Monster Jam dreams turn into reality for UNOH student

Posted on Monday, February 17, 2020


UNOH Student & Monster Jam Backup Driver Brenden Rassel

Not even a year ago, UNOH student Brenden Rassel was finishing up his third season competing with the UNOH Motorsports team at the DirtCar Winter Nationals in Volusia, Florida.  He was preparing for his final 12 months at the University and completing his Bachelor Degree in Automotive Technology Supervision.  But then, his dream as a little kid from Woonsocket, South Dakota, started to come into focus. 

Because of the University’s partnership with Monster Jam, UNOH students were encouraged to apply for an opportunity to train and try-out to be a driver of a Monster Jam truck!  Brenden didn’t waste any time and turned in his application eagerly awaiting the results.   In June, 2019, both he and another UNOH student, Zachary White-Griggs were announced as the winners and surprised in front of their fellow Motorsports team-mates.

 “Finding out I had the opportunity to go down to Florida to start the try-out process to be a Monster Jam driver was absolutely one of the best things to ever happen in my life,” said Brenden.

After that, it was a whirlwind summer behind the wheel of the 12,000-pound Monster Jam trucks training at Monster Jam University under the tutelage of 11-time Monster Jam World Champion and Driver of the Max-D truck, Tom Meents.  The challenging tracks at Monster Jam replicate the real Monster Jam on-track experience, giving Brenden, along with other novice and veteran athletes and equal chance to excel. The unforgiving obstacles test the physical strength, mental stamina and the dexterity it takes to pilot a Monster Jam truck.

“Getting the experience behind the wheel with a legend like Tom Meents was amazing.  He’s the best for a reason because not only is he a great performer, but he’s a great teacher and mentor.”  The favorite thing he’s learned so far, getting a good sky-wheelie followed by either a moonwalk or wheelie walk on the landing, “It was the first real trick I got to perform and hearing Tom Meents over the radio saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! You nailed it!’ was really special to me.  It’s definitely going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.”

Brenden had a respectable showing at MJU, so good, that he was asked to come back for additional training sessions.  Late in 2019 he got the call he’d never expected to get, he was offered a position as a back-up driver for the Triple Threat West Monster Jam tour.

“I’m on call every weekend,” Brenden said. “Whether I come from Daytona, Florida or Dayton, Ohio, I’ll fly in to wherever the tour is at and I’ll be expected to perform on the spot, to have my gear ready and go. It’s stressful at times, but the part of me that’s a competitor wants to get in a truck and drive, show the fans and Monster Jam what I’ve got.”

Brenden is scheduled to complete his classes in June this year, all of which can be taken online if he would get the call to fill in for a driver short- or long-term if they were either injured, sick, or otherwise unavailable.  He’s even traveled to a few shows out west to be there just in case an opportunity arose.  It’s a surreal experience for the 23 year old, finally seeing the trucks he idolized as a child, and getting the chance to climb behind the wheels and pull off stunts he only dreamed about. 

“I was one of those kids looking at Monster Jam toys and watching them on TV, and I never thought for a minute that I would have an opportunity to jump in one of those trucks and go perform, and hit the jumps and perform two-wheel skills and it’s been a blast!”

Brenden’s next goal, getting a permanent spot in the Monster Jam tour rotation heading into 2021 after some additional training and experience this summer at his return trip to Monster Jam University.

To find out more about the UNOH and Monster Jam partnership, visit

Category: Applied Technologies, Campus & Community

Keywords: Monster Jam, Brenden Rassel

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Last updated: 02/17/2020