Demolition Derby no drag

August 17, 1999

Demolition DerbyBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Between heats in Tuesday's demolition derby at the Franklin County Fair drivers tended to battered vehicles with sledgehammers, crowbars and bags of ice.

"Don't tell anybody about this," one man said as he piled ice cubes on the engine block. The last of the engine's coolant had just gurgled and hissed away and the radiator was in no shape to hold any more.

Shannon Brown of Waynesboro, Pa., one of two women among 17 drivers, pulled the rear bumper off her car as she prepared for the feature derby. She ended up winning the final heat and $600.


Other pried and hammered crumpled fenders away from the tires still left on the cars.

"Keep from getting hit and hit everyone else," Jerry Fleming of St. Thomas, Pa., said was the secret to success. He spent about $200 for the 1977 Chevy Malibu station wagon he would destroy that night.

None of the cars had any glass. Chicken wire or window screens protected them from flying mud and parts in the ring where these gladiators went to war.

Eight cars in one heat and nine in the second were crammed into a square measuring about 70 feet on each side. The telephone-pole border sidelined as many cars as collisions when drivers got hung up on them.

Mike Henshaw of Penn-Ohio Demolition Derby, Jamestown, Pa., told the competitors they had two minutes to get moving if their car got stuck or stalled during a heat.

"I don't stop for fires unless I feel they are bad enough," Henshaw said. He warned drivers to keep their helmets on and not to intentionally hit cars on the driver's door.

Director of Operations R.J. Feicht said the winner's car would be inspected for illegal reinforcement. "We lifted up one car last year and concrete fell out of the door," he said.

Forklifts cleared the pit after each heat.

The roar of the mufflerless engines was ear-rattling. Despite the confined space, there were impressive collisions. Antifreeze sprayed from under crunched hoods and wheels rolled on shredded rubber.

Three cars from each heat advanced to the feature, along with two others from a consolation heat. The Pontiac of Chad Rensburg of McConnellsburg, Pa., was crushed around him like a beer can, but he made it to the feature.

So did Shannon Brown and her husband, Nick. "Isn't this the greatest?" he asked her after both qualified.

Tina Pittman of McConnellsburg was the runner-up in the feature, although much of her car fell off during her heat.

Tina, who works at Lowe's in Chambersburg by day, won the Fulton County Fair demolition derby two years ago and will race there again tonight.

She likes Monte Carlos. "The front ends on these are pretty tough," she said.

Her husband, John, also wrecks old wrecks for fun, and if they need another for tonight, she'll have her pick.

"We've got about 50 in the back yard," she said.

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