Most kids may not be as eager to take up their family’s business as Krysten Anderson and her two brothers were to take up their dad’s former job.
Most family businesses don’t produce the adrenaline rush of the Anderson family business. As monster truck drivers, their jobs are to steer really big trucks on a cross-country tour and push the limits of what their vehicles can do in front of thousands of fans.
“It takes a special kind of crazy to drive a monster truck,” Krysten said.
Krysten is the only daughter of Dennis Anderson, the original driver of the monster truck that’s now synonymous with the Monster Jam brand. She’s been driving a smaller, built-for-arenas version of her dad’s legendary truck, Grave Digger, that still has the same trademark color scheme. She’ll put it on display for fans at Infinite Energy Arena this weekend during the Monster Jam Triple Threat series.
“We’re in a good spot right now,” Krysten said. “We’re in Georgia, we have lots of Monster Jam fans in Georgia. My dad has competed at the Georgia Dome, my brothers have competed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”
It’s the first time Gwinnett’s local arena has hosted a Monster Jam event. The arena has hosted different dirt-heavy events in the past, but nothing quite to this magnitude. Marketing and Communications Manager with Infinite Energy Arena Marcia Powell said the arena was prepped for Monster Jam as soon as the last indoor event was held on Wednesday.
“Our staff works very carefully with the production elements to ensure guest safety and the safety of the drivers,” Powell said. “The dirt is not new to us, since we’ve had bull riding and all, but it is a different element than the normal concert of day-to-day activities here. It’s fun to watch the truckloads come out and see the arena transform from that perspective.”
While Krysten Anderson knew from a young age she wanted to be involved in building the Monster Jam brand, she didn’t know she’d do that as a driver until 2017. She went to school originally to be a graphic designer.
“I grew up around monster trucks and Monster Jam, so I was kind of like, ‘I want to do something different,’” Krysten said.
Her brothers, Adam and Ryan, are drivers in Monster Jam’s stadium series. The Andersons aren’t the only drivers of Grave Digger; the truck has a team of drivers. Each of them auditioned to be drivers, but there’s nothing even the most experienced motor sportsman — or sportswoman — can do to prepare for how it feels to drive it.
“I tell people, it’s like the loudest, fastest roller coaster you’ve ever been on,” Krysten said.
Originally, Krysten wanted to stand out from her brothers by taking a different career path.
“I took all college-level art classes all through high school and I was going to go to school for graphic design because I wanted to work for Monster Jam at their studios in Bradenton (Florida),” she said.
In 2016, though, Monster Jam reached out to Krysten. Dennis’ 35th anniversary of driving the Grave Digger truck was in 2017, and the brand had an open seat that it needed to fill. Krysten grew up as a motorsports enthusiast with her brothers and had followed her dad on tour time-to-time, so the idea of the rush from being behind the wheel of a Monster Truck was enticing.
She put her art portfolio away after she auditioned. She became the first female driver of Grave Digger and she’s been competing in Monster Jam events for roughly three years.
The driver of Grave Digger isn’t an anonymous stunt driver behind a helmet and visor. Krysten is the face of Monster Jam as the driver of the brand’s most recognizable vehicle. She’s constantly visible and traveling in front of the tour to promote future shows. Her Instagram feed is like a Grave Digger fan account.
Krysten credited her dad’s 35 years of driving for the reception she receives when she revs her engine to the delight of thousands of fans while she still tries to build a loyal following of her own.
“Everything goes out to my dad,” she said. “I’m doing a good job, I think, of making my own Krysten Anderson fans over the past three years. It’s been really cool to be out on the road and experience what my dad did as a driver.”
Krysten has found out that Grave Digger has fans worldwide. She’s competed in Helsinki, Finland, and fans still recognized her and her dad.
While the trucks and drivers may have the same professional-wrestling personalities and brands, nothing is staged or scripted during Monster events. Triple Threat competitions will feature special vehicles such as ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and utility vehicles called Speedsters. Krysten will be driving all three vehicles: Grave Digger, a Yamaha 450 and Polaris RZR 1000.
Krysten’s experience during the show includes multiple quick-changes from motocross gear to her monster truck jersey. The pace of the show makes it fly by, she said. Drivers also typically stay after the show to meet fans.
Krysten said she expects fans of all ages to enjoy themselves, but warned it’s also important to bring ear protection.