career as a professional Monster Truck driver, riding the infamous ‘Bounty Hunter’ throughout the country, including a tour of Canada.

The former 2006 Canadian Champion who has beaten the likes of Grave Digger and Big Foot, has seen ups and downs in his career over the years and after a grueling concussion suffered back in May, the local decided to take on a different path—truck pulling.

“It has beaten me up so much,” Steeley, 40,  said of Monster Truck driving. “I broke my back twice and last time I drove two months ago I got a pretty gnarly concussion and I've been looking to do more of a family sport we all decided to get a pull truck.”

With the help of local sponsors and many friends, including Gabe Ramsey and Chett Hammonds, Steeley and his crew were able to assemble a 1992 Chevy pickup and evolve it with a 468 cubic-inch big block that was putting out about 400 horsepower and running on 110 octane racing fuel.

“Everything on it is custom. It’s got a center seat, hydraulic steering and it’s definitely not street legal,” Steeley added. “We've got a couple small sponsors that helped and a lot of local people, and if it weren’t for them I would not be here competing.”

When Steeley was younger, he told his parents that one day he would be competing at the Turlock Arena in a Monster Truck and little did he know that he would make his dream come true — first in truck pulling on Friday and then one last time on his Monster Bounty Hunter in May 2016.

For Friday's pull, he converted the Bounty Hunter name and implemented in on his ’92 Chevy.

“Not many can say that’s my Monster Truck name as well and I feel like I got the best of both worlds,” Steeley said.

Steeley recently competed in the Monster Truck Spectacular at the Montreal Stadium in May and finished in first place, beating out the recent World Champion Mikey Vaters of Overkill Evolution.

However, this was not like any other victory.

“My last show I did I won the show and beat three world champions, but it’s also where I suffered the concussion,” he added. “I landed wrong and hit my head in the back of the seat and it gave me an instant headache; I started seeing dots and my head was ringing.

“I don’t remember much of the freestyle but whatever I did I won. I actually had to go back and watch it to know what I did because everyone was shaking my hand it was kind of bittersweet because I didn’t enjoy it like I wanted to but I got to walk away with the trophy,” said Steeley.

In Friday’s truck and tractor pulling event at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, Steeley placed fourth after blowing off a coolant line off and had to stop.

“I just want to thank my family and my girlfriend Dora, who put up with me working late at night on trucks rather than being home like I should be,” he said. “So there are a lot of people that have helped me out and understand what I am trying to do and I just want to thank them a lot.”

Steeley will officially retire from Monster Trucks after his last show, which is scheduled to be at the fairgrounds arena in the spring.

“I can say that my body hurts from something really cool that I got to do and live my dream since I was a little kid because it was a dream,” he added.