So, you want to be Monster Jam's next star? It's not as easy as you think. We got a chance to talk to a few drivers — a relative newcomer and a veteran — who were happy to talk about life behind the wheel.
Brianna Mahon was named Monster Jam's 2015 Rookie of the Year. She came to Monster Jam after her professional motocross career was cut short due to an injury. Mahon drives Whiplash, a new truck in the Monster Jam lineup, and is a great example of how drivers' personalities are played up — but not artificially. As an only child, she says she played the role of both "princess and the tomboy" growing up, and both of those aspects of her personality are evident in her bright aqua, Western-themed, pickup-styled truck.
Nothing about Monster Jam is scripted, Mahon says. The competitions are real, and women are treated on the same level as the men. She says it's a fresh change of pace from motocross, which was less friendly to women — both on and off the course.
"They want us here. They want us to compete with each other," Mahon says. "Every year we're breaking more records with women."
There are currently 14 women drivers on the Monster Jam circuit (there are 83 drivers total), and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. "It's really exciting to see how pumped [the crowd] gets that there's a girl driver," Mahon says.
Tom Meents is another popular driver who has been with Monster Jam for 25 years. He is best known as the driver of Maximum Destruction and the winner of 11 Monster Jam World Finals. Meents recently took on the role of head of Monster Jam University, which is based in central Illinois, and serves as the place for Monster Jam to evaluate and test new talent.
According to Meents, "students" who want to go through Monster Jam University should expect, at the very least:
- A three-day audition period
- Half a day of training on how to fit into and operate a Monster Truck
- A full day of lessons on safety procedures
- Training for a minimum of nine days, eight hours a day, assuming they pass the audition
During training, drivers watch videos to show what they did right and wrong. Meents explains that a week's worth of training is equal to three years' worth of driving in events. So far, Monster Jam University has tested 130 applicants — 77 have completed the training to date. Of those, about 32 have gotten jobs with Monster Jam.
Before Feld Motor Sports acquired Monster Jam, there was no formal training program. The Monster Jam University basic course emphasizes safety and lets drivers get familiar with both stadium-style tracks and arena-style tracks. Drivers train in the exact conditions of an event, in trucks with the same specifications.
Monster Jam does not have an official license, but since the program has been implemented, new drivers cannot join Monster Jam without completing it. Even Meents' own two sons have completed the program.
"It's really exciting for me to help train the youth and help them develop into the stars they are," Meents says.