Becky McDonough doesn’t think of herself as fearless. That might be hard to believe, considering an average day at work for this 24-year-old involves driving a 12-foot-tall, 10,000-pound truck for the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, which makes a stop in Oakland on Saturday.
“I’m not scared out there,” she says, “You tighten your seatbelt so hard that you can hardly breathe. It hurts my hip bones, but once you’re out there you don’t feel it at all.”
In addition to the seatbelt, McDonough is protected by a roll cage, a seven-point harness, a fire suit, driving shoes, a helmet, fireproof gloves, a neck restraint and a custom-built seat.
“There are also a few pieces that wrap around my ribs that keep me in there a little bit more, so I pretty much don’t go anywhere once I’m in there,” she adds.
The successor to the pastime sport of truck pulling, monster truck rallies feature custom-built trucks hoisted on 66-inch-tall tires, with a speed capacity of about 100 miles per hour and a monumental amount of horsepower — often upwards of 1,500.
What started out as a showcase for augmented pickup trucks in the late ’70s has evolved into an extreme sport, with the colossal vehicles crushing cars, flying across them and reaching heights of up to 35 feet.
Some might say that’s a lot of power for a petite woman, but McDonough never saw her gender as an obstacle to her dream career as a monster truck driver — an idea that was planted in her brain after seeing her first truck jam when she was in ninth grade.
“Of course you’re intimidated because I’m this little girl that wants to be in with the guys, but at the same time, I’ve never known any different,” she says. “I’ve grown up with all my guy cousins and always had more guy friends than girls.”
McDonough started working as a crew member on monster truck shows four years ago, and is in her seventh week of driving and performing with her own truck, called Dragon’s Breath, at Monster Jam.
“I’m getting more comfortable. The first time was nerve-wracking, but at the same time I was excited because it was something I’d wanted to do for so many years. I was nervous and my stomach was sick, but I was more excited than anything.”
The adrenaline is audible in McDonough’s voice, which is almost giddy when speaking about the passion that has become her career.
“People do this kind of thing, rig up something on their truck, after work, and here I get to drive a 10,000-pound truck for a job!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $7.50 to $30 general; $125 for all-access pass
Contact: (510) 569-2121, www.monsterjam.com
Note: A “Party in the Pits” pre-show, at which ticketholders may meet the drivers, runs from 3 to 6 p.m.