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Female Monster Jam drivers step on gas


COURTESY PHOTO: MONSTER JAM - Kayla Blood took over from another woman, Becky McDonough, as pilot of El Toro Loco (top) in the Monster Jam series. Coming in as a rookie, you want to earn your respect from the veterans, she says.Get behind the steering wheel, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s piloting a 1,500-horsepower truck on steroids or a little car, it’s equality personified for the drivers — so goes the thinking in Monster Jam, which features women drivers Kayla Blood and Bailey Shea.

“With seat time and experience, it all evens out,” says Blood, the first-year driver of the El Toro Loco truck. “We beat the boys, they beat us. It’s steady competition between all of us. There are a couple guys who are great at it, they maybe do a few more things in freestyle (competition).

“Coming in as a rookie, you want to earn your respect from the veterans.”

Says Shea, a second-year driver of the Scooby-Doo truck: “It’s really cool. Two of our drivers are veteran drivers of 10 years, and they treat us like we’ve been driving as long as they have — Morgan Kane (Grave Digger) and Coty Saucier (Monster Energy). I was intimidated at first, but they’ve done nothing but help me.”

The huge, roaringly loud, vehicle-crushing, extremely expensive trucks come to Portland again as part of Monster Jam, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, at Moda Center ($10-$45, $10 pit pass, $10 parking, rosequarter.com). It showcases the drivers and trucks, with scoring done in speed and creativity events.

Blood, 25 and mother of 3-year-old son Austin, and Shea, 24 and a survivor of cystic fibrosis, have mutual respect for each other as the two women on the Monster Jam tour. (Another woman, Becky McDonough, used to drive El Toro Loco before moving to another series).

“Bailey has been there for me throughout the whole process,” says Blood, a hair stylist by profession, living in Lafayette, La., a former member of the Louisiana National Guard and mixed martial artist. “She found out I was testing (for El Toro Loco), and she’s sending me text messages, pumping me up, says she’s proud of me, ‘I know you can do it.’ When I hit the track, it’s all competition, we’re all fighting for spots, but off the track we’re best friends. It’s cool.”

“I love her to death,” says Shea, a railyard worker in Chillicothe, Mo. “I took her under my wing last year, and it helped her a lot. I respect her so much for being a mom; I have no responsibilities at home. ... Becky was my saving grace (last year).”

Bailey Shea drives the iconic Scooby-Doo truck. Im an adrenaline junkie, she says. She and Kayla Blood stop in Portland with the Monster Jam series, Feb. 13-14.Both drivers got their start in Monster Jam all-terrain support series.

Blood has dyed red hair, a part of the marketing campaign that associates her name with her driving style, personality and El Toro Loco.

“Anything that stands out, that helps Monster Jam,” she says. “When I was in hair school, I actually did my hair red; it’s been red for about two years. All the kids love the bright red hair; I get called Ariel from ‘Little Mermaid.’”

Shea has a lot of all-terrain vehicle experience, but grew tired of getting hurt and “I wasn’t making a living, so I went to trucks.”

She adds: “I’m an adrenaline junkie. Nothing was fast enough or big enough, and I never got to jump high enough. ‘What is there I can’t do in this thing?’”

Driving the iconic Scooby-Doo, she can forget about her cystic fibrosis, which gives her chronic sinusitis.

“We have about 1,400 horsepower, and if you’ve never had that strapped under your butt, you’re not living,” she says.