Monster trucks are the stuff of boyhood dreams, but there is a new breed of driver competing in this mega-macho world these days – moms.
Nancy Olson and Michelle Simpson are part of a growing pool of women going up against the guys while balancing the demands of family life.
But for Olson, monster trucks are family. The Olson and her family are on the road because her two sons, ages 7 and 9, are also drivers. Her son K.J. Weston is billed as the "youngest monster truck driver in the world." Olson's lawyer husband Tod Weston keeps the family business running from behind the scenes.
"We have a motor sport company," Nancy Olson said. "We call it Uncle Tod's Family Motor Sports.' My husband and I travel around the United States and we have drivers haul out our 18 wheelers with all our trucks -- mine and the children's."
Olson's family own several trucks. At roughly $250,000 a pop, plus constant maintenance, sponsorships are essential.
Simpson also has family in the sport. Her husband, Dave Radzierez, is a driver, and while the men said they have no problem competing with women, losing to them is another matter.
"Nobody wants to get beat by the girl -- nobody," Radzierez said. "The problem is she is taking out, I won't mention any names, but she has taken out some big name trucks at events. They do not like that. It drives them harder and then they make mistakes."
Since women are still quite rare in monster truck racing, they have a novelty draw, which is good for business. It's a fact not lost on the promoters or Simpson's boss, Bobby Holman, the owner of Team Beast monster truck and 4x4 racing center in Dayton, Ohio.
"She is awesome," Holman said. "When she got down out there the other night I said, 'I need three more just like her.' She is 90 pounds and a wild woman is what she is."
Olson, with her bright pink monster truck, the "Fancy Nancy," is a big star in the circuit and has been drawing in a new breed of monster truck fans: Little girls.
It's no accident that Simpson drives "Chalkboard Chuck," a monster truck kids can draw on, because these days, the real audience here isn't the big burly gear-heads, though there are still plenty of those -- it's families.
"Without the kids, the monster trucks would have been done a long time ago," Holman said. "It's all about family for us."
These trucks can and do flip over, so safety is taken very seriously. Drivers are strapped in tight. But it's understandable why it's a dream come true for adrenaline junkies.
"You heart is still pumping," Simpson said. "I get a little shaky because my adrenaline is still going and I want to get back out. You get addicted to the adrenaline rush."
Monster trucks, essentially tricked out pick-up trucks with drag racing engines and enormous tires, first became popular sideshow attractions in the early 1980s.
The first female driver, Debra Miceli, also known as "Medusa," showed up in 2001. A former pro-wrestler, Miceli was recruited by a promoter, but the now-growing ranks of women are a welcome addition to the sport.
"When Bob Chandler started monster trucks 20 years ago it was just exhibition," said driving legend Dan Runte. "Now the kids are grown and they are bringing their kids and monster trucks are just a family event... and [the women] are doing a good job. It's kind of scary actually. They can throw it down out there with the guys for sure."
Both Olson and Simpson insisted they feel totally accepted by the male drivers. These women are paving the way for the next generation, such as 14-year-old rising star, Cassie Berry, known as "Demolition Diva." Berry drives free-style with Olson's boys.
"My dad has a pro mud car and I've been around that since I was real little," Berry said. "Being with the boys it makes you step it up a notch and get yourself going so you can show yourself and what you can do, and so you can show everybody else."
And she seem to look up to Olson for the blueprint, not just for a career -- how to get the right endorsements and make a living in this rough and tumble life -- but also how to have a life and a family. So whether Berry ends up driving a monster truck or a carpool or both, she'll be crushing it.
- Family & Relationships
- Sports & Recreation
- Nancy Olson
- Monster trucks