Kayla Blood moved up to the Stadium Series in 2022 and into the Monster Jam World Finals

Blood Monster Jam Finals
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

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.”

MORE: Mark List rediscovered his passion for Monster Jam ahead of the World Finals

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. 

Blood Monster Jam Finals
Competing in the smaller confines of the Arena Series gave Kayla Blood the confidence to move up to the Stadium Series. (Feld Entertainment Inc.)

“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. 

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).