In 2010, Brianna Mahon’s 15-year journey to the professional ranks of motocross came to fruition, only to be derailed by a devastating hand injury – she hasn’t competed since.
Years later, Mahon has found a new calling.
Competing on the Monster Jam circuit, the 24-year-old is coming off two wins at her first asphalt event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Mahon – the 2015 Monster Jam rookie of the year – will be behind the wheel of the easy-to-spot Scooby Doo monster truck during the first-ever Monster Jam event at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Thursday and Friday, too.
And while motocross was her first walk of life, Mahon – a Sullivan, Ill. native – has enjoyed getting behind the wheel of the 12-foot tall, 10,000-plus-pound machines.
“It was a actually a dream I really never knew I had,” Mahon said of her monster truck career. “I had raced motocross my entire life and that was all I knew and basically all I did. After my injury in 2011, I was out for two years and couldn’t compete in anything, really. It was pretty severe and it was just a long process. When I came back – it’s healed – but I couldn’t race anymore so I had to find something else to do.”
Mahon found her way back to competitive in a car on the small end of the spectrum. About three years ago, her father, Jeff Mahon, had the idea of getting her into mud truck competitions or in race cars. She decided on micro sprint cars and Mahon quickly got ready for her first event.
Mahon won the first and second heat events before taking home first place in the feature race at Coles County Speedway in Mattoon (Ill.) in the 600 cc micro division, which was shortly after getting her mini stock car. It was during that winning moment that Mahon knew she could find a career behind the wheel.
“It was kind of one of those things where I always grew up watching dirt tracks and when I couldn’t race anymore, my dad and I were at a track and he was like, ‘these things are really cool, do you think you’d want to drive one?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, sure. Going around in circles doesn’t seem that fun but you never know,’” Mahon said. “And he said, ‘well, we could either get a mud truck or a race car’ and my thought process was, ‘well, a mud truck you can’t go out and run every weekend. A race car I can still race every single Saturday night just like my motorcycle.’ So we bought a race car and it was two days after I got my wisdom teeth cut out and my face was all swollen up. I hopped in the car for the first time with no practice, never been in a car and showed up at a track to race and I won everything. I won both heat races and the feature. I was like, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do now.’”
Before, though, Mahon said she never would have thought she’d be racing on four wheels.
“It was definitely a lot different than I expected it to be,” she said. “It’s a lot harder [than motocross] and it’s not boring, it’s actually very exciting. It worked out.”
Scary end, new beginning
While her new career is flourishing, Mahon’s motocross exploits came to an abrupt and scary end.
While training for her second year as a pro in 2011, Mahon was landed on by an out-of-control rider on a large jump, shattering the joints in her wrist and thumb. It required two reconstructive surgeries and Mahon was in a cast for nearly two years, but that never deterred her.
While she doesn’t compete in motocross, Mahon is still heavily involved in the sport as she gives lessons from a motocross track built on her property in Illinois.
“I’m still fully involved in it all. I still ride when I can and I still teach, so it’s still there. I miss competing at the level I did because I used to travel the country and competed in national events that were on TV. But, hey, I get to travel the world now driving a monster truck so I can’t complain too much.”
Her upbringing in motocross came in handy, too. Word got around of Mahon’s motorsports background, and her interest in monster trucks was piqued when “Maximum Destruction” monster truck driver Tom Meents – a winner of eleven Monster Jam World Finals championships – noticed that Mahon could make a career out of competing in monster trucks.
“[Meents] heard about me through the grapevine and heard about my motorsports background,” she said. “One day people were talking about me and he thought, ‘who is this person?’ He wanted to talk to me and thought I would be a good fit for Monster Jam. That’s when they put me in a truck, and here we are.”
Mahon met Meents about a year-and-a-half ago and appreciates whatever advice he has to give. Meents is truly one of the pioneers of the sport and has found ways to draw people to it, like Mahon.
