The last man standing, or last car moving, Nick Bettsâ€™ 63 survived the night and the Hooligan. Photo by Deb Murphy
Last Sunday night, the Tri-County Fairgrounds main arena was not the place to be if you were a telephone pole. Drivers at this yearâ€™s Destruction Derby, the climax of the 2013 Fair, showed no respect for the barriers that defined the crash zone. The poles were sent flying, powered over, used as a wedge for a spectacular near roll-over, served as a fulcrum to trap cars and generally abused. During the Powder Puff heat, Trica Weatherford blasted sideways over the poles, circled the track to re-enter at the west end and went on to win the heat.
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The packed house had no pole sympathy, cheering every time one of the poles was defiled.
This yearâ€™s Derby saw a few significant changes. At the driversâ€™ request, there were no judges trying to figure out the difference between a 1-point hit and a 3-point super-hit. The winners of each heat were the last cars still capable of moving.
The Derby started with the traditional parade of cars and driver announcements. The number 23, driven by Tennille Torres, in memory of her daughter Helena Ray Spratt, won the beauty contest. The 23 came back for the Powder Puff event with Katelyne Lent at the wheel and finished fourth. Lent looked like an early goner, but got her ride re-started in enough time to wreak considerable damage on the few remaining chick-mobiles.
The Double D Electric-sponsored number 3, driven by Jason Thomson, took the first Cedarwood Ranch Cleanest award, given to the vehicle least likely to leave a whole lot of debris in the arena.
The Double D was enveloped in a cloud of steam early in the first heat but, like the 23, rose like Lazarus with enough crushing hits to advance. Other survivors from the first heat were the 4 driven by Daniel McKinney and sponsored by Bishop Heating and Air Conditioning and Manor True Value, the Paiute Palace Casino-sponsored 77 with Jon Frankson at the wheel and the 01 from a fleet of Jim Allen-, Mr. Kâ€™s- and Sierra Auto Body-sponsored crashers with Bret Metcalf driving. Metcalf took the top spot in the heat.
The second heat was a precursor of the main with Cap Aubreyâ€™s no. 2, sponsored by Orth Construction and Check Mate Racing, and Tim Boehmâ€™s Local Book-sponsored 5 taking dead aim at each other and causing significant collateral damage to the field. Aubrey took the heat win, Boehm placed second with the 63 driven by Nick Betts and sponsored by Gillespie Distributing and Mr. Kâ€™s and the 27 of Willie Pasqual, sponsored by Paiute Palace and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, rounding out the podium.
The Minis ranged from sub-compacts to the truly small, but all of the Napoleons brought a punch to the competition, ravaging one another and twisting the little strips of metal into abstract shapes. The 01 took the win with the 5150 driven by Kevin Gonzalez and ironically sponsored by Sierra Auto Body, a close second.
The Semi-Main followed with what was left of cars that failed to place high enough in the first two heats but were still capable of moving. This was go-time, the last chance to make it into the Main. The 13, driven by Robert Vance and sponsored by VFW Post 8988, Sierra Reader and Top Notch Barber, won the Semi with the Preferred Septic- and Bobâ€™s Auto-sponsored 21 driven by Brian Jones also qualifying for the Main.
The Truck heat was spectacular. With massive engines and torque, trucks are a natural; unlike the Minis, they donâ€™t bounce back when they make a hit. With only three in the field, there was plenty of room to take high-speed aim at each other. The 84, driven by Daniel Dyer and sponsored by Jim Charlon Ford and J&J Automotive, was quick on the draw and doing serious damage but got wedged against a vulnerable pole on the east end of the crash zone.
Seeing his chance to totally dismantle the 84, Jonesâ€™ 14, sponsored by Mr. Kâ€™s and Bobâ€™s Auto, aligned his rear bumper with Dyerâ€™s passenger door, slung the truck into reverse and made his final charge. Jones ended up with his back wheels a good four feet off the arena dirt and Dyer nearly kissing the dirt as the 84 tipped on its side. The crowd was ecstatic and once Dyer was upright and moving again, so was he. The two celebrated mid-arena, egging the crowd to even higher levels of glee and leaving little doubt that the 2014 truck heat will have more than three competitors.
Aubrey and Boehm were the class of the Main, both having preserved enough sheet metal and vehicular innards to maintain the speed and handling necessary to terrorize the rest of the field, which they did. Aubreyâ€™s bright blue beast sprang a leak as the cars were lined up waiting for the shotgun start, but went on to prove cooling systems are optional in Destruction Derby. Bettsâ€™ 63 got some good licks in, but the 2 and the 5 ended up circling the dead car graveyard and hunting each other down for the final battle. As the two ended the heat, seemingly welded together, Boehmâ€™s car was still capable of running; Aubreyâ€™s wasnâ€™t. Boehm won; Aubrey placed second.
Weatherford was off the Richter scale in the Powder Puff event but determining the next three spots on the podium had to be tough. The Local Book 14 driven by Sabine Jones took second; Darrah Aubrey in the double deuce sponsored by Body and Soul and Check Mate Racing took third and Lent in the 23 came in a close fourth.
The 63 of Betts was a hit at the Derby parade and still capable of winning the Hooligan crunchfest.