By: Victoria Weaver | NBC Sports
The 2021 Monster Jam season looks different than years past, in part because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected every part of racers, teams, and fans’ daily lives, but also because Krysten Anderson has inherited the famous Grave Digger monster truck. And with that, the most famous ride in the sport has its first full-time, female driver.
When a driver levels up and takes on a new challenge, there is always a heightened level of scrutiny. Now add a family legacy, an iconic truck, gender politics, as well as a shortened 2020 season that limited her seat time and you’ll start to understand the pressure of Anderson’s Stadium Series debut.
After five years in the arena series, Anderson made the transition to stadium behind the wheel of Grave Digger, the truck made famous by her father Dennis Anderson, on January 30, 2021. The next night, she finished second in the Freestyle Competition.
Anderson was the third of her siblings to follow in her dad’s tire tracks when she joined the tour in 2016. Brothers Adam Anderson and Ryan Anderson spent the 2000s and 2010s raking up Freestyle and Racing World Championships. Adam has five; Ryan has two. With his 2008 Monster Jam World Finals Freestyle Championship, Adam holds the record for youngest titleholder at 22.
“As Andersons, we have a certain level of expertise for driving,” Krysten told NBC Sports. “My brothers are World Champions. They’re excellent drivers. My dad retired as a World Champion, he’s an amazing driver.
“Especially me being the first and only female to drive Grave Digger, I feel like I have extra eyes on me.”
Anderson has heard the questions that surround her new role: “How will she do?” “Why is she driving Grave Digger?”
But these question were far from her mind when Anderson climbed up into the most famous truck in the stadium at Houston.
Every race weekend gives Anderson the chance to prove herself again as the rightful heir to Grave Digger and quiet the peanut gallery.
“It can be a lot of pressure sometimes, but it fuels me when I have a rough show and I’m getting the feedback of it,” Anderson said. “Alright fine, I have another race tomorrow and I’m going to do even better, and I usually do.”
And that is precisely what she did in Houston.
After finishing last in the opening night with a score of 6.071 to Todd LeDuc and Monster Energy’s 9.437, Anderson improved massively in Night 2 and scored a 8.919. Only Cory Rummell in a truck named Rage was better the second night with his 9.551.
Anderson’s resilience has paid off. In four seasons she’s advanced to the sport’s biggest stage where she gets to face off against the most qualified drivers and prove why she’s the right Anderson to inherit the Grave Digger seat.
“It’s been a baptism by fire, but I’ve done well with the pressure so far,” Anderson said. “You can’t create a diamond without a little bit of pressure. I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the span of four years.”
Praise from one’s competitors is always valuable; it’s more impactful when it comes from family – especially when one’s family has the skill and reputation of the Andersons.
“My brothers and my dad, as long as their careers have been, they’re always telling me that they’re impressed with me,” Anderson said. “How quickly I learn and pick up on things. I think maybe here in a few more years I’ll be at a very competitive level. I’ll be one to look out for.”
Anderson is only the third female driver to compete full-time in the Stadium series. Her pedigree, skills, and relationship with the fan base set her up to complete a large feat and she’s only a few seasons away from being in the rumor mill of World Champion talk.
Andersons don’t settle for a second when they can achieve first.
“I hope when it comes time for me to retire I’ll have multiple World Championships under my belt.”