Along with 66-inch wheels and a 540-cubic-inch engine, Taryn Laskey races her monster truck with one other indispensable piece of equipment: a hair bow. One of just a few female drivers working the monster-truck circuit, Laskey is not afraid to let her femininity fly.
Laskey has been racing on the Monster Jam circuit since 2011, currently driving Monster Mutt Dalmatian. It will be among the 16 monster trucks at the Tacoma Dome for “Monster Jam: Rock The Dome” on Friday through Sunday.
The News Tribune caught up with the Oklahoma native via phone at her Tulsa home.
Question: Your father’s side of the family was in motocross. Your mom’s side raced late-model stock cars and sprint cars. Was it preordained that you would go in to racing?
Answered: No. One Christmas my little brother got a race car and I was dying to get one. My mom said, ‘No, you got your gymnastics and ballet.’ So I begged my grandparents to get me one and I got one (a quarter midget) the following Christmas (at age 10). That’s all she wrote.
Q: How many female drivers are there in the Monster Jam organization?
A: There’s only about five of us out of, maybe, 100.
Q: How are you treated by the male drivers?
A: There’s always that friendly competition. They want to beat the girl. As women, we have to drive that much harder to prove that we’re meant to be here. I feel that we’re accepted. A lot of the older, veteran drivers have helped me out a lot. With my racing background, they know I understand the mechanics of a monster truck or race car.
Q: With fans, do girls and young women gravitate to you?
A: Yes. To get more girls interested in the sport, I hand-make hair bows and I give them to a little girl in the stands after my freestyle. You don’t have to be a boy to like monster trucks. You can wear hair bows and glitter on your eyes and makeup.
Q: What are your pre-show rituals?
A: For some reason I always put my left shoe on before my right. And my left glove on before my right. And I tend to stay away from green food and peanuts. I think it goes back to being raised around sprint cars. That was always a superstition kind of thing. I just stuck with it.
Q: There are so many different types of racing sports out there. How did you gravitate toward monster trucks?
A: I was up in Indy racing sprint cars. But you need a strong financial backing or sponsorship, and I exhausted all my opportunities there. I didn’t want it to be over, so I sent Monster Jam my racing résumé and 30 minutes later they called me. I flew out and tested at the headquarters in North Carolina, and a month later I was at my first show (in 2011).
Q: Which do you enjoy more: the racing or the freestyle part of the show?
A: Coming into it, I thought it would be racing because I had been doing it for years. But actually what I love is freestyle, which totally doesn’t make sense. I was so nervous the first time I freestyled and jumped a truck because you don’t want to be in the air with sprint cars. But as soon as I started to get the hang of it, freestyle is like gymnastics. The harder the tricks you do and the bigger you go, the better scores you get. You get to show off for fun.
Q: You have a degree in psychology and you’re also in nursing school now. How do you manage your life?
A: I have no life. I’m doing clinicals at hospitals during the week and driving monster trucks on the weekends.
Q: Is this nursing education for a back-up career?
A: I haven’t decided yet, but I know I want to do both. Racing is my passion, but I’ve always loved science and the medical fields. In the ideal world, I want to do both.
Monster Jam: Rock The Dome
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma
Tickets: $25 gold circle (all seats), $15 adults, $5 kids (2 -12) in advance. Kid ticket price not available day of show; all tickets increase by $2 day of show. ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000
Trucks: Grave Digger driven by Chad Tingler, Northern Nightmare driven by Cam McQueen, Monster Mutt Dalmatian driven by Taryn Laskey, Metal Mulisha driven by Todd Leduc, New Earth Authority driven by Norm Miller, Max-D driven by Neil Elliot, El Toro Loco (orange) driven by Chuck Werner, Titan driven by Donald Epidendio, The Patriot driven by Dan Rodoni, Tropical Thunder, Destroyer driven by Roger Stidell, Captain USA driven by Travis Groth, Double Trouble driven by Tyler Groth, Obsession driven by Rick Swanson, Obsessed driven by Eric Swanson and Dragon’s Breath driven by Scott Liddycoat. Three of those trucks will be new to Tacoma: New Earth Authority (NEA), Metal Mulisha and the 2012 World Freestyle Champion Northern Nightmare.
Preshow: A “Party in the Pits” pre-show experience from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday lets fans meet drivers and get up close to the trucks. Participants must have that day’s 2 p.m. show ticket along with a $10 pit pass for entry.Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 craig.sailor@ thenewstribune.com