Featured Image: El Toro Loco (provided by Feld Entertainment, Inc.)
Interview by Diane Fleischman
Armando Castro, age 22, is a young man living out his dreams. A dream that started at age 6, after he saw his first Monster Jam show in Anaheim, California. He was determined to work hard and do whatever it took to become a Monster Truck driver.
For the last three years, Armando has been competing and touring the world as a Monster Truck driver of El Toro Loco (The Crazy Bull), and as they tour on weekends, the production will arrive at the PPL Center on Friday, February 22 to Sunday, February 24. Recently, The Valley Ledger had the opportunity to talk to Armando.
“I’m looking forward to Allentown. I was there two years ago, when it was my rookie show, and can’t wait to show you how much better we are,” Armando spoke with excitement. “One of my favorite memories of Allentown was this deli that was right across the way from the hotel that had the most delicious cheese steaks I ever had, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Yes, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Plenty of “good eats” to be found! So, do you know how many trucks and vehicles it takes to move this production from city to city?
“Two Monster trucks travel on a semi-trailer, so there are three semi-trailers. The crew stays on the road and the drivers fly in city to city on Thursdays for the weekend shows.”
How would you describe a typical Monster Jam show for someone who was going to go for the first time? What can they expect?
“You can expect adrenaline from start to finish. It’s the only sport in the world where women can compete in the same level for the same championship. It’s action packed! Not just for kids, its family oriented and for adults too. It’s just a lot of fun.
If you’ve never been to a Monster Truck show they’re very loud and big. The trucks are 12,000 pounds and 1,500 horsepower, you can only imagine what these trucks can do.
Back in the day, it was more about who was the fastest and jump the biggest. But now, it’s about the technique and what we can do. And it’s more technical as we perform in arenas. You know, like trying to balance a 12,000-pound Monster Jam truck on its front two wheels, and try to walk it up the pod. We also race Monster Jam ATVs, and Monster Jam Speedsters.
But it is a competition. How does that work?
“We compete against each other and battle for points. There are six different competitions, so at the end of the show, whoever has the most points is the Event Champion of that show. At the end of the season, the points get accumulated, and whoever has the most points at the end of the tour is the Arena Champion. You get an automatic bid to the Monster Jam World Finals in Orlando to compete with the top dogs, 32 Monster trucks get to go.”
So what’s your favorite competition?
“I would have to say the Freestyle competition is my favorite. You have 75 seconds to go crazy, burn it down, go as fast as you can and get that wow factor out of the crowd. “
Spoken like a true adrenaline junkie! Are you one?
(laughing) “Yes, growing up I rode quads and stuff, and I was always like wanting to jump off a wall. It helps me be so comfortable behind a 12,000-pound Monster Jam truck. I haven’t gone skydiving yet, but it is on the bucket list, that’s yet to come. Maybe over this summer.”
Do you have a favorite part of the show?
“That’s the Pit-Party. It’s important and so special to meet the amazing fans all around the world. That was once me as a little boy getting to meet the drivers. I would do anything for the fans. The Pit-Party is before the show and tickets are sold separately. Fans can walk the floor, check out the trucks up close, and meet all eight athletes, take pictures, get autographs, and all that good stuff. It’s just a lot of fun and extra special to me to meet the fans.”
How did this all come together for you? How did you make a childhood dream come true?
“As a child, I went to as many Monster Jam Truck shows as I could. In 2016, I was blessed by meeting someone at the World Finals in Las Vegas. I met someone within the company, and had the chance to audition, and made the cut. I trained at Monster Jam University and was taught by the best of the best, Tom Meents, driver, and twelve-time champion.
I am the only Hispanic on the tour. It’s really important to me to get behind the wheel and represent the Latinos out there.”
That’s impressive, and something to be very proud of. But if you weren’t as fortunate to live your dream, was there a back up plan, a plan B?
“My goal was always to be a Fire Fighter. “
And yet you became an EMT instead.
“I like to help people out, and always be there for people, to be close to people. It was such an accomplishment, and something I hold onto very tightly. And I carry those values to my role as a Monster Truck driver, for my fans, to be a great role model. But at this time, I am not working as an EMT, I’m more focused on my career as a Monster Jam Truck driver.”
Well, it’s a great occupation to fall back on. Tell me about your life in California. I’m dying to know what kind of car you drive!
“I’m big about family. I have to give a lot of credit to my parents, they’re my number one supporters and always push me to follow my dreams. Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am.
I come from a large family, six brothers and sisters, and I am the second to the youngest.
I have four cars, a GMC Sierra Diesel Truck, a Dodge Magnum SRTE, if I want to go fast, a ’68 Dodge Dart, and a Dune Buggy. It all depends on what the day brings.”
So if you’re out, driving around, or running errands, do you ever feel like you want to morph into Monster Truck mode, even if you’re driving around in the (classic) Dodge Dart?
“There’s always traffic in LA. I sit in traffic sometimes and imagine if I were in my Monster Jam truck. I’d crush over all these cars, and we’re going to go in like 5 seconds!”
You know, you’re out there, on tour, what’s the one thing you miss from home, that you can’t find anywhere else in the world?
“My Mother’s food. I love Mexican food. It’s very difficult when I go to the east coast to find a decent Mexican restaurant. It’s really is a different world on the east coast then what it is on the west coast. I look forward to going home to my Mom and getting a very good homemade dinner and enjoy the little time I have at home. “
That’s so great! What does your future hold?
“I am very satisfied with my accomplishments so far. My next goal is to end up on a stadium tour. They’re bigger than the arenas. There’s always more to do and more to grow and more opportunities with this company. I mean, I’m only 22, and how many 22 year olds can say they are traveling the world driving a Monster Jam Truck, and living their dreams?”
Probably not many. For Armando Castor, he has made a name for himself and generated a lot of personal happiness. See Armando and the rest of the Monster Jam drivers as the Monster Jam Triple Threat blasts into the PPL Center Friday February 22, with additional shows on Saturday, February 23 at 1pm and 7pm, and Sunday, February 24 at 1pm and 6:30pm. Also check for the Pit-Party times to meet your favorite Monster Jam driver, and keep your phone handy to participate in the in- arena fan voting on your smart phone.
EVENT: MONSTER JAM PIT PARTY
Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24
Pit Party Early Access starting at 10:30am
Pit Party from 10:30am-12:00pm
Show dates and times:
Friday, February 22 at 7:00pm
Saturday, February 23 at 1:00pm and 7:00pm
Sunday, February 24 at 1:00pm and 6:30pm
PPL Center (Pit Party Entrance at Air Products Gate)
701 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
Tickets & Pit Passes start at $15 each and will be available for purchase at www.PPLCenter.com, charge by phone at 610-347-TIXX, or in-person at QNB Box Office at PPL Center.
*Ticket prices subject to change – additional fees may apply.