Demolishing a derby

Being an Overland Park, KS resident for 23 years, it’s no surprise that I don’t have a country background. Dating a country boy has expanded my horizons quite a bit. In the course of our relationship, 19 months, I’ve done several things I never planned on: driving a tractor, stargazing in the back of a truck, and now … attending a Demolition Derby. An event like this was way out of my league, but when he said he wanted to participate, I knew I needed to be supportive – even though I was nervous as heck.

As sad as it sounds, he had to explain what a Demolition Derby was. In my eyes, it’s the equivalent of adult bumper cars, but far more dangerous. He and his brother, Chris, entered in the stock class. They spent weeks fixing up and preparing their cars to satisfy the safety regulations required to participate. John entered a 1987 Cadillac that he spray painted red, white and blue. His brother’s car was sponsored for Rico’s Nachos, so his 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis donned red and yellow spray paint and featured a decal for Rico’s on both sides.

We arrived in Ottawa around 4:30 p.m. just in time to get the cars inspected and approved by 5 p.m. The event started at 7 p.m., but their class didn’t compete until almost last. I was surprised how thrilling it was to watch old, beat-up cars ram into one another. I cheered until I was hoarse (again – don’t ask). When their class was up, the knots in my stomach worsened. I watched them drive their cars into the arena one-by-one, and I continuously prayed to God for their protection. Within sixty seconds, after the countdown ended, one of the cars flipped. They stopped the event as firefighters raced into the arena. After several minutes they announced the driver was okay. With tears welling in my eyes, I couldn’t help but thank God it wasn’t John or his brother who’d flipped.

They restarted the round and within five minutes, both John and Chris were out. John’s back wheel came off when the drive axle snapped, and his brother’s battery had taken a tumble and loosened its cables. Whenever a car cannot compete anymore, drivers are required to “break their stick,” which is taped to the outside of their door. Once their stick is broken, other cars can no longer hit them. It was unfortunate they were both out so soon because they didn’t place in the top five. However, they were in good spirits because of the fun they’d had. Plus, John received an offer during the event from a fellow derby attendee to purchase his Cadillac, so win-win.

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