Krysten Anderson: Grave Digger’s Daughter and First Lady
In 1979, Dennis Anderson created the Grave Digger and has since gone on to win numerous Monster Jam World Championships. Three of Dennis’ children have followed in his footsteps to become drivers. His sons, Adam and Ryan, and his daughter, Krysten - or as his adorable nephew calls her, “Aunt Krustacean” - who is now the first and only female monster truck driver of Grave Digger.
"I'm not afraid to drive," says Krysten, "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."
Born on May 16, 1997 in Currituck and grew up in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Krysten had dreamed of attending college. However, her exposure to monster trucks and Monster Jam led her to love the sport as her dad and brothers became, not only well-known to the industry, but legends in the world of motorsports entertainment.
There was no escape for Krysten as she began to realize since fourth grade that her life is different from the other girls in their neighborhood. As a little girl, her father would carry her into events and at home, kids would flock to her house to get a ride on the back of a monster truck her brother drives or buy stuff at their monster truck gift shop just beside their garage.
Initially, Krysten wanted to work for Monster Jam designing the trucks instead of driving them. She saw herself customizing paint jobs on the 12,000 pound vehicles, so she took college-level art courses while still in high school.
But, the smell of methanol and the adrenal rush driving behind the wheel makes her more alive. When Monster Jam officials paid her a phone call and asked her to come out and audition, she was ecstatic.
“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, I was really excited. I was curious if I would be any good.”
Krysten was just fresh out of high school. And she turns out to be pretty good at handling the various vehicles, even flying a motorized machine through the air or revving it up for a flip. Genes kicked in and the art supplies were replaced with the steering wheel. Although, she still paints and draws during her free time at home.
Krytsen had to attend 100 hours of Monster Jam University before competing in any events. Standing at 5 feet, 7 inches, just a little taller than the tires on the monster truck she drives and lets fly in stadiums and arenas around the world, she learned the basics of commanding a 12-foot-wide, 12,000-pound vehicle at Monster Jam’s training facility in Illinois.
And in 2016, Krysten would begin training and would have her first live show a year later in Nashville, Tennessee. She would then set out to hone her skills at Monster Jam events when she started competing in 2017. Krysten competed on the Triple Threat Series, a 10-city tour that challenged athletes in their ability to handle Monster Jam trucks, ATVs and Speedsters.
"I was the slowest qualifier last year. I couldn't even make it down the track correctly," she says.
The Monster Jam Triple Threat Series pits drivers’ skills against one another, competing in monstrous trucks, speedsters and ATVs for points in challenging Racing and Freestyle events that test agility, speed and versatility.
After a year on the Triple Threat Series in small arenas, it was Anderson's time to shine at the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas in 2018.
"But this year, I was making fast times and every time I made a pass, I was shaving time off."
At Krysten's first World Finals that year, she had every right to be nervous. Having seen her family made lots of history on that track - her dad and brothers competing in that field for nearly two decades - she just told herself, "You know what -- I'm the first Grave Digger to ever be in the Double Down Showdown Field, I'm the first girl to ever drive Grave Digger, my last name is Anderson and I'm in front of the biggest crowd I'll be in front of all year."
On her first race of the night, Anderson was up against Tony Ochs in Black Ops. That’s when she realized, "The most successful people at World Finals just run their own race and pay attention to what's in front of them.” She was paying more attention to where Tony was and not where she was, and she hit a crushed car and spun out. He ended up taking the win from her.
In 2019, she continued her quest to carry on the family legacy Saturday at the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena. Charging into the arena at more than 70 miles per hour, doing all manner of two-wheel tricks and acrobatic flips in the machines.
In August of 2020, despite the ongoing pandemic around the world, Krysten, the first and only female driver of Grave Digger, set a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the highest ramp jump - monster truck. On her first and only attempt, she traveled 33.8 feet in the air, crushing the existing record by 12.5 feet.
Growing up, Anderson had her dad and brothers to look up to as successful entrepreneurs and monster truck drivers. But there were also women who influenced her: Madusa and Dawn Creten, who still drives the Scarlet Bandit.
Although the sport has a male-dominated environment, it doesn't bother Anderson. "I don't really get a lot of backlash from anyone," she says. "I'm an Anderson -- everyone looks at me the same way they look at Adam, Ryan and my dad."
Her dad is now retired from the Monster Jam circuit but still comes to the shows to see Krysten and her brothers when they’re close to home in North Carolina.
“He tries to keep his distance,” she says with a laugh. Dennis makes his children nervous, of course, but he is as supportive as always, watching them on Instagram and Facebook.
A female driver hasn’t yet won a Series Championship, but Krysten certainly has her eyes on the prize. “I don’t come to the shows to lose,” she says. And we only get time in the way.
"When I think about where Grave Digger started in this tiny North Carolina town, literally up the road from my house, I can't believe it. If you had asked me when I was 18 years old if this is where I'd be by 21 -- verified on Instagram, pushing 40,000 followers, racing a truck overseas and all over this country. My friends from high school would say they always knew I was going to drive, but it's just crazy to me to be here, doing it."