A ‘Monster’ of a family tradition

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Monster trucks are in Ryan Anderson’s blood.

But that’s to be expected from the son of Dennis Anderson—better known as the veteran monster driver for legendary Monster Jam favorite, Grave Digger.

Monster Jam with its inventory of monster trucks is coming to Stafford Motor Speedway next week.

For all of Ryan’s life, he said, monster trucks have been there. He is 28 years old and his dad drove monster trucks for 35 years before retiring last year.

“When I was growing up, it was nothing but monster trucks,” said Ryan in a phone interview. “It’s all I know.”

Ryan said he would look outside and see monster trucks. His family’s house was attached to the family’s monster truck garage.

And even beyond the house, said Ryan, he traveled with his father and Grave Digger as a child. Before he was 10, he said, he had already visited every state in the union except Alaska.

Even though that’s a lot of monster truck competitions through the years, Ryan said, “It’s okay. It’s a good time and it’s still fun.”

Ryan said he and his brother, who also races, joke that given their father, they really had no choice but to drive a monster truck. But, he said, if he was given the opportunity to do otherwise, he still would chose driving monster trucks over any other career.

When he entered the world of Monster Jam, Ryan said his dad offered a ton of advice. But the primary thing, Ryan said, he was to told remember to put on a great show for the fans. If the fans aren’t having a great time, “We’re not doing our job.”

Prior to every Monster Jam night, fans get a chance to meet the drivers and see the trucks at the Pit Party. And when fans meet with him, Ryan said he loves fielding questions about his dad. He also loves to hear stories how about how his dad inspired one generation of fans to share their love for monster trucks with the next generation.

Although Dennis Anderson is retired from Monster Jam, Ryan said his father is still not taking it easy. “He’s still going 100 percent.”

Ryan has a younger brother who just turned 16. Ryan said his brother is still too young to compete with Monster Jam. But he is old enough to drive a mud truck in Mega Trucks. “He and my dad are traveling up and down the east coast, competing and having a good time.”

As homage to his dad’s Grave Digger, Ryan drives Son-uva Digger. Like his dad, he said, the monster truck features all of the latest technology. His dad always had to have the best and newest equipment, and Ryan still keeps that family tradition.

The biggest difference between Son-uva Digger and Grave Digger is the body shape and the paint theme, said Ryan.

Ryan said his vehicle is based on a Jeep Willys body. This is a tribute to his grandfather, who used to drive a hot rod Jeep Willys when he was younger.

As for the paint theme, he said, Grave Digger had tombstones to indicate the competitors who lost to Dennis Anderson through the years. Ryan said he has painted crashed and smashed vehicles on Son-uva Digger to represent the competitors who fell through the years to his racing prowess.

Ryan said he is looking forward to coming to Connecticut and Stafford Motor Speedway because he has a lot of fond, monster truck-related memories from that venue.

Ryan said Monster Jam is intended to appeal to the whole family these days

In the past, Ryan said, Monster Jam had the reputation of being only for “gearheads” and “rednecks.” But, he said, “It’s not that way anymore.” Ryan said he says he’s seen entire families—from grandbabies to grandparents—at the Pit Parties.

“Everyone can enjoy it,” said Ryan, “even if you don’t know what a sparkplug looks like.”

There’s also tons of stuff for the kids—boys and girls—to do, said Ryan.

For the kids who clutch fondly on to to their toy monster trucks, Monster Jam is an opportunity for the kids to see their heroes come to life and full size. “The kids are speechless (when they see the real thing).”

When he hits the track at Stafford, Ryan promised fans that they should expect the unexpected. The truck may flip. The truck may catch on fire. (Don’t worry, Ryan’s also always safe, he said.)

“It’s always crazy and exciting.”

Monster Jam will be at the Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs (www.staffordmotorspeedway.com) on: Saturday, July 21 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 22 at 1 p.m.

The Pit Party, which gives fans the opportunity to view the trucks up close and meet the drivers, will take place on Sunday, July 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Tickets for Monster Jam start at $20 and Pit passes are $15. Tickets are available at the Stafford Motor Speedway box office, all Ticketmaster Retail Outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or at 800-745-3000.

For more information, visit www.MonsterJam.com

Ryan Anderson

Son-uva Digger will be driven by Ryan Anderson during this weekend’s Monster Jam at Stafford Motor Speedway.

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