Throughout his more than two decades, Dan Patrick has become one of monster truck racing’s most influential personalities. On July 30, Patrick will bring the brute force of his Samson truck to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness presented by Beef O’ Brady’s Family Sports Restaurant.

Patrick, who began competing in motorsports at the age of 17, started his career behind the wheel of various tractor pullers. One of his machines, Warlord, was so popular, Playskool developed a toy replica for kids across the country. In the mid-80s, and after several years on the pulling circuits, Patrick noticed a new fad was starting to overshadow the tractor pull events. It didn’t take him long to decide he wanted to take part.

“Monster trucks were becoming more popular,” Patrick said from his Ohio race shop. “We did less pulling because the trucks were becoming more popular, so we just started doing that. I bought my first truck, the original Samson, from Don Maples. He didn’t want to get in to racing and had just built a new truck, which was a copy of one of the Bigfoots.

“We bought that and I got started. Bob Chandler (creator of Bigfoot) hired me to build a chassis for him. There was such demand I decided to come back to Ohio and build chassis on my own.”

Through his own Patrick Enterprises, he built more than 70 chassis for many of his competitors. Many of his innovations are still in use today.

“We’ve been very blessed,” he said. “We were the first building chassis for other teams. Now there are others because the industry is growing…To this day, our closest competitor does probably 10 percent of what we do. We have a big share of the marketplace, but we are still there for our customers who call on a Saturday night asking us to help them figure out a problem.

“We have been the first to create a lot of things for the industry. We might not be the one to get the credit, but we have had a lot of milestones in the industry. We are very fortunate.”

Patrick is also one of the pioneers of the 3-D body craze, which is more prominent now than ever. The 3-D bodies allow truck owners to create bizarre and unusual themes for their machines. Patrick, playing off his truck’s unique name, developed “Samson-like” muscular 3-D arms which stick out over the front of the truck.

“The idea came to me because we were always changing sponsors and it was hard for the promoters to book us because we never had the same thing on the truck,” Patrick explained. “We got involved with the American Gladiators TV show and that is when we decided to do something different. There was one other 3-D truck out at the time, Snake Bike. I wanted something that people would remember, so that is when we came up with the concept of the 3-D arms.”

At the Bristol event, fans will be able to get up close with several of the famous 3-D creations during the free pit party. In addition to Patrick’s Samson, fans will be able to see Brutus, modeled after a dog, and Spider-man, based on the famous superhero. The other trucks in the show, including Grave Digger, also will be part of the pre-race pit party. Patrick says the parties are one unique feature of monster truck events.

“With the pit party,” he said, “fans can come down and visit with us and look at the trucks. We can talk and they can ask questions. They can tell us whether we are their favorite driver or not. They are just excited about being there. It becomes more of a one-on-one thing and that is why the pit parties and events get better every year.”

Patrick said the Bristol event is one he always circles on the calendar due to the excitement of the fans in attendance.

“This is my fourth or fifth time to Bristol,” he said. “The fan base gets larger and everyone is appreciative when we come to Bristol. The fans make you feel at home, and everyone at the track makes you feel like family. It is a great experience for us to come. It is one of the shrines of motorsports and it is just a cool place to come to. When you tell people you get to race at Bristol, they are like, ‘That is really cool.’”

Fans can meet Patrick and all of the drivers, as well as pose for pictures with all the trucks, during the pre-event pit party which begins at 6 p.m. on the backstretch of BMS. The pit party is free to anyone with an event ticket.

Trucks currently scheduled to appear alongside Samson include Grave Digger, Spiderman, Avenger, Brutus, Gunslinger, Stone Crusher and Bristol’s own War Wizard.

Trucks will race around the Bristol Motor Speedway infield during two qualifying rounds. Racing eliminations will begin after qualifying is complete.  After the racing champion is crowned, the trucks return for everyone’s favorite event, freestyle. In freestyle, drivers will perform stunts and moves fans normally see on TV.

In addition, the Team FMX freestyle motocross team will put on a stunning display of awesome jumps, while the jet car burn down also returns this season.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Children 10 and under are only $5. Racing begins at 7 p.m.

Additionally, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of BMS also will take place on July 30. The 50th Anniversary Fan Appreciation Day begins at 1 p.m. with track laps, which will take place until 3 p.m. The celebration will continue until the infield is cleared at 4:30 in order to prepare for the Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness.

A carnival has been added to the festivities, opening Tuesday, July 26 and running through July 30. The carnival rides will be free from 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on July 30 for anyone with a ticket to Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness that evening at the BMS.

The carnival will be set up at the main entrance of the Speedway, just off Hwy. 11-E.

A Ferris wheel anchors the carnival, along with Spinner, Skat, the Jitterbug Swing, a Euro bungee trampoline, Rat Race, obstacle course, fun slide, kiddie train, a NASCAR-themed kiddie car ride and a rock climbing wall.

Carnival hours are 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.

Food City will provide hot dogs and chips, and Pepsi will supply drinks while supplies last in the infield of BMS. Wings, supplied by BKW, also will be available while supplies last. Several local bands will be on hand to provide entertainment.

While everyone who takes part in the celebration that day will receive 50th anniversary items free, guests also will be encouraged to register for a variety of giveaways, including a four-day Carnival Festiva Adventure Club Caribbean cruise, as well as a big screen television from Aaron’s, groceries/gas for a year from Food City, IRWIN tools, suite seats and tickets to the IRWIN Tools Night Race weekend.

To purchase Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness tickets in advance, please visit the BMS ticket office located on the first floor of the Bruton Smith administration building or call (423)-BRISTOL.