Jason "Dritt" Alldredge's friends figure he was smiling down on all the mud-flipping, engine-revving, metal-crunching action at Friday's demolition derby.
The raucous Douglas County Free Fair event was the young gearhead's favorite. And though he was killed in a car accident in April Â just after moving to Wyoming to study hot rod restoration at Wyoming Technical School Â his buddies charged into the mud-caked arena on Friday with his spirit scrawled all over their automobiles-turned-battering rams.
Five of the 65 cars were dedicated to Alldredge, a 2001 Free State High School graduate, and driven in his name. Lawrence resident Michael Herd donated the cars, which were plastered with messages to Alldredge.
"It's probably the best way these kids could honor Jason because he loved this stuff," said his mother, Sue Alldredge. Twenty-five friends and family members sported "Dritt's Crew" T-shirts for the occasion.
Friend Bo Blevins used to work on cars with Jason Alldredge.
"We were really big into making things fast," he said. "Make things run and be destructive Â that was kind of our motto."
Blevins got to try out that philosophy in his first demolition derby on Friday.
"I'm actually pretty pumped up," he said before strapping on a neck roll and helmet. "Who knows what'll happen when I actually get buckled up, though."
What happens at the demolition derby each year is what makes it one of the fair's most popular attractions.
About 3,000 people bought tickets to watch the bumper cars on steroids go at each other. Spinning tires flung chunks of mud high into the bleachers. The casualties of vehicular war Â tires, bumpers, unidentifiable heaps of metal Â lay strewn across the sloppy battlefield.
Collective "oohs" and "ughs" emanated from the bleachers as cars rammed each other into concrete walls and other vehicles. One stuck driver who seemed perplexed about why he couldn't move heard this from the announcer: "No. 86, your left rear tire is now your spare. It's one of those mud rims."
All the beating and battering paid off, though. Cash prizes went to drivers who placed first through fourth in each heat. The grand-prize winner, Kyle Guenther of Baldwin, took home $1,000.
Through the mud-flecked hood of car No. 19, ripping through the arena with Alldredge's friend Eric Green behind the wheel, the hand-written message, "P.S. I'll see you in heaven" peaked out.
"It's difficult to be here," Sue Alldredge said. "But we wouldn't miss it for the world."