Jennifer Taylor Petersen of Beaufort is a wife and a mother of two, and she helps run the family rental property business.
On Thursday night, she hopes to become the first woman to win on the “Truck Night in America” television competition.
The reality TV series opens its second season starting at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.
Each week, the show pits five off-road drivers against each other in a series of rocky, muddy, bumpy challenges. The driver who survives until the end walks away with $10,000.
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To win, Petersen and the 2000 Jeep Wrangler she has named “Rock Rage” will have to outlast four other drivers in an extreme off-road course set up for the TV series at Sunnyside ATV Paradise in Wrens, Georgia.
The final two drivers race across 3 miles known as “The Green Hell,” navigating a mountain of crushed vehicles, a stretch of downed logs and a boggy swamp, among other obstacles.
Peterson couldn’t talk about her particular competition before her episode airs, but a photo released by the network shows the black-and-red Rock Rage enduring what looks like a variation of “the silo challenge” tug of war from Season 1.
Peterson, 32, said she wanted to be on the show to prove that women can be capable off-road drivers.
And, she said, she also has enjoyed teasing her husband, Erik, after she was cast for the show and he wasn’t.
“The bragging rights started as soon as I got accepted and he had to stay with the baby,” she said.
The couple has a 12-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, but their relationship started with them bonding over a vehicle.
“The first date my husband ever took me on was to change the oil in his mom’s Jeep,” Jennifer said, explaining that Erik grew up going to mud runs with his parents.
“The spirit of four-wheel drives is in his heart,” she said.
Jennifer said she and Erik do almost all of the work on their Jeep themselves, trusting only a few mechanics to do repairs.
“The Jeep is like our wedding ring,” she said.
Jennifer said she defies the stereotype of women not wanting to go off-roading or get dirty, opting to enjoy the chance to reconnect with nature and focus on simple fun.
“I just get muddy,” she said. “It don’t bother me a bit.”
Safety and gear
The Petersens have rebuilt their Jeep to add extra safety features.
Jennifer said she has rolled and somersaulted the vehicle in ways a stock roll cage is not meant to withstand. In addition, the suspension on the vehicle is set up to handle the impact of the jumps she loves to do.
“With what we do, you’ve got to be as safe as possible,” she said. “... The Jeep has always protected us.”
She hasn’t endured any major injuries while off-roading, but she broke her wrist “being stupid” on a four-wheeler right before an event in 2011. Even that injury didn’t stop her from spending the weekend off-roading, though; she waited to see a doctor the next Monday and now carries a titanium plate in her arm.
Jennifer said it’s important to know the terrain you’ll be driving through.
“Here, you have a lot of mud, trees,” she said. “... If you try to go balls to the wall, you’re gonna hit a tree.”
She explained that a winch is a key part of an off-road vehicle’s setup.
“Never go without wearing your seat belt and your helmet if you have one,” she advised. “And never go off-roading alone.”
Casting for Season 3
Jennifer became a fan the show, so she went to the casting website to apply to be on it. Applications for Season 3 are now being accepted at http://iconiccasting.com/truck-night-in-america.
She said no matter the outcome, she’s proud to be able to say she’s “part of the ‘Truck Night’ family.”
Since filming, she said, the the drivers, hosts and crew members have stayed in touch.
“It’s not only a TV show, it’s honestly a family,” she said. “... I’m just glad they picked me.”