Demolition derby in a nutshell

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, October 9, 2008

If it’s Friday night at Peanut Fest, it must be time for packed grandstands and the mayhem of another Demolition Derby.

“A lot of people tell me it’s the only reason they come to Peanut Fest,” said Jay Monroe. “The Great Monroe,” is a loose ally of the Scotty Buchanan team, and by loose ally, that really means their biggest rival.

“There are no other derbies within two or three hours of here. A lot of people around here love it,” said Chris Brinkley, who along with Scotty Buchanan, Jack Neild and Bubba Neild, all of Suffolk, head up a team that will build, or tear apart and rebuild, then “derby” 16 cars.

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“The derby was moved up to 6 p.m. (from 7 p.m. in years past) so that it wouldn’t interfere with the headliners that night. Crowds were staying at the derby and not going to the concert,” said Buchanan.

For drivers, it marks the night that gives another year’s worth of stories, bragging rights and trash talking.

Monroe was dubbed, “Best Trash Talker,” for his efforts last year. It’s an award that carries great pride, and even a trophy.

“With that many cars, they might be able to keep up with me,” said Monroe.

“Scotty’s been in this the longest, it’s about time he got a real trophy. He’s proud of his “Most Time Wasted” trophy from last year,” said Monroe, who’s actually been in derbies the longest, due to simple seniority, since 1969.

“The third time I caught on fire, they made me get out of it,” said Monroe about last year’s event.

A dry arena and the debuting compact car class, with about 25 cars entered, gave crowds a fast, hard-hitting derby last October, said Buchanan.

“I was looking at the DVD last night,” said Buchanan, “three or four cars almost flipped and one did flip. It was a nasty year. Everyone was hooking up.”

“When that car flipped,” said Jack Neild, “I was standing near that guy’s wife and kids, they got quiet and the whole crowd got quiet.

“As soon as he popped his head out of the door and waved, everyone went crazy.”

Buchanan’s, Brinkley’s and Bubba Neild’s nights ended quickly in the compact derby.

“We had so many cars, it was just a lack of preparation for my own car,” said Buchanan.

“I had an average run,” said Bubba, “I forgot to put the ignition switch on like I wanted to. No matter what, you find a new mistake every year.”

“Mine ended pretty quick. My night ended with a half-tank of gas on the back floor board,” said Brinkley.

As for the cars, most end up at the crusher the day after the derby, but some become derby veterans.

“A lot of times it’s easier to reuse a car, especially if it’s a good running car,” said Brinkley.

There’s about 40 hours of work per car to get it equal parts safe and destructive. No matter how much work goes into the cars though, “everyone’s doing things with their cars down to the last minute,” said Brinkley.

Rivals usually help each other, even in situations that could disqualify or end a driver’s night.

“If you qualify, but your car dies after one of the heats, I’ve seen lots of times where someone, another competitor, will just give you a car,” said Monroe.

“Here, I’ll help you,” said Jack, “I want you to be able to run so I can race you, so I can wreck you and beat you.”

So the sportsmanship still goes back to being competitive, and having hilarious tales to tell until the next derby.

“I bought my car this year from Scotty, just to beat him with it,” said Monroe.

Fighting back versus the Trash Talker of the Year, Buchanan reminds Monroe to attach a fire extinguisher beside his driver’s seat this time. “You’re laughing about it, but you shouldn’t,” said Buchanan.

The 17th annual Derby will draw standing room only crowds tonight and continue a Peanut Fest tradition, so spectators should plan to get there early. Finalists from each of the preliminary heats receive trophies and the chance to square off in the feature event for a share of $1,500 in prize money.