“Tom is my mentor. He’s been doing this a very, very long time and was one of the guys who was here when Monster Jam started,” Mahon said of Meents, who was the first person to attempt a monster truck backflip and double backflip, and is set to attempt the first ever front flip on June 13 at Metlife Stadium. “Every year he’s doing something crazier. … He’s always trying to better the sport and is going above and beyond what everyone else is doing. He’s really been a big role model for me and he’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s one of my instructors and has helped teach me pretty much everything know. He’s been a big influence.”
But Mahon wants to be a leader herself.
“I really just want to be an inspiration to anybody out there, male or female. All of these little kids come up and they want to drive monster trucks one day. This is coming from somebody, who – I didn’t dream of driving a monster truck as a little kid like most of these other drivers did,” Mahon said. “I had other aspirations and I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my life and I came back, turned it around and made [my career] 100 times better than I ever thought I would. I just want to be a person that people can look up to and say, ‘she overcame something that’s been pretty tragic.’ I was in pretty bad shape with my wrist and I’m still able to do great things in a monster truck. I really just want to excel at it and be one of the top drivers in the sport as well as inspiring these kids along the way.”
Many kids are already attracted to Mahon and her truck because it was built to resemble the cartoon character Scooby Doo. It makes Mahon pretty easy to spot from the stands, too.
“The truck looks just like everybody’s favorite canine and the kids love it,” said Mahon, who was a fan of Scooby Doo growing up. “It’s one of the new trucks and it’s so popular that they brought in two new trucks this year so there’s three Scooby Doos now.”
But there will be only one Scooby Doo when Mahon comes to Myrtle Beach, looking to build off the momentum she gained last week in Nova Scotia.
“This is my first time coming to Myrtle Beach and I’m pretty excited for it,” she said. “I had my first speedway show this weekend so I got the first asphalt show done and the jitters are out of the way. I was able to pull out some wins last weekend and just want to keep the ball rolling and put on a good show for everybody.”
Mahon also put on a good show during a Monster Jam event in Bangor, Maine a few weeks ago. Coming off a turn, Mahon’s truck flipped and her roof scraped the ground, but she saved it and got the truck back in control. Mahon said it was one of her most memorable events thus far.
“It was a huge save that everyone caught on camera and everyone was cheering. It was something that most people couldn’t really save but I did,” she said. “I came off a jump and the truck got sideways, and actually the roof touched the ground; that’s how far I rolled over. I was able to stay on it and steer out of it and it spun around in circles and then it stood back and I was able to save it; that was pretty cool and it’s something I’ll remember.”
Mahon said when she travels to the Monster Jam events, she finds herself inquiring with the veterans, getting whatever tips she can.
“Every show we go to, I’m always talking to the other drivers about the track or anything in general. They’re always a big help,” Mahon said. “There’s a lot going on and it’s always good to get other people’s perspective. I was talking to [Monster Energy driver] Damon Bradshaw and he was giving me all the advice that I could take in. I really think that helps with my driving and knowing where I was at on the track, too.”
When she isn’t behind the wheel, Mahon can likely be found styling hair.
“I actually own a hair salon here in Illinois; I love doing hair,” she said. “I love both of my jobs so most of the time it doesn’t even feel like I work. But that’s pretty much what takes up most of my time; that and racing. Other than that, I don’t really have much time for anything else.”
Mahon’s crew members don’t have much time for anything else, either. They work behind the scenes virtually nonstop to keep things rolling.
“Our crew guys are the backbone of the sport. We wouldn’t be out there if it weren’t for them; they keep the truck running all hours of the day,” Mahon said. “There’s some shows where they’re out working on the truck until 5, 6 or 7 in the morning and then we have a show coming up again and they don’t get much sleep. They live on the road month after month and don’t get to go home like I do. They have a tough career but they’re all passionate about it and they’re the ultimate support system; my crew guys have been so supportive in helping me achieve what I’ve achieved. Without them and our safety crew, the shows wouldn’t be possible at all. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes that work nonstop to make it all happen.”
Contact MAX McKINNON at 626-0302 or on Twitter @mmckinnonTSN.
If you go
▪ What | Monster Jam
▪ Where | Myrtle Beach Speedway
▪ When | 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday
Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Tickets | $15 adults, $10 kids (12 & under)