East Penn Press

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKayla Blood, with “El Toro Loco,” which she drives in “Monster Jam,” Feb. 23-25, PPL Center, Allentown. Copyright - All Rights Reserved 2015 CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKayla Blood, with “El Toro Loco,” which she drives in “Monster Jam,” Feb. 23-25, PPL Center, Allentown. Copyright - All Rights Reserved 2015
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKayla Blood, driver of “El Toro Loco,” “Monster Jam,” Feb. 23-25, PPL Center, Allentown. Copyright - All Rights Reserved 2015 CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKayla Blood, driver of “El Toro Loco,” “Monster Jam,” Feb. 23-25, PPL Center, Allentown. Copyright - All Rights Reserved 2015

Blood is thicker than mud on ‘Monster Jam’ circuit

Saturday, February 24, 2018 by DEB BOYLAN Special to The Press in Focus

James Brown proclaimed in his 1966 song that “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

Until recently, it had been considered a “man’s man’s man’s world” in motorsports.

Monster truck competition had long been a playground for men. While largely considered to be a family-friendly sport, the monster truck audiences were heavily composed of fathers, sons and male buddies.

Fast-forward to the present day and a new crop of female competitors and fans have put the guys on alert with “Monster Jam,” 7 p.m. Feb. 23; 1 and 7 p.m. Feb. 24, and 1 p.m. Feb. 25 at PPL Center, Allentown.

The roster for the event features top athletes, male and female, of the monster truck pro-circuit. In addition to longtime fan favorite, “Gravedigger” driven by Tyler Menninga, two of the eight trucks competing in “Monster Jam” are driven by women.

Myranda Cozad takes the reigns of “Scooby Doo,” and “El Toro Loco” will heat things up under the command of Kayla Blood.

“I’ve been driving for three years,” says Kayla Blood in a phone interview.

Prior to competing in “Monster Jam,” Blood was a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.

“I actually got into MMA when I was in the military. I always kind of just did off-the-wall stuff ... whatever somebody challenged me to do.”

She’s certainly not afraid of challenges. This former “tomboy” is not afraid to get into the thick of things.

“I grew up always very hyper-competitive. I wanted to be the best in everything I did. Whether I was competing with males or females, I competed the same way.

“After I got pregnant with my little boy, I kind of went through this phase where I was just doing my hair and my makeup. I ended up going to cosmetology school and getting a cosmetology license. I feel like that kind of helped me learn how to dress myself for ‘Monster Jam,’ because without that, Lord knows what I would look like,” laughs Blood.

“There’s roughly at least 30 girls [driving monster trucks]. I know when I first started three years ago there was probably 10 or 15 and now each year we are just getting more and more awesome, talented females that are coming into the sport and it’s just really blowing up. When females win, it’s just an awesome message as well for all the little girls.”

The women driving on the pro-circuit are a diverse and supportive group. While tough competitors on the track, off the dirt they share a common message of empowerment for females.

“We’re all different personalities. We’re from different places,” says Blood.

“It really is kind of cool when we all get together, but we all have that one goal. We understand that we are here, and we’ve been given this platform to be able to show all these little girls why women are here and why we are driving these big trucks and doing all this stuff.

“At the end of the day, we all come together and we all get along and we’re there for each other. Whenever one of us wins an overall event we’ll all send out [congratulatory] texts. It’s like my band of sisters.

“We know whenever we go out on the arena floor we are competing against each other. The helmets come on: it’s competition.

“But as soon as we come off the arena floor, we are definitely there to support each other and be there for one another.”

Like NASCAR, “Monster Jam” is scored on a point system. The season runs weekends January through March, culminating in the “World Finals” in Las Vegas, Nev.

“Whoever wins the championship in each tour will have a free bid into ‘World Finals,’” explains Blood.

“‘World Finals’ is where it all happens. Everything we do from the first of the year is all for ‘World Finals,’ to get us there point-wise.”

Lehigh Valley fans will witness a battle for the championship with each competitor driving customized, high-powered vehicles: “Monster Jam” Speedsters, “Monster Jam” ATVs and “Monster Jam” trucks.

Fans have the chance to vote for the truck winner in the donut, wheelie and freestyle competitions by real-time, in-arena voting on their smartphones.

In addition to “Grave Digger,” driven by Menninga; “Scooby Doo,” with Cozad, and “Toro Loco,” with Blood, “Monster Jam” cars and drivers include: “Max D,” Colton Eichelberger; “Zombie,” Bari Musawwir; “Megalodon,” Buddy Tompkins; “Soldier Fortune Black Ops,” Tony Pcjs, and “Monster Mutt Rottweiler,” Jack Brown.

Unlike with many other sports, men and women are not segregated into separate divisions. They compete head-to-head.

“We’re all competing on the same floor. What we are doing is the same whether it is against women or men.

“It gives us an opportunity to say [to the men], ‘We beat you.’ We like to rub it in their faces,” laughs Blood.

The men have come to accept the women competitors who have joined their ranks.

“Of course, with the guys and, you know, their egos, you kind of have to earn their respect. You just kind of have to show them that you mean business, that you’re not a just a girl flicking her hair trying to look pretty. You’re there to drive, to win and to kick their butt.

“They’re just like our brothers. We’re all a big family. At the end of the day, we are there to support one another and help each other out when needed.”

To the fans or simply the curious in the Lehigh Valley, Blood promises it will be a fun and thrilling weekend.

“Come on out. We have pit parties, and you can come and meet your favorite driver. Cheer on your favorite driver. Sometimes the little girls won’t come because they think it’s for boys and dads and stuff but it’s not. They’ve [girls] got to come out and support the females and show some love.

“My message to all the little ones out there is don’t limit yourself, believe in yourself and accept failure as part of the recipe of life. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, just go for whatever you want and don’t give up.”

Tickets: PPL Center box office; PPLCenter.com; 610-347-TIXX. Doors open one hour prior to event.