Kelowna Monster Jam driver returns to Vancouver, where it all began, in iconic Northern Nightmare

Cam McQueen was the 2012 monster truck world freestyle champion.

Kelowna native Cam McQueen's Monster Jam truck Northern Nightmare. McQueen in 2010 became the first driver to ever complete a black flip in a Monster Jam truck.

Kelowna native Cam McQueen’s Monster Jam truck Northern Nightmare. McQueen in 2010 became the first driver to ever complete a black flip in a Monster Jam truck. Handout / PNG

It’s natural that when your name is McQueen, you’d grow up to be a stunt driver because you idolized the driving stunts of … the Dukes of Hazard, not Steve McQueen.

“There was a bit of a generation gap there, when Steve McQueen was a big hero it was more my dad’s era,” recalls monster truck champion Cam McQueen. “Once I was old enough to know who Steve McQueen was and we shared a name, I was right into it after seeing the driving he’d done.”

Cam McQueen, who lives in Kelowna, is coming to the Pacific Coliseum March 8-10 with Monster Jam, coaxing backflips, vertical two-wheeled balancing acts and all-round freestyle jamming in Northern Nightmare, his monster truck.

“Being a Kelowna-ite, Vancouver is the closest home show for me,” he says. “A lot of family and friends make the drive down. It’s kind of where it all started for me.”

In 2007, in his first Monster Jam event, McQueen was a last-minute fill-in for an injured driver. He basically had to figure out everything he’d do at B.C. Place Stadium on the fly. He just strapped himself in and went for it.

Cam McQueen on Northern Nightmare before a Monster Jam event at BC Place Stadium in 2013. Kim Stallknecht Kim Stallknecht / PROVINCE PNG

Three years later, McQueen became the first driver to complete a back flip in a Monster Jam truck, which whether you’re a fan or not is pretty awesome to see. It has been watched 1.1 million times on YouTube.

“The only practice for it I’d done was dreaming it up in my head and doodling out some sketches on a napkin on a train in Europe heading to a Monster Jam show,” McQueen says.

He figured out what obstacles he’d need to use as a launch, what the truck was capable of, what speed he’d need to reach. But no practice because the trucks are too expensive to repair.

“It was virtual reality, more or less.”

Another 1.95 million have watched McQueen attempt a reverse backflip in Las Vegas at World Finals XV. That didn’t go as well: A tire was flat and the launch obstacle wasn’t right.

“I threw a Hail Mary out there and gave it a shot,” McQueen says. “There were a few things that went bad there. I basically fell on the roof and then burst into a ball of flames.

“I haven’t tried that trick again because I’ve never seen an obstacle I’ve thought was any better than the one I attempted, and mechanically the truck doesn’t have a whole lot of gear in reverse so you can’t get the tire speed or get into the air as fast as we can going forward.”

McQueen, 40, rode his first dirt bike at five and raced his first motorcross at 11. His dad was into racing and his brother, six years his elder, would take him driving in the bush “long before I was able to get a licence.”

In high school McQueen built his first monster truck, a 1958 Willys pickup he bought off a farmer, stripped to nothing and rebuilt.

Humble beginnings for the driver who would become freestyle champion at the 2012 MonsterJam World Finals VIII in his new truck, Canadian-built Northern Nightmare, and one of the top draws on the Monster Jam tour today.

All thanks to those Duke boys.

“They were more my era,” McQueen says. “Bo and Luke Duke were my heroes, watching them after school every day, watching them jump the river, the car chases.

“When I was old enough to drive, I thought, ‘Yeah, I can jump that creek because the Dukes did it.’ ”

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