TAMPA — Cynthia Gauthier grew up around racing. She says she went with her father to everything from tractor pulls to NASCAR races. Gauthier, a native of Quebec, started her racing career at 18. She started with Motocross and off-road racing, and eventually found her way to monster trucks. Now in her seventh season competing in the Monster Jam circuit, Gauthier says she wants to give fans the same thrill she had as a youngster. She'll get her chance this weekend when Monster Jam takes over Raymond James Stadium.
"They give me all that energy!" Gauthier said with a huge smile. "They’re like 'you’ve gotta do a backflip today!' It means, to me, like 'let’s do it!' I’m doing it for all those little kids that ask me that. So it’s definitely worth it."
Gauthier is in a brand new Lincoln Stabilizer truck this year. In freestyle competitions, drivers are judged based on stunts performed during an allotted time period. The longer the driver keeps the truck upright and running, the better chance for a better score.
"I feel more pressure because I’m trying to keep that truck in one piece because it looks so nice," Gauthier said. "You want to go big, you want to do those cool tricks. You’re trying to fill the time because fans really want you to fill the time and do those cool tricks. But if you’re a one-time hit, you’re not going to get a good score."
Gauthier is the only female driver in the 12-person field this weekend. She said it's not easy being a woman in a male-dominated sport, but she's earned her spot, and has the same goal as everyone else.
"When it’s race time we all want to win. We all race in the same series, so it’s pretty cool. It’s one of the only sports where we actually race against guys at the same level."
More women are getting involved in all aspects of motorsports, and Gauthier says it's nice to have a network of people who are sharing the same journey.
"We’re always there cheering for each other and asking for advice. I think it’s a small industry. I feel it’s cool that I see every woman supporting each other."
The interactive fan Pit Party gets underway outside Raymond James Stadium Saturday at 2:30 PM. Event gates open at 5:30 PM, and the start time is set for 7:00 PM. Sunday's Pit Party starts at 11:30 AM. Gates open at 1:30 PM, and the start time is scheduled for 3 PM.
Tickets can be purchased through MonsterJam.com.