I did not get to do my interview in a monster truck, but talking with Tony Ochs, driver of the Monster Jam Soldier of Fortune truck was still a memorable experience.
I read that one of the rituals you do before a show is controlled breathing exercises. Why is that?
It helps me calm down you know? There is a lot of different factors that get you hyped up. I mean it is nice to be hyped up, but it kinda increases your anxiety level. Right before a show I climb into my truck super early and sit and try to clear my mind. You know? Take a few deep breaths and drop the anxiety levels a little bit.
How did your love for vehicles come about?
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, we grew up with ATVs, dirt bikes, and off-road equipment. I guess all that was really just the foundation of my love for motorsports and vehicles. When I joined the army, I became a helicopter mechanic and that is when I really took an interest in mechanics. That is how I got into Monster Jam. When I separated from the Army, I started with Marvel Universe Live — which is a sister company of Monster Jam. I was their stunt motorcycle mechanic and from there I worked my way into Monster Jam.
Did you help in developing the Soldier Fortune Black Ops truck?
I actually had no input in developing that Monster Jam truck. Feld Motorsports had already designed the truck and they picked me to drive it.
Did you always want to join the army after high school or did you have any other post-high school plans?
I had the military in my mind for the last couple years in high school. That’s something I really always wanted to do. Five days after my seventeenth birthday I called the recruiter and said, “Hey I’m ready to join the army.” I did basic training between my junior and senior year of high school.
Did your time in the army prepare you in any way for Monster Jam?
I think so. To race all three of these vehicles it’s really important to be physically and mentally fit. In the army, you have no choice but to work out and be physically fit. I think that has definitely given me a leg up on the competition.
How long did it take you to learn how to control your monster truck?
Every time us drivers go out and perform a show, we are still learning. Every performance is a learning experience. Yes, it is very hard to control the truck. It probably took me maybe five or ten shows before I was really really efficient with steering, fluidity … you know.
Have you ever gotten hurt while performing a stunt?
No, never happened. I have come away with bruises, but that is just minor stuff that is expected in any motorsport event. Never any major bruises.
What’s your favorite stunt to do?
Anything that involves big air! Jumping as high as I can. When I am flying through the air, it is a very exhilarating feeling. I cannot really describe it.
Out of all the shows that you’ve competed in, which has been your favorite?
I would say that my favorite show that I have ever done was Houston, Texas October of 2017. I was driving Netflix’s The Punisher truck. It’s where I did my very first backflip in monster truck. It was all in all a great performance and a great time.
Do you have any other competitors you look up to as mentors?
Absolutely! Tom Meents. He is an eleven-time world champion. He is the guy that taught me how to drive a monster truck. I will always look up to him and I will forever be grateful for all the things that he has taught me. I also look up to the other guys that are on my team with me. We all learn stuff from each other. It is a great honor to compete with such a high level of talent.
Do Monster Jam drivers usually stick with the career for a long time?
Yeah. We have had guys in Monster Jam that have been driving for thirty-plus years. This is all they have done their entire life. For me, personally, this is my first year on the Triple Threat Series. We call it the Triple Threat Series because we race the Monster Jam trucks and we also have the ATVs and the speedsters as well. So we are racing three different vehicle platforms all in the same event.
Do you have any next steps in your career after Monster Jam driving?
Right now I aspire to start my own motorsports dealership — ATVs, bikes, and motorcycles. I do hope that I can get quite a few years out of Monster Jam. I sure would not mind still driving when I am fifty.
Thank you so much for talking to us! Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish up?
Anybody can get the information they need about the show at Monsterjam.com. We have a show Friday night at seven o’ clock. We have two shows on Saturday; one show is at one and the other is at seven. We have another show on Sunday at one and both Saturday morning and Sunday morning from ten thirty until noon. We have the Pit Party, and its passes are ten extra dollars. You can get them at the ticket window. Check out Monster Jam’s social media pages. Also, check out my social media pages. My Facebook and Instagram are both @TonyOchsBlackOps. My Twitter is @TonyOchs.