INSIDE MONSTER JAM: What it takes to be a monster truck driver
We went behind the scenes of Monster Jam, the monster truck spectacular that performs in stadiums and arenas around the world. On a recent show at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., we spoke with rising Monster Jam star Brianna Mahon. One of the few female drivers on the Monster Jam circuit, Mahon began her motorsports career as a motocross racer, but a hand injury sidelined her dreams of glory in that sport.
While in cosmetology school, Mahon got a call from Monster Jam driver and instructor Tom Meents, who offered her a chance to try out for the company. Soon, Mahon found herself under the bright lights of stadiums full of cheering fans.
We talked to Mahon to tell her story and she revealed what it takes to be a monster truck driver. Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: This is Monster Jam, the monster truck spectacular that electrifies audiences in stadiums and arenas around the world. These drivers put their lives on the line every time they suit up, but thanks to extreme safety precautions, they often walk away unscathed after even the most intense accidents. One of the sport's rising stars is probably not who you'd imagine would behind the wheel of a monster truck.
Brianna Mahon: My name is Brianna Mahon, I'm the driver of the brand new Whiplash Monster Jam truck.
Narrator: Brianna Mahon may not look like your typical Monster Jam driver, but she definitely drives like one.
Mahon: I'm out here in a male world, you know, dominating for the females, and to have a truck that stands out so brightly against everybody else's, it's such an honor.
Narrator: Brianna Mahon's need for speed evolved on the motocross track.
Mahon: I was born into the fast lane and I never left. We were in a male-dominated sport and the men didn't really want us there. They felt that we were a threat because we were faster than them. And, I mean I remember sitting on a line and the guy next to me, his dad would hit him in the back of the shoulder and say, "You better take that girl out. Don't let her beat you."
Narrator: An injury to one of her hands brought Mahon's motocross career to an end.
Mahon: In 2014, I was sitting in cosmetology school and kinda got a phone call from Tom Meents himself and he had heard about my background and thought I'd be a great candidate to try out. So I spent all of 2014 training and driving a truck and learning about Monster Jam. And in 2015, I won Rookie of the Year.
Narrator: But Mahon wasn't done with her career in the beauty industry. Today, she owns a hair salon in Illinois.
Mahon: When I get new clients, I tell them and they're just floored. Like, "You don't look like a Monster Jam driver."
Narrator: Of the 83 active Monster Jam drivers, only 14 are female.
Tom Meents: Seeing men in the sport is, it's cool, but when you have a lady that rocks the house, that's epic.
Mahon: Honestly, it's an adrenaline rush that I just don't even think you can explain until you're in it. It's an awesome, awesome experience.
Meents: The women in our sport, they've proven they're just as good as the men. You could tell there was something special about her. Competitive, tough, and never wants to give up on training.
Narrator: The drivers get to hone their skills at Monster Jam University, a facility in Paxton, Illinois that's operated by Tom Meents.
Meents: They have a place like Monster Jam University where they can perfect their craft, get better when they're out there, and then they can bring their epic performances to the track.
Narrator: According to Monster Jam, each truck costs around $250,000 to build.
Mahon: Our trucks are 12-foot tall, they're about 12-foot wide and they weigh anywhere from 10 to 12 thousand pounds, 1,500 horsepower. Our tires are 66 inches tall. They're massive! They're like the biggest tires on any vehicle around. And, you know, it's just so cool to drive such a big beast of a truck.
Meents: They maneuver around the stadium at amazing speed and can fly over 40 feet in the air. They're 100% like engineered fighter jet airplanes.
Narrator: On a rainy night at MetLife Stadium these trucks were put to the test. Due to a lack of traction on the track, the drivers couldn't perform a lot of their signature maneuvers like full backflips and riding on two wheels. What the show lacked in fancy tricks, it made up for with mud.
Mahon: We have the best safety technology. We're fireproof head to toe, head restraint, neck restraint, we have 7-point harnesses that hold us into the seat, fire shoes and gloves, and we take every precaution necessary. And that's why you don't see the injuries in Monster Jam like you do in any other sport. Because we're head to toe, fully protected.
Narrator: The drivers first compete in races, followed by a freestyle round. There's no cash prize for the winner, the drivers are all salaried employees. Monster Jam wouldn't share specifics about the drivers' salaries.
Mahon: We're all hired contract workers, basically and we come in and do our job and get to go home at the end of the day. Awww, thank you. I get messages all the time of girls that say, you know, "You're my role model, I look up to you."
You can't put a price tag on that. We get to compete on the same tracks, in the same trucks on the same level as the men and that's really what makes it special and a really cool sport because there's nobody here pushing us down, everybody's building us up.
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