One tuff truck
Kevin Anderson remembers the roar and the rumble the most.
His first trip to a monster truck show left quite an impression, one so strong that his fascination with the high-flying and hard-driving motor sport has come full circle.
Tonight, Anderson will be among the drivers signing autographs for wide-eyed youngsters after taking his turn behind the wheel at the Nevada County Fair’s Tuff Trucks event.
“My biggest kick is the kids,” he said. “I remember being 5 years old and thinking, ‘Wow! I wish I could do that!’ The sounds and the smells. Even to this day, I love the sound of a huge, powerful motor firing up. It’s kind of like I’m living the dream.”
Anderson, a 31-year-old Nevada County native, actually had his dream realized two years ago, when he took first place in his hometown event.
“It’s the big one. It’s like the Super Bowl or World Series to me,” said Anderson. “All of my family and friends show up to support me and watch me do my thing. It’s been kind of a tradition since 2000.
“And in 2006 I finally got it. It was just unbelievable. The greatest feeling. Words can’t explain it. It was just the perfect race.”
Though he might sound a little over the top when it comes to his sport, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t exaggerating how he feels behind the wheel of his 1964 Ford truck.
It was love at first sight.
How does this work?
He’s been tinkering with tools all his life, whether he was taking apart remote control cars or his John Deere pedal tractor.
“That was actually the first thing I modified,” Anderson said. “I completely tore it apart and repainted it, made it look brand new.”
None of family members shared such interests. He said he’s the black sheep when it comes to motor sports, as his mom loves horses and his dad has taken to golf.
But Anderson caught the bug early on and even rebuilt his first truck at the age of 15 in order to have the ’79 Dodge half-ton ready to roll as a low-rider by his 16th birthday. He expanded his knowledge as a heavy equipment operator, while serving in the Navy.
“The joke is that I can’t have anything stock,” he said, “It always has to be modified.”
He kept that reputation alive with his next ride, as well. His brand new ’96 Ford Ranger found itself lifted high off the ground and eventually was tricked out to the point Anderson actually entered it in a mud racing event at the fairgrounds in Yuba City. He took second place his first time out.
Being the same truck he drove away from the tracks, he quickly learned to keep up its hygiene after bogging through the mud.
“I got pulled over for flinging mud all over,” he said, “so I learned to go to the nearest car wash after the race.
“Eventually, because I was driving to the event in the same truck I was racing in the mud, I realized if I ever broke the truck I’d be wondering what I was going to do for a vehicle.”
That’s about the same time a friend told him of a truck he was sure Anderson could get for next to nothing.
Found On Road Dead
OK, so he didn’t actually spot her on the side of the road, but he did rescue his old Ford from rotting away in a field in Penn Valley and promptly rebuilt her from the bottom up all by himself.
Anderson earned his first win in the Tuff Trucks stock series in 2001, his second season of competition. Meanwhile, he kept on tinkering with the truck as he found continued success in that division.
In 2003’s final race of the season, after earning enough points in the series, Anderson decided to move up to the pro division to see how his old Ford would stack up.
“It wasn’t even close,” he said. “That’s when I realized I’d have to get serious about fixing this truck up to be more competitive.”
He spent the next winter preparing the truck, once again tearing it apart in adding a high-dollar suspension system and roll cage along with other upgrades required for racing in the pro division. That first season saw him racing throughout California, as well as in Reno and in southern Oregon.
“Two-thousand four was the first year that I had all this great equipment,” he said. “It was the first year I was actually playing with the big boys. It was beautiful to be a part of that. I found out that everyone knew each other and it was kind of like a traveling family. If you needed help to get your truck ready for the next round, everyone would drop what they were doing to help.”
He said he ran about in the middle of the pack that first year.
“But now I was beating some of those guys who just blew me away (in the final race) the year before,” he said. “And I was changing my approach in how to drive it.”
Finally on top
Two years later, Anderson earned his first two pro victories, including the aforementioned win at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
And he hopes to take his second victory in his hometown tonight.
Action gets goings at 7 p.m. in the main arena, with both the Tuff Trucks and Monster Trucks speeding through a course that will have them working their suspensions overtime.
Whether Anderson wins or not, he knows there will be plenty more racing in his future.
“I really don’t see an end to this,” he said. “I’ll keep on going as long as I can. And the sport is definitely progressing.
“This is the chance for me to act like a kid again and leave all my worries behind. The 30 seconds I’m out there, it’s my freedom … my escape.”
But, he added, he might not always be driving the same blue No. 777, even though there’s quite a connection between the two.
The bond has been strong enough for him to willingly surrender about 2,000 pounds to his competitors who race fiberglass cabs much lighter than his old steel Ford. Now nine years since he first found it, he’s actually considering looking for a new ride.
“I’m still debating that,” he said. “It’s the truck that started it all for me.”
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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