Monster Jam powers into Royal Farms Arena - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Monster Jam powers into Royal Farms Arena

Imagine approaching the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations as a fan at the Super Bowl, having never played football but were passionate about the game, and telling him you are good enough to play in NFL.

Armando Castro getting bullish with
“El Toro Loco”

You just needed a chance.

What are the chances that not only he’d take you seriously, but would invite you for a tryout?

“If it is your dream, you’ll do anything for it to come true,” Armando Castro said. “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what will happen.”

What happened is Castro’s billion-to-one wish came true. But not in football – in his favorite sport, Monster Truck.

Four years ago, Castro was a 19-year-old, diehard Monster Truck fan who while attending a party in Las Vegas as part of Monster Jam World Finals. He saw a man with a Monster Jam badge and struck up a conversation. The man turned out to be Bill Easterly, one of the vice presidents of Monster Jam.

“He had a badge so I told him how much I loved Monster Trucks and wanted to be a driver,” Castro said. “It was worth a shot. I wasn’t going to let my dream die.”

Castro’s fantasy isn’t just alive – it’s his reality.

Grave Digger

Four years later, the 23-year-old Mexican-American who immigrated to Whittier, Calif.,  with his family as a young boy is now on the cusp of being one of Monster Jams’ top drivers.

“It’s all been so surreal that this happened to me,” Castro said. “But, maybe, I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Castro has gone from watching from the stand to sitting in the driver’s seat of “El Toro Loco,” a 1,200-pound, 1,500 horsepower orange and yellow behemoth with 66-inch tires, horns and the ability to blow smoke out if its nose.

Castro, who is currently in fourth place in the Triple Threat Series standings, hopes to continue his push to the top spot – and a berth in the Monster Jam World Finals – at Royal Farms Arena for four shows from Feb. 28 – March 1.

Each competition will feature six events, with drivers showing their skills driving Monster Jam Speedsters, Monster Jam ATVs and of course, the iconic Monster Jam trucks.  Drivers score points based on how well they finish in each event, which tests their racing, agility, versatility and freestyle abilities.

Megalodon

Though Monster Jam has long been a staple at Royal Farms Arena, this year features something new, as one driver will attempt to become the first to pull off a backflip using a Monster Truck inside the historic venue.

The first event is a series of head-to-head races, where two drivers start the Monster Trucks side-by-side. The first one who navigates two jumps to complete a lap around the arena wins and advances to the next round until there’s only one driver left. The next competition features the drivers switching to the ATVs for a racing competition, followed by a “Skills Challenge,” where drivers show what tricks they can

In “2-Wheel Skills Challenge,” the next event, drivers return to their Monster Trucks to show off their skills by performing wheelies, moonwalks and other tricks while looking to impress the spectators, who use an app on their phone to score each competitor.

Max-D

After intermission is the donut competition, in which drivers score points based on how many times they can spin their vehicle 360 degrees. Drivers will then break out their much smaller speedsters for racing before the main event: Monster Truck Freesyle, where drivers get to show what they can do to impress fans, who score in real-time on their mobile devices.

“The tricks get better and better because everyone is trying to do something that no one has seen before so impress the crowd and get a good score.”

With 24 events during the four shows, drivers will have plenty of chances to use their vehicles – all of which look like they were driven straight out of comic books – and drastically change the standings since Baltimore is the final event of the regular season.

For Castro, it means making a move for the top spot, which would earn him a spot at the Monster Jam XXI World Finals in Orlando from May 2-3.

“The standings can change very quickly with so many points to be won out there,” he said. “But Baltimore is a big event for everyone.”

Tyler Menniga’s Grave Digger is atop the standings with 772 points, followed by Blake Granger’s Max-D (733) and Kayla Blood’s Soldier Fortune (680). Castro is in fourth with 630, ahead of Bernard Lyght’s Alien Invasion (521), Joe Urie’s Zombie (516), Aaron Basl’s Monster Mutt (340) and Jack Brown’s Megalodon (298).

“The competition is stacked and everyone is fighting to get to the top,” Castro said. “Everyone wants to get to the World Finals.”

If You Go

What: Monster Jam

Where: Royal Farms Arena

When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m., 7 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.

Pit Parties: A special Pit Party Pass, which allows a spectator onto the track to get a close look at the trucks and chat with drivers, can be purchased in addition to an event ticket. The Pit Party on Saturday and Sunday is from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Drivers look forward to signing autographs and posing for pictures free of charge, as “all the drivers look forward to meeting the fans and getting them involved more and more involved with Monster Trucks,” Castro said.

Tickets: Admission starts at $20 and Pit Party Passes are $15 each. You must have one of each to attend the Pit Party. They can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or at the venue.


About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.
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