GREENFIELD — Colton Kiser is like most kids his age.
When he’s not hitting the books at Greenfield Junior High, the seventh-grader works on his roundhouse kick at Kingdom Martial Arts Academy, where he’s earned a brown belt.
A Boy Scout and a recreational swimmer, Colton, 12, has household chores and a strict 9 p.m. bedtime, too — except on the weekends when it can stretch to around 11 o’clock.
“He’s just like all the other kids,” remarked Richie Kiser, Colton’s dad.
Story continues below gallery
Or so it might seem to those who don’t know him and his passion for car-crushing, big air controlled mayhem.
A former quarter-midget racer turned mini-monster truck driver for Team Kid KJ, Colton’s latest hobby involves getting strapped in behind the wheel of a nearly 2,000-pound, 7-foot tall, four-wheeled behemoth.
“When he started junior high this year, they sent home a questionnaire and asked what his biggest accomplishment was. He put down karate instead of racing mini-monster trucks,” Richie Kiser laughed. “It kind of struck me as odd.”
Hooked from the start
Before Colton pancaked his first car, he already was an experienced quarter-midget racer. His career began at age 8, and it ran through four seasons before his recent upgrade.
Though, he doesn’t even have a license to drive a car, “he knows how to drive,” his dad said.
His admiration for monster trucks developed by tagging along with his dad, who owns J&C Services, an excavating business in Greenfield.
Kiser had a friend, Joe Nichter, who owned a monster truck, and he started going to fair shows with him to assist as a crew member. Well-versed in heavy equipment, Kiser helped build some of the tracks and worked on the trucks.
Colton immediately became enamored by the monster trucks as a 7-year-old, being so close to the action.
“He started going to shows with me, and the other mini-monsters were there, and while we were working on the big trucks during the day, he would go hang out with the kids who drove the mini-trucks,” Kiser said. “One day, they asked him to drive.”
Getting behind the wheel
“The first time I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know how the truck was going to handle, but after running I thought it was amazing,” Colton said.
Colton’s initiation took place in Corbin, Kentucky, three years ago when “they put him in a truck and let him drive it around the arena just before the show to see how he would do with it,” the 43-year-old Kiser recalled.
It fit like a glove.
“Driving quarter-midgets helped me get experience behind the wheel,” Colton said. “Without doing that, I wouldn’t be in the good spot I’m in now. That gave me the confidence to drive the trucks.”
Added to the Team Kid KJ lineup shortly afterwards, Colton became one of 10 mini-monster truck drivers from across the nation for Todd Weston, who owns Uncle Tod Motorsports in Florida.
There are several kids driving mini-monster trucks in the country, said Kiser, with a few in southern Indiana as well.
Making it official
The tires on a mini-monster truck stand about 45 inches tall. Colton is 5-foot-6.
During his first event in Clarksville, Tennessee, last June during a county fair, he soared to nearly double his height.
“He got out of that truck with a smile from ear to ear,” Kiser said. “I know my head swelled a little bit because I was so proud of him. It was a good feeling to hear all the other monster truck crews cheering for him.”
Colton put in some practice before his first big event, getting time in a truck last year in Indianapolis during the 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals to get a feel for the impact and landing.
This summer, he participated in the Johnson County Fair, but his spotlight event is Aug. 22 at the Indiana State Fair when he gets to drive with some of the full-size monster trucks as part of their nationwide tour.
“I’m very excited about that,” Colton commented on the state fair. “It’s going to be amazing.”
Colton has another show coming up in Portland in September.
Nothing mini about it
Though, Colton’s truck is around one-third to half the scale of a full-size “stomper,” no corners were cut when building his “Ecoboost.”
Equipped with a turbo-charged Ford motor, the same found in a Ford Focus, the truck can rev up to around 40 mph.
“Some of the smaller trucks actually run a Honda 4-cylinder,” Kiser said. “A lot of it is in your gearing. If you gear them low enough to where they’ll actually turn the tires good, then you’re in good shape.”
The trucks won’t win any speed records, but they have enough horsepower to rip through the dirt and gain the right amount of traction to soar anywhere from around five feet off the jumps.
