Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to several Monster Jam drivers, and each one is more impressive than the next. The latest driver we sat down with was Kayla Blood of Soldier Fortune. She’s not only a monster truck driver, but also an all-around athlete, capable of holding her own in track and field hurdle events, in the MMA ring and out on arena and stadium tours for Monster Jam. Did we mention she’s also a veteran? How can you not salute a woman like this?!
Kayla has been driving for Monster Jam for more than five years now, but her journey to getting a monster truck seat was a unique one. No matter what she puts her body and mind to, she grew up always giving it 100 percent, and it’s served her well.
“I’ve always been very hyper competitive and always wanted to be the fastest and the best at everything I did,” Kayla Blood says. “I’ve always been athletic and put myself in any competitive thing I could. I didn’t grow up financially wealthy or anything like that, so I knew that if I was going to be great, or if I was going to make anything out of myself, it was going to have to be with me and my talent and my drive. That’s honestly what drove me to do track and field and do so well.”
Kayla was an all-star in the hurdles, but eventually she had to let go of her track dreams. That’s when she decided to join the Louisiana National Guard where she was enlisted for six years.
“In that time, I was able to grow and build myself in my career at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, LA,” she says. “I enlisted as a 42 Alpha, which I realized very quickly was not what I’m meant for and not what I wanted to do. I tried to be more active and when I got out of training and I got to my unit, I signed up for force protection and I was able to you do military police work on post. I was a part of the 244 Aviation unit. I really enjoyed being in the aviation unit and being around all the helicopters.”
After six years, Kayla left the military and had her son, Austin, who’s now 10. With her husband, fellow Monster Jam driver Blake Granger, she also has a stepdaughter named Riley, who’s 12. Following her military service, to keep herself active, Kayla briefly got involved in MMA.
“In the military, I got involved with combatives, of course, and I did a little bit of boxing back in college,” she says. “When I got out, I had a friend at a gym in Alexandria, LA, and he said, come over to the gym and do some rounds with us, do some sparring. Before I knew it, my coach was in there training me every night, getting me ready for my first fight.
“When I got done with MMA, I was 2-0, so it was a pretty cool experience. However, after I had my little boy, I didn’t really want to keep on fighting, so that’s when I turned my attention to ATVs and Motocross.”
Ultimately, competing in ATV/Motocross is what got Kayla into Monster Jam. She was part of a group of riders who would occasionally ride during Monster Jam intermissions to entertain the crowd.
“Quad Wars is what they used to call it,” she says. “We were just there having a good time, not getting paid for it or anything like that. We’d see all the drivers standing by their trucks at the Pit Party signing autographs and taking pictures. I never once in a million years thought that could actually be me by the truck signing autographs instead of sitting on my ATV.
“I remember doing very well against some of the guys out there at a Monster Jam event. It was about a week later that Monster Jam got in contact with me about auditioning to drive. I honestly just couldn’t believe it. One thing led to another and I just took advantage of these opportunities. I still get emotional when I talk about it.
“They came out with the Monster Jam Triple Threat series, which is where we raced ATVs, Side-by-Sides and the Monster Jam trucks all in one event. I was perfect for that event and that’s what they trained me for. I went out and trained at Monster Jam University on every aspect of the event. Before I knew it, I had my own Monster Jam seat.”
Kayla began by driving the yellow El Toro Loco truck. She then drove the orange El Toro Loco truck before getting the opportunity to drive Soldier Fortune, the truck she’s still driving today.
“Soldier Fortune is a truck that was previously driven by Chad Fortune,” Blood notes. “It debuted in 2015 as a tribute to the men and women in uniform. I’m a veteran myself, so to be able to go out there and represent this Monster Jam truck in particular, and to represent for our men and women, it’s always an extra motivation, an extra fire that I keep under me to go out there and do well.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to make my fans happy, especially the men and women in uniform, and also the little girls out there who are wanting the women to be successful. We want to show them that we can be successful on the same playing field as males.”
While Kayla started in the Triple Threat series, she recently competed in Stadium Tour Yellow, where she didn’t have to worry about ATVs and Side-by-Sides, just the Monster Jam truck.
“I love driving Soldier Fortune,” she says. “I’ll get on top of the truck and do pushups after a run. That’s always really fun, especially after you lay down a really solid freestyle run and you do a back flip and then you get on the truck and you do pushups. If that’s not making the little girls believe that women can do this, then I don’t know what it is.”
If you ask most Monster Jam drivers what the most difficult tricks are that they have to perform, the response usually circles two-wheel skills, and Kayla is no different.
“One of the events I kind of struggled with at the beginning of the season was two-wheel skills,” she says. “You have all these amazing, talented drivers going out there and doing all of these insane moves. You’ve got to go out there and be very skillful, but be on the ragged edge at the same time. You mess up a lot obviously when you’re trying these different moves and you’ve just got to figure out your truck, figure out the balance and sometimes you have those perfect moves and then sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
“Finding the calm in the chaos is always one of the harder parts of the competition. I really like freestyle. You have to get past 30 seconds before you’re able to get a score or you’re disqualified. For the first 30 seconds, it’s always kind of sketchy because you want to start out strong, but you also want to be a little levelheaded and be safe. Once your crew chief tells you 30 seconds, you just want to go absolutely crazy.
“There’s so many different things going on within the run that can happen. But, whenever the truck is 100 percent, you’re 100 percent and everything’s going right, it’s an amazing feeling. This past year, I won my first stadium freestyle competition in Anaheim. That was pretty awesome. It was dream come true, honestly. Angel Stadium in Anaheim will always have a place in my heart for sure.”
Now that Kayla has several years of Monster Jam under her belt, she still looks up to certain drivers who helped her in those early years, but she’s also out there looking to beat them and take home victories.
“Coming into Monster Jam, of course I looked up to Tom Meents, Jim Koehler, Charlie Pauken and all those veteran drivers,” Blood says. “Now, I have a list of veteran drivers, which started with Gary Porter, and I said every time I beat one of these veteran drivers in racing, I’m going to write down their names. I got Gary Porter, Tom Meents, Ryan Anderson, Jim Koehler, and Charlie Pauken. I’m still working, but I have all of them. It’s pretty cool to know they taught me.”
Monster Jam, among so many other motorsport events out there, has done a fabulous job of incorporating both men and women. Kayla has grasped that responsibility to be a role model for other women and girls who might want to chase a similar dream.
“We’re in a male-dominated sport, so anytime a woman tries to go out there and do what these men are doing, you’re going to have doubters, haters, people not believing, and you’ve got to make them believe by showing them what you’re capable of,” she says. “We go out there just as much as these men do and if we fail, we’re looked at a little harsher, I believe, than the men are sometimes. We have to work 10 times harder in this field to gain the credibility that some of the guys do.
“I know every time we go out on that track and we don’t hit our marks and we don’t do the things that we want to do, we’re very upset about it. We try not to let it get in our heads, but if you’re not out there winning or being successful, then you’ve got some homework to do. We just go back to the drawing board every time. We’ve got to be powerful women out there to show all little girls that we can do this. Women belong here. That’s why I love being a part of it.
“My goal is to make history in Monster Jam as a female. I’m waiting on that opportunity and I’m not going to stop until I do something great.”
Kayla’s history making moment could happen at any point. She’s already won an event championship, a stadium racing event and a stadium freestyle event. However, knowing Kayla’s drive to always do better, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s been a dream come true and it’s been an awesome ride so far,” she says.