TAMPA — She stands 5 feet, 7 inches, just a little taller than the tires on the monster truck she wheels in stadiums and arenas around the world.
Yet 22-year-old Krysten Anderson longs to be as big as her father in the world of motorsports entertainment.
Anderson, daughter of the legendary monster truck drive Dennis Anderson, aka Grave Digger, continues her quest to carry on the family legacy Saturday at the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena. She’ll charge into the arena at more than 70 miles per hour. She’ll operate a Monster Jam truck, a “speedster” and an ATV, hoping to do all manner of two-wheel tricks and acrobatic flips in the machines.
Her fear won’t lie in the feats of dare, but in the desire to maintain the family’s good name. Starting the engine in a car with the famed purple and green Grave Digger logo comes with responsibility.
“I’m not afraid to drive,” said Anderson, whose brothers Ryan and Adam also compete in Monster Jam. “I’m never afraid to try anything: to jump big, to flip. I just have performance anxiety. I never want to disappoint my dad’s fans or Grave Digger’s fans.
“But I love it a lot.”
The drive to fulfill fans’ expectations stems from the adoration so many have shown for the brand and for Dennis Anderson, who retired after a failed flip at Raymond James Stadium in 2017. As a little girl, Krysten got a chance to attend some events with her father, but never realized the level of his popularity until she started competing.
It’s as much generational as it is the fondness for watching car-crushing carnage and heavy metal take flight. Some grew up loving Grave Digger as a child and now bring their children to see Anderson’s children repeat his freestyling feats.
Even in Finland, they lined up during the pit party to meet her, get her autograph and tell her how much they love her dad.
“To me, dad has always been my dad,” Krysten said. “I didn’t realize how much of a superhero he is to so many people.”
Anderson, who grew up in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., didn’t see herself joining older brothers Ryan and Adam as the next generation of Grave Digger drivers. Growing up, she joked that she would be the one child of Dennis Anderson who would go to college.
Oh, she loved the world of monster trucks and motor sports, but envisioned herself customizing paint jobs on the 12,000 pound vehicles. She took college-level art courses while still in high school in North Carolina and had hoped to join the team at Feld Entertainment’s Ellenton headquarters an auto body artist.
But that all changed with one phone call.
“The Monster Jam officials reached out to me in 2016 after I graduated high school,” Krysten said. “They explained that it was the 35th anniversary of Grave Digger, they had never had a female Grave Digger driver, and as the only female Anderson, dad’s only girl, would I like to come out and audition.
“I was really excited. I was curious if I would be any good.”
It turns out she’s pretty good at handling the various vehicles, and even better at enjoying the adrenaline rush that comes with flying a motorized machine through the air or revving it up for a flip. She’s put her art folio away for the thrills of competing on the circuit.
“Everybody kind of has that flight or fight response when it comes to adrenaline rushes,” said Anderson, who also loves rollercoasters and thrill rides. “When I feel that adrenaline rush, it’s so much fun. When my heart's racing, it makes me laugh. I’m having a good time.
“I also like going through haunted houses. You never know who’s going to pop out around the corner. You never know what’s going to happen.”
She says the same unexpected nature applies to the series. Each driver hopes to build points towards qualifying for the Monster Jam World Finals, which will return to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in 2020. This is no exhibition or staged theatrics.
Anderson said she’ll drive hard, because as she pushes to live up to her father’s legacy, she’s also making her own fans.
“I think that a lot of little girls look up to me in a big sister/role model kind of way," Anderson said. “But we have so many fans from so many different walks of life. From all over the place, moms and dads, people my brothers’ age, kids.”
That’s all I’m saying.
IF YOU GO
MONSTER JAM TRIPLE THREAT SERIES
WHEN: Saturday, Shows at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Pit Party from 10:30 a.m.-noon (Must have 1:00 PM event ticket and pit pass for entry).
WHERE: AMALIE Arena 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa
TICKETS: Start at $15; General Pit Party Passes start at $15 each Tickets & Pit Passes will be available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com or in-person at AMALIE Arena ticket office.