Cars got wedged together, caught on bumpers, frames and other protruding bits of metal. Sparks flew and several engines caught on fire and were quickly extinguished by the attentive fair staff. Water gushed out of a broken radiator in a miniature waterfall and mud sprayed the crowd as tires spun in the dirt of the pit. At the end of it all, the last car running won.
"It's a way to relieve your road rage, but it takes a little bit of craziness," says Billy Potter, a carpenter, of Lancaster, who drove the 98 car in the derby.
The smell of gasoline mixed with the bitter smell of burning motor oil as steam billowed from the arena like some sort of Civil War battlefield. Shouts of "Get him," "hit somebody," and "good hit" accompanied the roar of engines without mufflers.
At the end of the heat, a bumper caked in mud lay in the middle of the arena. Its owner unceremoniously dropped it in the window of his car, to reattach it later.
Some of the cars are picked up by a forklift
Two heavy duty tractors and a Caterpillar industrial forklift push and drag the cars out of the arena at the end of the competition. Some of the more battered cars are literally picked up by the forklift and set on trailers.
Paul Stull Jr., of Waynesburg, has been doing Demolition Derbies for 10 years. "A buddy of mine dared me to do it and I've been doing it ever since," he says. In those 10 years, Stull's car has caught on fire, flipped over and been turned up on its side. Last summer, he won first place at both the Lincoln and Mercer county fairs.
Now that his oldest son can drive it's become a family affair. "He drives almost as well as I do. He almost beat me at the last one."
Ted Turner, of Danville, also is a veteran driver. His three years of experience showed as he managed to keep driving his number 054 car with a broken radiator and bent axle. He was finally disabled when he lost the steering. "Go for the wheels," he says. "If you go for the wheels, that's how you get disabled."
Turner works at Lancaster Wholesale Tire, where he and his boss form a kind of Demolition Derby team. "My boss was here tonight. He's done a good job for me. We're just like best friends," Turner says.
At the end of the night, the vehicles had a lot more character, beaten and pummeled as they were. Awards were announced and trophies were distributed.
"It's the first time I ever won first anywhere," says Michael Baker of Mercer County, who won the mini car class in his 007 car.
Driver Jim Brummett won an unusual distinction, the "Hardest Lick Took" award for being struck the hardest in the Demolition Derby. The award comes with a free adjustment from Ruda Family Chiropractic of Nicholasville.
Results are as follows: Full size class: Josh Flatt, first; Jesse Whitaker, second; Steve Rector, third; Chris Pennington, fourth; Mini car class: Michael Baker, first; Lester Turner, second; Jimmy Johnson, third; and Ricky Walton, fourth.