There’s a good reason Tech classes don’t intimidate professional monster truck driver Rosalee
Mechanical Engineering major Rosalee is the youngest professional monster truck driver in the
Rosalee Ramer just finished up her freshman year at Georgia
Tech—and her rookie season driving in Monster Jam, the world’s premier professional
monster truck racing circuit.
Just about to turn 19, she’s by far the youngest female driver on the tour, but
she’s proven she belongs in the same arena with competitors twice her age and
experience behind the wheel.
And that even includes the sport’s top dog, Dennis Anderson, driver of the
legendary Grave Digger, whom she almost beat in one of her first events this
Indeed, she’s already got the skill and mental toughness to go head-to-head with
the best drivers in the monster truck world. Catching big air on jumps, turning
donuts and crushing cars is second nature to Ramer.
So you couldn’t expect this young woman, who exudes an easy confidence and warm
smile, to be intimidated by Tech’s academic rigor.
She handles her college classes just like she handles Wildflower, her 5-ton truck:
heavy on the throttle and with more than a little grit.
engineering major, she set up her spring class schedule strategically so she
could jet off every weekend to race in shows across the country.
She goes from trying to impress her professors and acing tests to competing in
front of crowds often exceeding 50,000 fans.
“I raced mini off-road trucks ... from the ages of 10 to 13 and I did pretty
Ramer has been driving monster trucks since she was 14.
Ramer joined Monster Jam right after she turned 18 and first started competing on
the circuit this past winter. However, she’s been driving professionally since age
Her father, Kelvin, inspired her to follow in his path as a monster truck driver by
enlisting her to serve in his crew.
“My family has photos of me working on his trucks as early as the age of 3,” Ramer
says. “He told me I couldn’t drive unless I learned to work on them, so that’s
exactly what I did.”
At 14, she started competing in regional monster truck events against other
up-and-comers, as well as seasoned veterans. No one was surprised when Ramer won
Rookie of the Year on the WGAS Motorsport circuit.
“My dad was very supportive of me and even crewed for me on my races, though I
think he mostly wanted to make sure I was safe,” she says.
She picked up mechanic skills quickly, and when she was old enough, her dad allowed
her to start racing on junior circuits. “I raced mini off-road trucks in Trophy Kart
from the ages of 10 to 13 and I did pretty well,” Ramer says, understating her
domination at that level with a humility that belies her youth.
Ramer’s driving prowess drew her some viral fame. When she was 16, she got a call
from daytime TV icon Ellen DeGeneres to appear on her show to talk about her pro
monster truck exploits.
But the older drivers in the sport knew that Ramer wasn’t just an Internet
sensation. They understood just how talented she was and that she soon was coming to
compete against them.
“They saw me work my way up to their level, they saw me work on my dad’s crew and
on my own truck, and they knew that my spot among them was going to be well-earned,”
“I wanted to live in the South and experience something different and new."
At the time, however, Ramer was still very much a teenager and also a very serious
She took numerous AP classes and participated on the dance team at Pacific
Collegiate in Santa Cruz, Calif., a small charter high school that is perennially
ranked as one of the best in the country.
She admits that when she started thinking about college, Georgia Tech wasn’t even
on her radar. “All I knew is I wanted to study mechanical engineering and move
toward a career working in the automotive industry, preferably in design,” she
After an almost-random meeting with a Tech representative visiting her school,
Ramer applied and made a trip to Atlanta in the fall of 2014.
She also considered MIT and Tulane, but she says, Tech was the closest she came to
feeling at home. “I wanted to live in the South and experience something different
and new,” she says.
Ramer also wanted to maximize her opportunities to turn her passion for motorsports
into an automotive engineering career.
“My parents didn’t go to a four-year college, they’re small-business owners of a
towing company and they’ve never been big fans of the corporate world,” she
“But I wanted to see what it’s like to work at an engineering firm for one of the
car companies. I’m hoping my Tech education will help me land an internship at
Porsche or GM.”
“When I brought home my first trophy, [my dorm mates] were so excited for me.”
When she first arrived on campus, Ramer didn’t tell anyone about her background—at
first that is. “I wanted to keep my school and private lives separate,” she
Last Spring, Ramer did a lot of her homework on planes.
“But after about a month in the dorm, I traded my Instagram handle with my new
friends and then they saw how many fans I had and stumbled across that Ellen
After her dorm mates were star struck, they quickly became her support system for
balancing her two distinctly different lives, and even routinely sent Ramer off to
the airport at the end of each week.
“When I brought home my first trophy for winning the donut competition at a Monster
Jam event in San Diego, they freaked out,” she says. “They were so excited for
“I do my homework and study on the plane trips out and back, as well as whenever I
have down time,” she says. This spring semester, Ramer’s show schedule required her
to leave campus nearly every Thursday and return that Sunday.
Her competitions usually take place on Saturday nights, but she also spends a lot
of time before the show at “pit parties,” where fans can meet and greet the drivers,
take pictures and get autographs.
“It’s an unusual sport where fans have total access to the drivers,” Ramer says. “I
love interacting with the people at the events—both my fans and my family.” And by
family she doesn’t just mean her dad. “The world of monster trucks is a small,
close-knit community with only about 250 pros,” Ramer says. “I grew up with them.
They’re all like my uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters.”
Driving her truck, however, still gives Ramer the biggest thrill.
Each Monster Jam show—and she says “show” because the tour is run by the same
company that owns Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and Disney on Ice—consists of
multiple contests. “It varies by event, track layout and promoter, but it usually
involves racing head-to-head with two trucks pitted against each other over a course
with straight-line drags, obstacles and lots of jumps,” she says.
There are also side competitions like the donut contest, where drivers spin their
trucks in circles until they can’t go anymore and are scored for their
Her first year on the Monster Jam tour was an unqualified success, though she
admits there’s plenty of room for improvement.
The same thing goes for her studies at Tech. Until classes start back up again in
August, she’s back in California working on both. In addition to spending time with
her family, she’s competing in regional monster truck events and working with a
local engineering firm to build a new chassis for Wildflower.
How are you spending your summer?
Story: Roger Slavens Photos: Adam Hester Digital Design: Brett Lorber