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Fair finale crashes and burns - on purpose

Staff writer

The grand finale at the county fair offered plenty of revving engines, crashing cars, flying clods, and wheels spinning so hard tires lost their rubber.

A few cars driving the track on broken axles were thrown into the mix Saturday night.

Twenty-five demolition derby enthusiasts brought cars from as far away as Garnett and Ottawa to see whose vehicles would survive in the ring at Marion County fairgrounds long enough to be declared winner.

The derby was sanctioned by Championship Demolition Derby Association. Drivers who score enough points in sanctioned events compete in the organization’s Crashtoberfest in October at Salina Speedway.

Marion resident Blake Stringer’s car was sponsored by Stinger’s Guide Service, owned by his father, Joe Stringer. Before the race began, Blake used a cutting torch to remove corners of the car’s back bumpe since derby cars usually get hit on rear corners.

Blake loves demolition derby.

“He likes to tear things up,” Joe said.

Abilene resident Brock Lehman drove a black Chevrolet that he and friends Dylan Graves and Hunter Picking strapped together with wire before the derby began.

Although he’s driven in derbies for four years, he hadn’t expected to do so this year.

“I sold everything out this winter,” he said.

“Then he borrowed everything back,” Graves added.

Brenden Alvarez, also of Abilene, has competed in derbies six years, driving in them since he was 14. The car he drove Saturday was bought for this year.

Before the derby began, rescue squads and firefighters from Hillsboro, Lehigh, Peabody, and Florence assembled near the entry gate, at the ready should their services be needed. Two ambulances also stood by.

The first competition was figure 8, with four cars driving between two tall tires and crashing into each other. After the competition, cars and tires were removed by a tractor with a forklift.

Event organizer Joe Alvarez rode around the edge of the arena in a four-wheeler and tossed T-shirts to audience members as the crowd called his name and tried to get his attention.

As the second match began, cars ran into each other going forward and backwards, and drove into the sides of each other.

A red flag was signaled at 7:24, and firefighters and race officials ran to a stopped car, but the driver was not injured. The event started again.

Halfway through the event, one car had no back tires and was driving on rims. It wasn’t the only car to lose rear tires.

Steam billowed from the front ends of cars and fluids poured out of some. Mud and clods of dirt flew through the air, some landing on spectators.

One car died out, but another driver kept right on smashing into it.

Four cars were towed out of the arena after the smashfest was over.

An announcer kept up a running banter between rounds and encouraged audience members to visit food vendors and buy beer and cold drinks.

“Sheriff Jeff is up here,” he said. “Go get me a light beer.”

Not to let up on the sheriff, he added, “Go home, sheriff. Nobody wants you here.”

When the third event began, four cars spent most of their time in a cluster of tangled steel, pushing each other backward, forwards, and sideways into other cars.

The audience clapped and cheered each time cars collided.

Then, Brenden Alvarez was out of the race, stopped with steam billowing from the front of the car, and the three other cars went after one another with a vengeance.

Finally, the announcer called out to Russell Klenda of Lincolnville, “Slow down, Russell! You won, you bully!”

This time two tractors removed cars from the ring.

Joe Alvarez once again rode around pitching shirts to spectators.

“Take the chance to get something to eat and drink,” the announcer said. “Then we’re going to start bone stock.”

Soon after the bone stock round began, red flags were waved when a car was knocked into a mound of dirt that surrounded the track and the driver was unable to get out after loudly grinding gears.

The derby resumed, and the driver finally worked the car loose from the mound and rejoined the event.

Audience members oohed and ahhed each time a car smacked into another car.

Car 22 was hit so hard it landed with both driver’s side wheels at the top of the raised mound of dirt along the edge of the track.

Once again, dirt clods flew everywhere as cars roared around on the track.

Flames shot out the right bottom of one car as its driver tried to pull away from the others, and then there were only two cars left.

DRIVERS

Abilene — Brenden Alvarez, Kyson Becker, Nick Clark, and Brock Lehman.

Canton — Tanner Jones.

Chapman — Tanner Hettenbach.

Florence — Zane Slater.

Garnett — Jeff Chandler.

Hillsboro — Lloyd Anderson, Mike Brandt, Eli Dalke, Jared Fish, and Dean Suderman.

Hutchinson — Darrin Pickering.

Kingman — Peyton Pickering.

Lehigh — Roger Sutton.

Lincolnville — Preston and Russell Klenda.

Marion — Johnathan Graham, Colton Jeffrey, and Blake Stringer.

McPherson — Jarred Dyck.

Newton — Jimmy Antonio.

Ottawa — Danny Fehling.

Ramona — Matthew Madrove.

Last modified July 28, 2022

 

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