As Mark List prepares his Monster Jam Truck for this weekend’s World Finals in Orlando, Florida, on May 21-22, he knows distance makes the heart fonder.
List and his El Toro Loco truck moved into the Red Stadium Series this year after a two-year pandemic pause and the change of scenery brought a new perspective. After years of traveling internationally with Monster Jam, List was fatigued.
In March 2020, while staying with family in Anchorage, Alaska, during a snowboarding trip, the world started to shut down. When things settled a little, List returned to Florida to grab a few things, and then headed back to Alaska to ride out the pandemic.
“I feel like this two-year break allowed me to come into this year’s competition with a very relaxed brain, basically not thinking about having to go and win, I was just excited to be back behind the truck having fun,” List told NBC Sports. “Everything started working out the right way. I was having so much fun this season and we actually put in a very good performance.”
List began the season with an extremely hot start, winning the overall in the first two weekends. Any trepidation he felt from the pause was behind him. Moving to the stadium series and bigger venues suited his driving style while letting him spread his wings on the jumps.
“I was very nervous when it started,” List explained. “Because I was working with my professor, Tom Meents, (who was) at the time the world champion, (competing against) Adam Anderson, driver of Grave Digger. I mean all the best drivers of Monster Jam were on my tour, so it got me very nervous at the start of the season. But well, after two years of not driving we started the season with the two first overall event championships and that boosted my confidence a lot.”
List’s success in Monster Jam comes in part from his path to it.
He started with the series as a track builder and when the opportunity came to drive, he took it. There’s a small advantage in knowing how the track is going to react to the trucks, but the more difficult journey is knowing how you and your truck are going to react to the track.
“It definitely has a little bit of an advantage, because I know how the dirt is going to react throughout the event, how the moisture is in and so on,” List said about his track building experience. “But these days the talent of drivers is so good. We have so much talent that that little advantage, that could have been significant back in the day, doesn’t mean anything now.”
The margin for success is razor thin in Monster Jam. Over the last 30 years, the drivers have continued to get better making competition tight. This weekend, List will join his series-mates and the top competition from around the league to compete in World Finals.
“World Finals is obviously the biggest event in Monster Jam and all the athletes are looking forward to competing,” List said. “I’m very happy and satisfied that I actually qualified through the main field. It’s going to be an amazing year, we’re going to be competing on a whole different track – one that none of us has ever run. So the fans are going to be able to experience this whole new track design. The lineup of drivers it’s so good that I guaranteed that it’s going to be the best World Finals that we’ve ever seen.”
List had to fight through some of the toughest competition on his tour this year which has prepared him to the grand stage of World Finals. This competition made both List and his competition into better racers.
“Being behind the wheel, I used to be very nervous, thinking I need to go out there and be better than them,” List said. “This year, I understood that I had to race my own race.
“Working with the best competition, when you’re racing with good people you’re going to get better. This year everyone increased their talent. Every single person on our tour – we were all pushing our limits. Everyone went out on the track and put up faster and faster lap times – we put out bigger freestyles. It was great growth overall for the whole tour.
So, for World Finals it’s going to be good, I learned how to stay calm, learned what my truck is going to do after a big jump, let the truck do it’s thing then take control after that and continue to do it even bigger.”