Kayla Blood used her drive and concentration to make it onto the biggest stage Monster Jam offers this weekend for World Finals in Orlando, Florida.
This is Blood’s first year competing in a Stadium series, after seven years racing in the Triple Threat series and running in smaller arenas. The new stage was set for an invigorated Blood, who used the control and discipline she learned coming up through the series and her military career to blossom in the Stadium setting.
“When you’re in the arenas you have to worry about these boundaries and walls,” Blood told NBC Sports as she took a break from practicing for the World Finals. “There’s a lot of skill involved. Whenever you’re driving, you have to be a little careful.
“Then going into these stadiums, we have huge, massive jumps where we get 30 to 50 feet of air. It’s absolutely amazing after doing arenas for so long to go out to the stadium and spread your wings a little bit.”
While Blood is excited and prepared to be in the Stadium series, she knows it comes from the work she’s done to make it there.
“It’s one of those things you have to start in Arena because it teaches you so much of the technical skills [needed] in Monster Jam trucks,” Blood said. “You’re wanting to go absolutely crazy and do what you can to get the fans out of their seats and have a great run and get scored hard. But at the same time, you’re controlling this 12,000-pound truck in a small tight space. It teaches you a lot of different things, especially the skills around handling the truck and getting it where it needs to go.”
This season Blood felt like she improved each week and secured her first Freestyle win at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California. To win the competition everything had to go perfectly for Blood. The truck had to be 100 percent, the tricks had to be 100 percent and the driver had to be 100 percent. This was night the stars above Angels Stadium aligned.
“We had a perfect night,” Blood said as she recalled that performance. “We got some big air and fulfilled our whole two minutes of the freestyle. We were able to complete a backflip, come out of the backflip and put it in gear and go for it. Rip some crazy donuts and had a sidewall save. It was just an absolute crazy run.”
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Blood carries this victory with her because she knows what it means to her as a female competitor. While Monster Jam allows all people to compete in the same competition and under the same set of rules, there are biases that women in sports are still trying to overcome.
“It was pretty awesome to be able to do that in front of everyone, because as a female in a male-dominated sport we’re so underestimated,” Blood said. “So when we were able to go out there and show them we were capable of being in the same building as males and winning competitions, let alone freestyles … I could hear people going nuts inside of our trucks over the 1,500-horsepower engine.
“It’s pretty epic and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
When eyes are on you in times of success, it makes up for the times the spotlight shines on your misses. Blood believes she doesn’t always get a fair look in the eyes of certain observers. This drives her to be better every time – and the reason is because she carries the men and women of the military with her while driving the Soldier of Fortune truck. Blood is a veteran and with that spotlight added to focus of being a woman in motorsports, any mistake could cost her dearly.
“Whenever any female is on the track all eyes are on you,” Blood said. “It’s a little bit of pressure that you have to learn how to deal with mentally. As women, we have to work 10 times harder to get credibility in this field than the men do.
“The men go out there and have the same issues as the women and people are more apologetic or understanding when it comes to them. We have to be on our game at all times because people are judging us and we’re trying to prove ourselves worthy of being here. All these females in Monster Jam, they all bring something different to the table and they’re all super talented.”
All eyes will be on Kayla again this weekend as she tries to stain the field with the metaphorical blood of her competition. A shortened practice day on Thursday for truck maintenance means that she’s going into the weekend a little blindsided. Regardless of the results from the Monster Jam World Finals, Blood ends the season with a lot of pride of what she accomplished and an appreciation of what this competition has given her.
“I’m just extremely proud and honored to be a part of it,” Blood said. “To go out there and have fun and do all these awesome things. I had to grow up pretty fast and so it’s so awesome with all the hard work I’ve done over these years to be able to go out and live out these dreams.