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Monster masher

Scappoose Police Lt. Norm Miller heads to the world finals of monster trucks
by: Submitted photo

When Norm Miller cranks the throttle on 'Batman,' the 540-cubic-liter monster truck he drives featuring an unmistakable custom exterior resembling the Batmobile, he gets a thrill that is almost incomparable.

His heart starts pumping, his legs start twitching and he realizes that it's show time. It's a feeling he's grown to love over his 20 years of driving monster trucks.

'You have to go hard and go fast and go high,' he says. 'It's just racing.'

This year, after more than two years out of the monster truck limelight, Miller is back behind the wheel after a sabbatical to spend time with his family and focus on his personal life.

But now, back in the driver's seat, he's going to the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Finals, which will take place on March 25 and 26 in Las Vegas. It's like the World Series of monster trucks.

As a 17-year veteran and second in command at the Scappoose Police Department, Lt. Miller is well-versed in how it feels to fight crime. The Batman monster truck, though not the first for Miller to drive, is perhaps the most fitting given his profession.

Miller thinks so, even though he's also gone behind the wheel of a number of other big-name trucks, including Blue Thunder, Bearfoot and even one of the Grave Digger trucks.

And so did representatives at Feld Entertainment, among the largest promoters of monster truck events in the world, who made the decision to give him the keys to Batman because of his law enforcement background.

Miller sees a similarity in how the two jobs make him feel.

'It's just exciting [driving a monster truck]. It's a thrill because of all of the energy,' Miller says. 'It's sort of like being a cop.'

Unlike being an officer, though, Miller is able to involve his family in his monster truck world.

He starts with his daughter, Alisha.

Similar to how his father, a national champion super stock driver, got him into mud bogging and truck pulling at the age of 13, Miller has gotten his daughter Alisha in on the action.

The 8-year-old belongs to the Portland Quarter Midget Racing Association, of which Miller is the president. Quarter midgets are small cars for children, which are generally raced around a track.

Motor oil must run through the family veins. Much like her father, Alisha will attend the finals - in her case, for quarter midget cars - in Monroe, Wash., over the summer.

At the monster truck world finals, Miller will participate in a competition that will be split into two events: One will be dedicated to full-throttle racing, the other will focus on the whirling and crunching of freestyle driving, where the trucks are judged on how aesthetically awesome their destruction is.

As much as Miller enjoys his job, a police officer can often get burnt out going through the daily grind, says the lieutenant's supervisor, Scappoose Chief of Police Doug Griesen.

'I think he enjoys it, and it's a good way to relieve stress,' Greisen says. He added that Miller's weekend side project never interferes with his job. The monster truck season only lasts three months out of the year. But during that period, Miller is gone most weekends at shows.

Now, as he leaves for the biggest event he's ever done, Miller says it's an honor to be one of the 24 drivers chosen to attend the world finals.

He says his dream is to finish in the top five. As a rookie, the deck may be stacked against him.

The odds on Monster Jam's website place miller as a 50-to-1 long shot to win the freestyle competition. The odds are 45-to-1 that he wins the racing portion.

Writing on the website, monster truck expert Scott Douglass says, 'Miller will gain valuable Vegas experience this year, which is different than any other type of experience for sure.'

Miller agrees, saying he expects the world finals to be a learning experience, partially because the freestyle competition will pose a new challenge. Unlike other monster truck drivers, Miller tries not to drive in an out-of-control manner.

Nonetheless, he hopes to make a good showing.

Interested in watching? The Monster Jam World Finals will be televised on CBS on April 17 at 2 p.m.