Meet the Three New Monster Jam University Graduates Debuting This Weekend
Authored by Samuel Reiman on October 27, 2023
Three new Monster Jam University Powered by UNOH (MJU) graduates will hit the track this weekend for their first ever Monster Jam events in Nampa, ID, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Fernando Martinez – El Toro Loco – Nampa, ID
Fernando Martinez is no stranger to Monster Jam trucks. His father took him to his first monster truck event in Mexico when he was two years old. After moving to America at a young age, Martinez became a Monster Jam superfan.
“I wanted to be a Monster Jam driver. Growing up, that’s really all I could think about,” explained Martinez. “I watched it on TV, I collected all of the toys. I followed the drivers. Tom Meents and Dennis Anderson are basically my heroes.
“Once I turned 18, I did everything I could to be a part of the industry, whether it was helping out, volunteering at local speedway shows, shining up bodies and mounting and dismounting tires and all of that, and just making connections, learning everything I could.”
Martinez initially auditioned at MJU in 2017, spending three days behind the wheel. However, it wasn’t until 2022 when he finally received a call back. He headed back to Florida and then to MJU again to do some more motorized behind-the-wheel auditions and complete his training.
“I’m doing a little prep work here and there, but honestly I’m just ready to start a new chapter and learn as much as I can," says Martinez, as he closes in on his first event. “I have an affinity for every element of a competition – Racing, Skills, Freestyle. It’s all kind of just fun for me.”
Having looked up to Tom Meents during his childhood, Martinez said that instead of being starstruck by working with The Professor at MJU, he instead found talking to him an opportunity.
“I found a lot of interest in find out more about Tom Meents, the man from Paxton Illinois.
“The way he carries himself and the way he knows how to elaborate on certain things when he’s talking about training behind the wheel of a Monster Jam truck, that was probably the best part. It was just being able to be around him and pick his brain about anything, really because he has so much knowledge.
“I’m looking forward to every single event that will come my way, and hopefully many more will.”
Angelina Nock – Megalodon – San Juan, Puerto Rico
“You look so normal, and you’re not – I think what you did just then, was unbelievable” – Simon Cowell.
That is not a quote from Simon watching Angelina compete in a Monster Jam event though, although it may soon well be, but rather when Angelina and her father performed on “America’s Got Talent,” in which they performed their act balancing on the top of 80-foot tall sway poles.
Angelina Nock is an eighth-generation performer in the “Nerveless Nocks,” – a family who coined their act’s name after Queen Elizabeth II described their family as “nerveless” after witnessing one of their performances.
So… why Monster Jam?
“I became a professional water skier at the age of 12,” explained Angelina. “I was in the water sports industry and boats and jet skis. And, growing up, my mom, my brother and I would wake up at like 6 a.m. and ride dirt bikes.
“The first time I was around monster trucks was at an event down in Costa Rica with Shane Phreed and the Tulachka family. When they met me, Shane was like, ‘you need to be a driver, you’re perfect.’ And ever since then I’ve had that basically planted in my mind. I didn’t know you could audition to be a driver, and as soon as I heard that was a thing and I got asked if I wanted to audition, I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.”
Angelina has now successfully made her way through auditions and will compete in her first event in San Juan, Puerto Rico this weekend.
“I’m so excited that my first event is in Puerto Rico because, my mom, she’s Mexican. So Spanish is another language of mine, so I’m super pumped to be able to experience it in Puerto Rico.”
Alongside Jamie Sullivan in Monster Mutt Dalmatian, Angelina will be one of two female competitors in San Juan this weekend.
“Any girl behind the wheel, I just have so much respect,” explains Angelina. “A lot of people when they see me, they are very surprised that I’m going to be driving. I’m 5-foot-nothing, I’m 105 lbs., I look pretty girly but I’m just as tough as the boys and I’m just so excited to be a part of this and thankful for the opportunity.”
Joe Dennis – Scooby-Doo! – Nampa, ID
While he has never competed in a motorsports event before, Joe Dennis already has experience squaring off against a certain Monster Jam competitor.
Dennis used to perform in Feld Entertainment’s Marvel Universe LIVE! along with now Monster Jam driver Bernard Lyght performing the role of Spider-Man and Joe fighting him in the role of the Green Goblin.
“We’ve had epic battles in the past, you know, playing rivals on stage, but we’re really good friends and he actually helped facilitate this opportunity,” explained Dennis.
“Motorsports is a new adventure as far as on a competition level. I have had a little bit of experience as far as riding motorcycles, but that’s more of a hobby. This is a whole new adventure, a whole new world for me to step into. I did follow Monster Jam as a little kid. At around six years old, my dad took me to my first Monster Jam event.
“I went back as an adult to see my first event out in Tampa at the Amalie Arena and I kind of felt like that 6-year-old all over again, and I was able to get excited and that kind of helped carry that energy onto training.”
Dennis got to work with the instructors at MJU, and has received words of advice from Tom Meents, Camden Murphy and Tristan England that he believes should soon get him up to speed.
“The best advice I’ve been given so far is just run your race. Run your race and drive accordingly. Make sure that when you are, for instance in racing, make sure you just focus on making that your best turn or your best straight. Don’t worry about who’s to your left. Hone in and focus on the best that you can do at this moment.
“It’s been about a month and a couple of weeks that I’ve been able to drive consistently behind the Monster Jam University trucks out there, and I am feeling confident.
“I have those like new jitters as a new person up or a rookie coming up, but mostly just excited and ready to see how I can stand up to the rest of the drivers and just do my best and meet fans.
“My plan is just do drive accordingly, have fun, meet fans and just get through these first events under my belt as a rookie.”
Following his first event, Dennis is looking forward to sharing his accomplishment with his family back in Orlando.
“They won’t be able to travel with me at this time, you know. There’s school going on here in Orlando, so unfortunately the family has to stay behind. But they will tune in and be able to cheer on, and I’m going to update them as much as I can with all my events and all the excitement that I am feeling. But they’re very proud and very anxious to see me out there on the arena floor.
“I just have one daughter. She is my pride and joy. So she’s a little nervous to see her dad in those larger-than-life vehicles, but she is also excited and proud of that.”