Car-crushing crashes captivate audience at demolition derby
"This is my hobby and my passion,” said Jordan Simek.
DICKINSON — Motor sports enthusiasts packed into the stands at Stark County Fair Grounds Saturday, July 30 for one of the biggest events all season, the Roughrider Days Demolition Derby. Clouds of dirt and smoke engulfed the arena as 22 drivers battled for a chunk of the $15,000 prize money pool. Tires screeched as clanking machines were smashed like pancakes.
The derby featured three vehicle classes, the Chain and Bang, Limited Weld and Herby Derby, also known as the Compact Class. Drivers kicked off the show with a series of Heat matches. The top two finalists from each Heat qualified for the Feature.
Dickinson’s Jordan Simek won the first Heat in his black and red mohawk car, a 1983 limited build on a 2009 Crown Vic frame. Simek has been competing in derbies for 21 years and hasn’t missed a single show in Dickinson. He says he chose the mohawk theme for his vehicle because the kids love it.
“It gets them involved and following up on us in the derby world and I want to keep the sport going,” Simek said. “I love the adrenaline and entertaining the crowd. It drives me. It’s addicting. This is my hobby and my passion.”
In the second Heat, Tyler Kahl emerged victoriously from mounds of crushed metal in his gold and black X car. The vehicle shook and grumbled as Kahl exited the arena on all four wheels, while the others were carted away by heavy equipment.
The Herby Derby came next. Lucas Preston (19P), Terry Zastoupil (10X), and Steve Johner (3J) took turns ramming into each other’s vehicles while driving backwards. Zastoupil was the last man standing. He also won the Mad Dog title for ‘Most Aggressive Driver,’ which earned him $1,000.
In the Chain and Bang match, ten drivers crashed and collided until all but one was still running. Dickinson’s Doug Harrington took the win after ramming into the blue and green 4T one last time. Harrington’s orange Halloween themed vehicle was decorated by his daughter who stayed up the night before to paint Nightmare Before Christmas characters all over the car.
Harrington has been derbying for 31 years. Fresh out of high school, he was interested in racing and found that derbies were much cheaper. He says this may have been his last event, as he is planning to retire from the sport. His favorite thing about competing in derbies is taking something that is junk and giving it a final shot to be used. He enjoys the trill of driving, but it has also taken a tole on his body.
“It’s interesting to drive in a derby, you never know who is coming at you from what angle,” Harrington said. “When you look one way, another one comes the other way, so your neck can get a little jarred sometimes.”
The final match of the evening was the Limited Weld Feature. New Salem farmer Tory Heid took the win and the grand $5,000 check.
Heid has been a competitive derby driver for 30 years. Two weeks ago, he took first place in a two-man team show in Iowa against some of the best drivers in the country. Right after winning that derby, he had to tear everything out of the car and use it to build a completely different vehicle for the Dickinson show.
“To come out here and win after the two weeks to a month that it takes to build these cars, all the hard work finally comes to a happy ending,” Heid said.