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MONSTER JAM

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Identical twins rev up their engines, pit Zombie vs. Police at Moda Center

COURTESY: MONSTER JAM - Tyler Groth drives the the popular and well-decorated Zombie track in Monster Jam, which stops at Moda Center, Feb. 25-26.It's a good thing that one of them drives a space-age, aerodynamic machine, and the other pilots an artistically extravagant zombie mobile — that way you can tell Tyler and Travis Groth apart.

Tyler drives Zombie and Travis pilots New Earth Authority Police in the new era of monster trucks in Monster Jam, which stops at Moda Center, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25-26. Monster trucks have gone into storytelling, with Zombie the bad guy and N.E.A. Police the good guy.

Take off their helmets, and the Groth brothers of Gig Harbor, Washington, are about as strikingly similar as identical twins can be. They look the same, sound the same, do the same things, live together and then share hotel rooms on the road. They are the oldest Monster Jam competitors on the West Coast tour, at 33. So, it makes sense that both broke into monster trucks doing the same thing — working on them as mechanics — and broke into driving the big rigs at the same time in 2012.

"We've always done the same thing," Travis says. "It's always been back and forth between us, no matter what we're doing.

"We travel for 35 weeks together, and we put up with each other for that long. A lot of people wonder, but we really don't annoy each other. Even when he breaks the truck and we're up all night fixing it."

COURTESY: MONSTER JAM - TYLER GROTHThey have faced each other in Monster Jam competition, even as teammates with Mirror Image Racing. Tyler likes the freestyle aspect — jumping, pushing the limits of the truck. Travis says he is more conservative, so "we work on his truck more than mine."

Says Tyler: "We're competitive in everything we do. We get to race together it's more fun."

After stints as mechanics, the brothers shared a Monster Jam ride in a truck called, fittingly, Double Trouble.

They've shared rides in their current trucks since 2014; the Groth brothers compete in West Coast events. Zombie was a name and theme chosen by fans. It has arms and hair and "scares a lot of little kids," Tyler says, joking. N.E.A. Police was switched to a blue body style last year, to go with blue lights; its first driver was Scappoose Police Chief Norm Miller.

"It's growing in popularity, but there's a few more Zombie fans," Travis says.

The shtick — Zombie vs. Police — is fun.

"All the kids like it," Tyler says. "The kids really like zombies. They come with their faces painted. It's a lot of fun driving a popular truck."

COURTESY: MONSTER JAM - Travis Groth pilots the new-age truck New Earth Authority Police in Monster Jam. He says: 'It's growing in popularity, but there's a few more Zombie fans.'Adds Travis: "We're all our own identity, people recognize us and come back. They'll say, 'That (N.E.A. Police) is the coolest truck!' They bring us their Hot Wheels for autographs. We love putting on a show and competing against each other."

The Groths enjoy the roar of the engines, making the big rigs go fast, and running over things.

"Most people don't get to experience weightlessness of a 12,000-pound vehicle in the air," says Tyler, adding that it's exciting to race for points, compete in a new building ,and thrill the fans while feeling the sensation of operating a monster truck.

Says Travis: "You get the thrill every time you start it and move it around. We have a lot of fun."

It's not easy to drive a monster truck. There is a steering wheel for the front and a toggle switch for the back. They are strapped into their seats, can only see forward and have to constantly work on operating the thing.

COURTESY: MONSTER JAM - TRAVIS GROTHAnd, they still work on their vehicles. Travis does welding, Tyler electrical work. They spend a lot of time helping break down and reassemble parts of the trucks and maintaining them after competitions.

"Most people don't realize how much time goes into it," Tyler says. "Everything's just bigger and heavier. There are some things like cars, like power steering and electrical system and brakes. But it's also like a bigger tractor with hydraulics."

The brothers do spend some time apart. They each have a girlfriend.

But they have a brotherly bond, strengthened through monster trucks, especially when matched up against each other in competition.

"He rarely beats me," Travis says. "It's a fluke when he actually wins."

For more on Monster Jam and to buy tickets, see www.rosequarter.com.