Ridgecrest local Rob "Bender" Park will be co-hosting HISTORY's new series, "Truck Night in America." The series premieres on Thursday, March 8 at 10 p.m. on HISTORY.

"Truck Night in America" is an off-roading contest. Every episode features five contestants in rigs they either bought or built themselves. They compete in a series of challenges, eliminating one of them each round until only one remains. The winner takes home a $10,000 prize, and then the contests start all over again with new contestants on the next episode.

Park and the other three hosts will be hosting the show, but will also use their expert off-roading experience to help contestants repair their rigs and make it through the next challenge.

Park told the Daily Independent that challenges may test speed or power and that they get progressively more difficult until the final round where the last two contestants compete in "The Green Hell," a course the crew built. The Green Hell is a three-mile-long obstacle course of mud, rollercoaster hills made of logs, steep climbs over piles of smashed cars, and races through the trees in a witch run.

The winner of the last challenge is the contestant who finishes the run the fastest. Or in the entirely possible case that neither contestant is able to finish the grueling course, the winner will be the contestant who made it the furthest, Park said.

Park said that HISTORY representatives got in contact with him while he was at the King of the Hammers off-road race. They were looking for potential hosts, and they had come to the right place because Park said the King of the Hammers is the largest off-road race in the world.

After the representatives had asked around a bit, people directed them to Park. He's made a name for himself int he off-road community. He said he's not only won several titles, but also built rigs for clients such as Red Bull and Lucas Oil.  

Time passed after the HISTORY representatives spoke with Park, then they let him know that he was on the shortlist of potential hosts. They wanted four hosts, and the list was down to only seven.

They flew Park out to Hollywood to conduct chemistry tests in order to see how well the potential hosts work together. It seems as if their criteria for "working well together" wasn't just being friendly, but also having a bit of friction as well; Park said that one of the other hosts they ended up hiring was his arch racing rival, "Pistol" Pete Sohren. Other than Park and Sohren, the other two hosts are Abe Wine and Glen Plake.

Park said all of the hosts come with long resumes of off-road and rig building experience. They make use of that experience in the show, because they aren't just hosts on "Truck Night in America," they also act as coaches and engineers.

 After the first of the five contestants is eliminated from the first round and only four remain, Park said that each of the four hosts chooses one contestant to take under their wing and coach through the rest of the competition. After each round, assuming their team is still in it, they head back to the garage to quickly make necessary repairs and go over strategy for the next challenge.

"We take it pretty serious and give each other a hard time," Park said of the competitive nature of him and the other hosts. "The chemistry test made sure our personalities match, but also clash at the same time."

Park said that he was apprehensive about the idea of hosting a show at first; he said he's been approached about doing a number of shows in the past but none of them panned out. As production on "Truck Night in America" continued on, however, Park said he grew more and more excited.

“It was an awesome experience with great people," he said.

He lives in a world where everyone is in some way involved with off-road racing motorcycles, cars, and trucks. He's been racing since he was five years old. He now works as a fabricator for Searles Valley Minerals. He also helps run Fabrication Unlimited Squared here in Ridgecrest.

"I work in anything to do with metal," Park said.

He said for a period, he was working as a freelance fabricator. He'd work in shops all across the country, contracting with clients until a project was done, then moving on to the next project.

The freelance life was exciting, but also stressful. He and his family moved back to Ridgecrest about 10 years ago. He said he enjoyed being able to focus more on a local community, and certainly getting more time with his family. When he found out the HISTORY selected him as one of its hosts, he realized this period of a calm was over and life was about to speed up once more.

"Here we go again," he said. "This is going to be a lot more time in the limelight."

Park said that the whole show was filmed in about six weeks in Georgia. One of his favorite things about the whole process was seeing the cast of characters that made up the contestants in each episode. After being surrounded by top tier, professional racers for so long, Park found it refreshing to meet people who do this as a hobby, who just like to take their rig out with the family and play in the dirt.

"That's what neat about the show, these guys are so relatable," Park said. "When people watch, they're going to be able to say, 'I've got a Jeep in my garage, I could do that.'"

He spoke very highly of the show's crew, marveling at how so many people can cohesively work together to achieve a single vision. He said he enjoyed the process and wants to come back for a second season. And he is confident that second season will happen.

"I know it's going to do well," Park said. "I've been around this industry for a long time and this show is filling a slot. There isn't anything else like it."