Think driving a monster truck is just for the boys? Guess again. Here’s how drivers like Nicole Johnson are breaking Monster Jam stereotypes.
By Nancy Ripton
Women have been breaking though a lot of stereotypes lately, however there are some activities that we still don’t associate with women – driving monster trucks is one of them.
Maybe it’s because the trucks are huge! 12 feet by 12 feet and over 10,000 pounds, each truck has 1,500 horsepower (HP) – to put that into comparison, a Hummer H2 has just 325 HP. Driving a monster truck is loud, dirty and kicks your adrenaline into overdrive. And driver Nicole Johnson wouldn’t have it any other way.
Johnson has always been drawn to driving big vehicles. Before Monster Truck it was rock crawling – technical driving over big obstacles with steep drop offs and crazy angles. Then, in 2010 she was approached by Dennis Anderson (the driver and creator of Grave Digger) to drive for Monster Jam.
Now, six seasons in, Johnson has become the girl to look for when driving her trademark Scooby mobile. She’s often the only girl in any given show. “Out of 150 trucks, there are less than a dozen female drivers,” says Johnson. “So we’re still a bit of a rarity.”
Johnson likes to play up the fact that she’s a girl in a male dominated sport, dressing from head to toe in purple and even signing autographs with a purple Sharpie. “I really play up the Daphne role,” says Johnson. She also loves to connect with the girls in the crowd. “There are girls as young as two,” she says. “It really motivates me to talk to them after a ride and to show them that I’m breaking stereotypes. Monster Jam isn’t only a guy’s sport.”
She doesn’t feel that there are any physical barriers to her competing the sport, however she does spend a bit more alone time before a show than some of her male counterparts. “I need time to calm my nerves and get in the zone,” says Johnson. “I like to get in my truck a bit earlier, get my heart rate down and concentrate on what I’m going to do.” If anything, her gender affects the guys more than it does her. “No one wants to lose to a girl,” she says.
Physically, she needs to be in shape in order to endure the impact of the truck on landing. She also needs to be in shape to run around the stadium and get the crowd excited. “In terms of training in my truck, it’s only a few times a year,” she says. There’s a lot that goes into setting up a practice session, and most of a driver’s in truck expertise is honed at events. Johnson has roughly 20 events per year, and most have multiple performances. That means she’s likely performing around 40 shows a year.
To stay in shape outside of the truck, she does regular massage to loosen up her muscles and help deal with the physical demands on her body. She also does a lot of stretching and yoga, along with some weights, P90X and group fitness classes.
If you’re interested in checking out a Monster Jam show, visit them at Monster Jam Canada for a list of their show times.