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Ryan Anderson’s anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle

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Ryan Anderson has been thrilling the fans during the racing portion of events with three consecutive finals, but his Son-Uva Grave Digger entry has been a little slow to rise in the skills and freestyle sessions. Anderson hit the dirt at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. with a focused approach and determination to moonwalk away from the competition.

Risk pays off in the Monster Jam arena. Filled with the adrenaline rush of defeating Morgan Kane and Grave Digger in the racing round, Anderson had the confidence to go all out in the freestyle competition.

After successfully getting his truck to bicycle on the right-side tires, he nose-dived into a moonwalk. Anderson turned two difficult and amazing tricks back-to-back. The fans sprung to their feet and rewarded him with a remarkable 9.599 average for his performance.

“I was able to complete the bicycle into the moonwalk, which in my mind is the hardest trick in Monster Jam,” Anderson told NBC Sports. “Two-wheel cyclone on the side of the vehicle. Really nobody else is doing that. For them to happen back to back was insane.”

Anderson then detailed the rest of his run, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle.

When Anderson readied himself for his freestyle run, he knew the fans were already on his side. His truck was damaged and ready to shed some excess weight. After the first minute of jumps, the outer shell of the vehicle was barely holding on. So he eyed the largest ramp on the floor and took aim.

“The body was damaged, and I knew that it wasn’t going to last and that it was going to come off,” Anderson said. “It’s crazy to say, but in our world, it’s a good thing. It’s exciting for the people, everybody loves it but it doesn’t do anything to the structure. It is just a cosmetic piece.

“So I line up for the biggest jump on the entire track, to not only make a statement to the fans but also get my adrenaline to the maximum level immediately.”

Intensity matters in a freestyle run.

The truck has to have the right setup and be in driving shape, but the performance rests on the driver’s shoulder – and in his hands on the steering wheel and feet on the pedals.

“I needed to get it there and keep it there,” Anderson commented on his intensity during the run. “After that, it was just mayhem. I just wanted to go as fast as I could from end to end. One thing about that stadium, because it’s so large it is a little bit harder sometimes to freestyle. I wanted to make sure to get as many jumps in as possible from end to end. Cover every square inch of the floor. So I’m running back and forth – just going crazy.”

By this point in the freestyle, Anderson ran through more difficult tricks and bigger risks than he had all season. He knew he had the momentum to take the run further.

Anderson continued his run with the truck’s body trailing behind, driving like a madman.

MORE: Adam Anderson and Grave Digger are a family affair for Monster Jam
“The body starts tearing away, which is pure joy to me because I know the fans are just eating it up,” Anderson said. “I go around to the back of the ramp with 30 seconds left do a huge backflip off the obstacle, landing it just right and shifting it into reverse. Popped it into a moonwalk. It’s something I try every single time I do a backflip but I’ve only succeeded four or five times. It is insanely hard to get it. It’s insanely rare to see it.

“I got the biggest air of the night on the very next jump, landing tearing the rest of the body all the way off.”

Anderson ended the night with a nearly perfect score 41 of 42 points and climbed up in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

“It was perfect,” Anderson said. “I always say that I’m going to drive the truck like a madman until it won’t go anymore. That’s exactly what I did. The truck was done. I was out of breath. The body was in shreds and the stands were alive.”

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on NBCSN)

Indianapolis: February 18 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 8 (Sunday); 2 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 Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 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.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.