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Archive for Saturday, August 6, 1994

DRIVERS REV IT UP AT ANNUAL DEMO DERBY

August 6, 1994

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About 5,000 people flocked to Friday night's demolition derby in the rodeo arena at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Michael Herd knew the competition at Friday night's demolition derby was going to be tough -- he just didn't know how tough.

He quickly found out.

Within 10 minutes of entering the arena, Herd's 1976 Mercury Montego was disabled when he was knocked into a retaining wall from behind by a dilapidated station wagon.

A veteran derby driver, Herd was one of 85 participants in Friday night's demolition derby at the Douglas County Free Fair.

To participate, drivers take beat up cars and strip the insides of everything but the driver's seat. In addition, all glass must be removed from the windows. Doors and hoods must be chained shut and the battery must be moved to the floorboard.

From there, the rules are simple.

Participants can't smash into each other head-on. They cannot run into other participant's driver side doors and they must hit someone at least once each minute to remain in the competition.

Five heats of 17 cars compete. Each heat takes about 45 minutes and ends when three drivers are remaining. Those drivers go on to the feature derby.

Herd, one of the three finalist in his heat last year, explained his strategy for this year.

"Keep your front end away from everybody and go after their front end," he said as he climbed Dukes of Hazzard-style into his car.

Carefully, Herd buckled his seatbelt, pulled his helmet over his head and slid a brace around his neck.

Fishtailing from side to side, he zipped into the mud-filled arena with the other cars in his heat.

The sound of the revving engines was deafening as the event began.

Once disabled, Herd removed his helmet and watched the rest of the derby from his car.

He later explained what happened.

"I got my radiator knocked out," he said. "Then when I was trying to start it, I overheated the battery."

Although he was down, Herd wasn't out.

"I'll take it up to Tonganoxie next weekend," he said. "All I've going to have to do is pop open the hood and probably slap another radiator in it."

A die-hard derby driver, Herd shrugged when asked what attracted people to the sport.

"You can't do it on the street legally," he said with a boyish grin. "It's just all the fun of going out and tearing things up without getting in trouble."

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