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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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.