“The truck he is running is a concept vehicle that was built. We just got it running this spring,” Kiser said. “We’re going to try to get as much as we can out of it and get some seat time.”
In his seat, safety is a priority. Outfitted with roll bars, Colton is secured from the moment the engines turns, which has given his mom, Connie, peace of mind.
“When he started racing quarter-midgets, she couldn’t watch him. She was nervous. With this, she has no problem at all watching him,” Kiser said. “She knows and likes how safe he is in it.”
Colton’s truck will actually pass all of the safety specifications for the Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA), a requirement for Team Kid KJ.
“I am very well protected,” Colton said. “I’m so strapped in that I basically have just enough room to switch gears and do what I need to do, but at the same time be really well protected in case I roll.
“I did roll my quarter-midget once,” he continued. “It’s not a goal to roll my truck, but if it happens, it happens.”
More than a driver
“My favorite part of driving monster trucks is every time it’s something new; every show is something new,” Colton said. “The experience has been great, and I love talking to the fans.”
Often asked for autographs by fans much older, younger and even his own age, Colton remains humble throughout. Reserved by nature, he opens up during pit parties when he’s approached by kids.
He also talks with them about the team’s anti-bullying campaign.
“That’s very important, especially for me,” Colton said. “I was bullied in the fourth grade, but since that’s completely over and behind me, it’s great to support anti-bullying because it’s good to help.”
Colton’s involvement stems from his family’s friendship with Nichter’s daughter Macey, 18, a former mini-monster truck driver. Through the years, she has championed the campaign, “I drive to promote anti-bullying,” which motivated Colton.
The drivers go out and talk with other youths about bullying. At times they will do radio interviews to discuss it and at other events.
Macey recently advanced up to the full-size stomper monster trucks, but she continues to talk with kids about the topic and promotes her mission online.
“The entire team is a large advocate for anti-bullying,” Kiser said. “He enjoys going out and talking to kids about his experiences.
“(Macey) was at a couple of the shows with us, and he listened to her talking with the kids, and it made an impression. It really helped a lot to hear her, and now he knows how to talk to the kids about stuff like that.”
State Fair fun
When Colton drives out on the track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds this month, he’s going to hear the crowd.
“We have a lot of the kids he raced quarter-midgets with that want to come out. He’s going to have a lot of support there,” Kiser said. “The family will be there, too.”
Colton was invited to the state fair through another one of his dad’s connections.
The Indianapolis-based group putting on the production, called The Promotion Company, has contracted Kiser for work in the past during previous 4-wheel drive nationals and other events, helping build the tracks.
“I’ve gotten to know those guys really well in that company, and they’ve watched Colton come up through the years,” Kiser said. “They saw him run this truck in videos and were impressed, so they wanted him at that the state fair.”
Colton can run the mini-monster trucks until he is 17, then he can move up to the full-sized trucks with the potential to get connected with a company that runs multiple trucks in the nationwide tour.
Events like the Indiana State Fair gives him a glimpse into a future he’d love to realize one day.
Macey plans to join Kiser, Colton’s lead mechanic, in the pits at the fair to offer tips and last-minute advice to Colton.
“She’s helped me tremendously,” Colton said. “She’s taught me how to hit the jumps, when to hit them and how to drive the truck. She’s great.”
The unique experience for Colton and his father has been priceless as well, Kiser said. Bonding through the trips and treks across the state and region, the time spent together has been has been unforgettable.
“We put the truck on a trailer and he hit the road. We have a great time anywhere we go. We’ve been able to meet a lot of great people. We know all the Bigfoot drivers and several of the Monster Jam drivers,” Kiser said. “They really help all the kids running the minis. It’s been a blast.”
Name: Colton Kiser
School: Greenfield Junior High
Race Team: TeamKid KJ
Truck: Ford Ecoboost Mini-Monster
Hobbies: Karate, Boy Scouts and swimming
Parents: Richie and Connie Kiser
Favorite Monster Truck Driver: Macey Nichter
Prior racing experience: Quarter-midget racing for four years.
Where was your first truck event?: Clarksville, Tenn. last June.
What’s your next big event?: Indiana State Fair on Aug. 22.