Monster Jam crowned their first series champion of the 2022 season last weekend as Weston Anderson scored enough points in Southaven, Mississippi, to clinch the Arena East title. The crown comes in Anderson’s first year of competition.
“I clinched it halfway through one of our events,” Anderson told NBC Sports. “We had some truck issues prior to it, so I didn’t know if I would actually get it that weekend or not.
“When they announced it, I blew it off for a second and then it set in. I realized how much hard work we put into it and got super emotional. I cried on the microphone. It felt great, to finally get it out of the way. It was a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”
Anderson’s success this year came after a shaky start due to an older truck that was scheduled to be retired at the end of the year. That uncertainty had Anderson, 19, questioning whether he had what it took to battle in the series.
“I was going to finish out my season in it,” Anderson said of his early season doubt. “I didn’t feel as comfortable as I could’ve been. I wasn’t doing very good and thought that it was just my driving. That I wasn’t up to par with the other drivers. It was taking me down a little bit, I’m not going to lie.”
During the third race weekend in Hampton, Virginia, the truck had its last hurrah as Anderson hit the side of the jump sideways and ended up corkscrewing through the air. the accident ripped off the back of the chassis.
For a second there, I didn’t know if I was going to have a job after that,” Anderson said. “We were trying to figure out if we were going to fix the truck in time, and there was no way possible. We had about 50 hours in the work week and it would’ve taken 48 hours to get it back to what it was.”
Enter Grave Digger 37.
After the accident it was decided that a different truck would be provided to the Grave Digger Arena East team. A barely used, very shiny new Monster Truck.
“All along I thought Grave Digger 37 was an older truck than it was,” Anderson said. “I thought it was going to be a little bit ragged out, not going to lie. It got here and we saw how nice it was. Me and my crew guy looked at each other and the first thing he said was ‘you better not total this one.’
“I did not have that in mind one bit when it came in the door.”
Anderson grew more confident with the new rig and started to show his championship caliber. He excelled in his freestyle runs, which he perfected by watching the faces in the crowd.
“I start off a little bit easy,” Anderson said of planning his runs. “I want to make sure I get the first 15 seconds on the clock so I can get a score at least. A lot of people don’t know this, but I pay attention to the people in the crowd – and the people in the back like my crew guy, Brad (Hilson) and everyone else’s crew guys during my runs.
“A lot of times you’ll see me go a little slower in the corner and take off super fast. That’s because I`m looking at people in the crowd and seeing reactions to what I just did. Most importantly, my crew guy, Brad, will come across the radio to me if I have a pretty good run going and he’ll say, ‘Burn it down!’ From that 15-second mark on, I’m honestly along for the ride. Letting the truck throw whatever it wants to.”
Just a few hours after Weston clinched his championship, his brother Ryan Anderson followed, clinching the championship for Stadium Series Yellow.
Grave Digger is a family affair, as the Anderson’s are the closest thing to royalty in the Monster Jam arena. Weston mirrors his father Dennis Anderson’s style, who retired from competition in 2016.
“I have a lot of the rhythm of my dad Dennis Anderson,” Weston said, “That’s what a lot of fans have told me that they see his driving style in mine and that’s what they want to see, since they haven’t seen him in six years.
I always have the high-flying action throttle rhythm of him. My brakes are always on fire by the end of a run because I’m getting on the ragged edge. I have to ride them sometimes to keep myself from getting too far away from myself.”
With the championship secured and three weekends left in the series, Anderson has no plans of backing down. The plan is to put on a good show for the fans, but Anderson has the added luxury to experiment let NBC Sports know that he has something brewing in the lab.
“The only thing that I am going to change is in my two-wheel skills competition,” Anderson said. “Everyone does moonwalks nowadays, and I want to try some different things.
“I don’t want to give too much information away. I have some things boiling in my mind. I’ve been messing around on simulators with Monster Trucks and trying these tricks. They have been working out on the simulator. Now I just have to bring it to real life. If I do, I think it will be pretty sweet. I think there will be a lot of hype on the internet about that.
“Freestyle, donuts and racing: I’m still throwing down 100 percent because the fans bought a ticket for the show and I want them to see what I’m capable of.”