Before the COVID-19 outbreak paused live sports, NBC Sports caught up with one of the top Monster Jam female racers and Linsey Read recounted what was needed to win the 2019 freestyle competition in the Monster Jam Finals.
When Read arrived at Monster Jam World Finals in Orlando, Florida last year, she had no guarantee of performing in the big show.
The El Paso, Texas native Read was invited to World Finals because of the her performance in the Monster Jam Arena Tour, a tour that features smaller venues across the United States. She had to battle seven drivers with better-known names, competing in larger tours, simply to get the 24th starting spot in the freestyle competition.
In 2019, for the first time, drivers lined up at the top of grandstands and made their initial run down into the stadium. They entered the track virtually blind.
On any given weekend, Read takes a track walk to familiarize herself with the course. She usually has a family member in tow. That reconnaissance walk proved to be incredibly important.
“My husband always goes out and walks the track with me,” Read told NBC Sports. “He gave me all the words of encouragement that he could. Having (the family) there by my side, cheering me on, definitely helps me. I would say they are my biggest supporters.
“So I went into the competition and they gave me their good luck and good blessings. We went at it and every single turn, every move that we made ended up being flawless. It was the most amazing experience ever, I couldn’t ask for better luck that whole day.”
Read won the last chance showdown. That qualified her for the feature as the 24th driver. The driver of the Scooby-Doo truck wowed the crowd. It was not without drama. As the second driver on the track in the finals, she rocketed to the top of the leaderboard.
“I was super excited for it,” Read said. “That’s my style of racing.
“I knew going into it that I just had to calm myself and get my nerves down so I could do exactly what I know how to do. I went to Monster Jam University and trained so hard before becoming a driver. I just needed to take all of those skills and put them into one run to put the best show possible for everyone. Really when you go out there you cannot let your nerves get the best of you. I just took a deep breath, got in my truck, looked out at the competition and knew that I could do it.
“I had the confidence to go out there and do it.”
Then the waiting game began.
Twenty-two drivers still had to take to the course. There was the risk that any one of them might perform a better freestyle. Drivers with bigger names and larger fan bases knocked out great runs, bringing their unique flair and bags of new tricks.
But every time, they fell short of Read’s initial run. Read knows, because she nervously stood and watched every run.
“So many of them have already won the World Finals and so many others were doing great on their tour that year.” Read reflected on watching the competition. “On one hand, I was their biggest fan ever because before I started driving I was already the biggest Monster Jam fan. I watched them all the time. So I’m sitting there cheering for them and thinking ‘oh my gosh, I’m cheering and they’re doing such a great job. Are they going to take it from me?’ And every single time they kept saying that I was in the lead.”
Calm and collected when sitting behind the wheel of five tons of metal, Read was more nervous while watching and waiting for the final results.
“My nerves were shot by the end of it.” Read said, but she had the best companion to calm her. “I was holding my daughter in my arms and seeing how excited she was watching the trucks and everything was calming. Something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”