Adam Anderson and Grave Digger are a family affair for Monster Jam

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Adam Anderson wins a lot of Monster Jam races, such as the one he recently topped at NRG Stadium in Houston that will air Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN (click here for streaming).

As he stands on the podium weekly, it’s easy to forget how humble the beginnings were for his family and the Grave Digger dynasty.

When a monster truck failed to appear at a local weekly show in 1982, Anderson’s father, Dennis, asked permission to enter his mud bogger. When the promoter agreed, a new path was set for the Anderson family.

That first mud bogger was a 1957 Ford pickup truck that was derided for its age and condition by Dennis’ competitors. In response, legend has it that he replied, “I’ll take this old junk and dig your grave with it,” and the name that is most often associated with Monster Jam racing was created.

Grave Digger was rebuilt for the start of the 1984 season. Dennis ran his first season with the now famous black graveyard wrap that year and continued to compete in it until he retired at the end of 2018.

One year later, Adam was born in 1985. He grew up in the sport, and the sport grew up around him. As Monster Jam became bigger with each passing year, Adam stood beside his father and watched the lines of autograph seekers grow.

Consistency throughout the late 1980s helped the Grave Digger team rise to the top of the sport, passing rival Bigfoot in popularity. The team grew from one truck to two, to eight, and a young Adam got to see how his father’s impact on monster trucks. He quickly learned what the fans wanted to see: big air, big wrecks, big chances.

Winning allows Adam Anderson to carry on Grave Digger’s legacy. A legacy that was founded by his father Dennis Anderson (Feld Entertainment Inc.).

That’s what the second-generation driver wants to bring to each and every event.

“I’m not necessarily going out there to destroy this truck,” Anderson told NBC Sports, “but I drive with the intention of not caring if something happens. Because these people know what to expect, they’ve been coming to these events for three generations now. I’ve met a few of those families that have been coming for three generations. Watching not only myself but my father and the rest of my family compete at these shows and to be in that environment. It honestly feels really good, it makes it easier.”

As Monster Jam settles into its fourth decade, Anderson is starting to see the kids that waited for his father’s autograph approach him with their own children at the Pit Party to ask for his autograph. It serves as a weekly reminder of the impact of these events.

Anderson created his own path into Monster Jam in 2005 in a truck named Taz. In 2011, he moved into one of the Grave Digger trucks alongside his father.

Being around the sport since his birth (and Monster Jam since its creation in 1992) gives Anderson a unique perspective.

“I have an advantage because of that,” Anderson said. “I came from the humble beginnings of this sport, (from) what Monster Jam and Grave Digger was.

“We came from nothing basically to the empire it is today. It’s unbelievable, even in our eyes, so I’m glad I grew up like that and wasn’t just thrown into it during the peak of what Monster Jam now is. I feel like I have a much better respect for it and also it gives me more respect for the fans, the competitors and everything that has to do with Monster Jam.”

While Anderson chases his sixth championship he continues to drive as if everyone is watching.

He understands how he represents himself has a bigger impact on his family legacy and the legacy of Monster Jam. On top of wins and championships, Anderson enters every week focused on what he can bring to the table for the fans, while at the same time holding true to the heritage of the sport.

“In my eyes, the biggest thing is when we bring new fans to the sport,” Anderson said. “When it’s their first time experiencing Monster Jam, starting from the Pit Party where they get to meet all of us drivers and see the trucks up close and personal.

“It may be this little boy or girl’s first time seeing the trucks in person and they are just in awe. I want to win them over just in case I don’t do very well. People always say I’m so good with fans; I’m so nice. Absolutely. Because I might not be that good tonight and I just want them to remember me. Every year I want to gain more fans not only for Monster Jam but for team Grave Digger.”

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on NBCSN)

Houston: February 4 (Tuesday); 6 p.m.
Tampa: February 11 (Tuesday); 10:30 p.m.
Indianapolis: February 18 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.