History network's ‘Truck Night’ features local host

History network's ‘Truck Night’ features local hostPictured: From left, Ridgecrest’s Rob "Bender" Park joins Abe Wine, Glen Lake and "Pistol" Pete Sohren to host "Truck Night in America" on the History network.

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Nearly a million viewers tuned in to see the premiere episode of History Network’s “Truck Night in America” last Thursday, March 8. Many tuned in locally to see Ridgecrest’s own Rob “Bender” Park, a local racer and fabricator and one of the show’s hosts.

“It was amazing,” said Park. “We ended up being 31st on television that night and it was the second most watched History Network show.”

With hundreds of shows airing every day, and with as many as 750 reality shows running simultaneously in recent years, hitting a million viewers means Truck Night is no slouch in the TV world.

The show pits dozens of amateur truck racers from across the country in head-to-head competitions that test not only drivers’ racing abilities but also their craftsmanship and ingenuity in re-engineering their rigs to suit the demands of each round.

Each week begins with five new competitors, starting out with two finalists taking on “The Green Hell” course to see who can finish first or to see if either can finish at all.

Guiding these competitors are four veteran truck and racing experts: desert racing champion and truck builder “Pistol” Pete Sohren, extreme sports pioneer and dirt track racer Glen Plake, truck builder and master fabricator Abe Wine and the local Park – a rock crawling champion and master fabricator.

“I’ve been building vehicles and rock crawling forever,” said Park. “I started racing when I was five – motorcycles, bicycles, jet skis, trucks, you name it. But I’m more of a builder than a racer.”

Park has attended King of the Hammers, the largest off-road race in the world, every year since its inception. Competitors regularly pilot his custom rigs to victory.

“One year I built the 1st-, 2nd- and 4th-place rigs for rock crawling,” said Park. He added that cars he’s built for companies like Red Bull and Lucas Oil have gone on to win national and world titles.

“Of course I’ve also had really, really amazing drivers for the vehicles I’ve built,” said Park. “But I build everything – the chassis, suspension, frame, everything – from the ground up.”

Park earned his nickname “Bender” from the local four-wheel drive community.

“I was always kind of extreme,” he said. “I’d go off on these crazy routes and people would say, ‘Don’t follow him, he’s a tin bender,’ in regard to my blatant disregard for vehicles. I rolled my rig a lot. I can be like a little kid playing with Hot Wheels sometimes.”

Park returned to the valley about 10 years ago to relax a little from his competition life. Here he opened his fab shop Fabrication Unlimited Squared. Little did he know that he’d be returning to the limelight on national television.

Park said it’s not unusual for him to be interviewed at big races. He’d earned a name for himself over the years, and when people asked for experts, racers and builders pointed to him.

“I didn’t really expect it to go anywhere,” he said when History Network reps came looking for experts. “But I think I got on the show because I’m a smart aleck, not just because of my resume.”

Park spent five weeks filming in the Georgia heat and humidity of August and September. But despite the climate, he said, it was a great experience.

“I’m not a TV guy,” said Park. “I’m a fabricator. Being on TV was definitely very different.”

Park describes himself, as well as most of the show’s cast, as a down-to-earth, blue-collar “regular guy.” But that didn’t stop him from having fun on set.

“I’m not used to being waited on,” he said. “So one day I said, ‘I want a cowboy hat.’ Sure enough, the next day there was a white cowboy hat waiting for me.

“But honestly my favorite part was the actual contestants. They’re just real people, not actors or seasoned veterans. I want every person who sees this show to say, ‘I’ve got a jeep in my garage, I can do that too.’ It’s cool to help coach and steer these guys in the right direction and see it all in the fresh view that they have.”

Park also applauded the show for its depiction of the off-road community.

“I was little jaded going in, actually,” he said. “The off-road community is actually pretty big. But the shows are always the fringe, most extreme parts – it’s all monster trucks and ice roads and big rigs and things like that.

“This show is very relatable. Eighty percent of History viewers own a truck. This show is just a bunch of everyday guys with their own rigs. It’s so down-to-earth and it really is what it is. Not forced, not scripted, just real competitions with real people.”

Park said that a second season is promising, and the network is just waiting to see how the number pan out for the next few weeks.

“Nothing in stone yet, but I just got an email saying they’re chomping at the bit about a second season.”

New episodes of Truck Night are Thursdays, 7 p.m. PST, on the History Network. Full episodes are available on History’s website for some cable subscribers.

Story First Published: 2018-03-16