From Super Fan to Super Star: Armando Castro’s Rise to Monster Jam World Finals
Authored by Samuel Reiman on June 21, 2023
Twelve competitors in this year’s Monster Jam World Finals were also competing at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2016 as part of Monster Jam World Finals XVII and the Young Guns Shootout.
A thirteenth future competitor was up in the stands as a super fan, attending his first Monster Jam World Finals event. He had no idea that by this time next year, he would join the ranks as a Monster Jam athlete.
“I met Bill Easterly at World Finals, just kind of stumbled across him, and we started talking and I ended up getting my foot in the door that way and got a chance to audition right there and then,” recalls Armando Castro, now a driver of El Toro Loco. “I didn’t think it was going to take just a year to make that a reality. It was just so surreal to be able to audition, to go down to Paxton, IL, and drive a truck, you know?”
But getting behind the wheel of a Monster Jam truck is one thing. Staking your claim and proving you belong is another.
“That’s everybody’s goal is to be able to get invited to Monster Jam World Finals,” explains Castro, who has competed at Monster Jam World Finals in 2019 and 2022, but not in the full field. “I was invited to compete in the Speedsters – there was Racing and an Obstacle Course, and we ended up winning the Racing aspect of the Speedster. Forever in the books, 2019 Speedster Racing World Champion.”
Last year, Castro placed fifth in the 2-Wheel Skills Championship, hindered by a mechanical issue on his truck.
“I had a hiccup last year when I competed at World Finals. My truck ended up shutting off. It’s motor sports, you know.
“I believe the challenging one this year will probably be 2-Wheel Skills, only because we have eight drivers and it is literally the top eight drivers that I feel are skilled at the 2-Wheel Skills aspect of it. You have Ryan Anderson, Tyler Menninga, Tristan England, and Jon Zimmer Jr. in there now and he’s up and coming, it’s just anybody’s.”
While many El Toro Loco fans will be excited to see if Castro can get the win in the Great Clips 2-Wheel Skills Challenge, it is the Racing and Freestyle competitions in which he will be making his first Monster Jam World Finals appearance.
“Keith Speller from operations at Monster Jam, he called me telling me the great news that I’d been invited to Monster Jam World Finals to compete and, you know, I just kind of tried to hold back tears but it was such an emotional feeling. If people can really understand, just that invitation itself, how much weight that has behind it. I’m doing something right to get invited to the Monster Jam World Finals. And to be one of the few Latinos in the industry behind such a powerful, big name like El Toro Loco, it’s just an honor and a privilege to be out there and representing that truck and my culture.”
Castro has a job to do when he gets behind the wheel of El Toro Loco, and he admits that sometimes he is hard on himself and has to remind himself to go out there and just have fun. However, he adds that he never takes his position as a Monster Jam athlete for granted.
“I would never forget where I came from, you know, from a super fan and now becoming a pilot, it’s just incredible. It took a lot of years, a lot of focus, a lot of sweat, blood and tears… there’s always a kid watching in the stands wishing they were in my seat, and I just hope to inspire anybody that has a dream.
“Just being able to compete with all these guys and get invited to Monster Jam World Finals, that kind of speaks for itself. So I gotta give myself more credit, and I’m just looking forward to Monster Jam World Finals.”
Momentum will be on Castro’s side as he enters Monster Jam World Finals XXII on July 1, as he placed second in the Monster Jam Arena Championship East standings this year behind Weston Anderson in Grave Digger, winning 10 Overall Event Championships at points events throughout the season.