By MIKE CHAIKEN
Krysten Anderson had a career in art in mind.
But when the chance came to drive her dad’s legendary monster truck, Grave Digger, she knew art would still be waiting for her when she was older.
So, with her father Dennis stepping away from the steering wheel, the 22-year-old slipped into the driver’s seat to keep the Grave Digger flag flying high.
Anderson and Grave Digger come to Connecticut when Monster Jam comes to Stafford Motor Speedway on July 20 and 21.
Anderson said, with her dad and her brothers (including fellow Monster Jam driver Ryan) driving monster trucks, she had been around motor sports all of her life. And since it was the family passion – horse power is in the blood— Anderson enjoyed the activity.
However, Anderson said she never considered going into racing as a career.
Instead, Anderson said she wanted to go to college to study art, with the end goal of working in the graphics department at Monster Jam. But when her dad retired from Grave Digger, Monster Jam reached out to her. They thought it would be a great idea to have Anderson follow in her dad’s footsteps as Grave Digger celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Although Anderson wanted to pursue art, she also knew the invitation to drive Grave Digger was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So art was put on hold, and Anderson strapped herself into Grave Digger for the first time in 2017.
And although Anderson grew up around motor sports, she said her first time behind the wheel of a monster truck was when she auditioned to drive Grave Digger at age 18.
“I loved it.”
Anderson said she clearly remembers when she made her first public appearance as the driver of Grave Digger.
Monster Jam had come to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. As she waited for the introduction of Grave Digger and the other trucks following the playing of the national anthem, the adrenaline started to kick in. Anderson said it dawned on her at last, “This is real life.”
When the time came to compete, the first few notes of Grave Digger’s theme song, George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” came out of the speakers.
“That’s my song. That’s my truck,” said Anderson. “This is crazy.”
Anderson is not only the sole female in a family of brothers and nephews, Anderson is also the only female to drive Grave Digger in its 35 years of competing.
But don’t think for a second that Anderson is simply eye candy, despite being blonde and 5’7,” or a gearhead tomboy.
“I’m not just here to look nice. I want to be a tough competitor,” said Anderson. “I get that from my brothers.”
As a female driver in Monster Jam, she said, she knows she is a role model for young girls. She knows she is showing them that they also can drive a monster truck.
“It means a lot to me to open that door,” said Anderson.
And while some female drivers on the circuit will make their trucks appear more feminine, Anderson said Grave Digger is more gender neutral. She said she sees little girls wearing the same Grave Digger t-shirts as their brothers.
As a member of a close-knit family, Anderson said she loves being part of Monster Jam because of how it caters to families. “I appreciate the moms and dads who bring the kids.”
Art may have been Anderson’s calling, but she said she’s quite at home being a monster truck driver.
“This is the coolest job in the world,” said Anderson.
Monster Jam comes to Stafford Motor Speedway, 55 West St., Stafford Springs on Saturday, July 20 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 21 at 1 p.m.
The Pit Party that gives fans the opportunity to view the trucks up close and meet the drivers will take place on Sunday, July 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 and Pit Passes are $15.
Tickets are available at the Stafford Motor Speedway box office, all Ticketmaster Retail Outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com or by charging at 800-745-3000.