Archive for Friday, July 27, 2007

She’s in for a smashing good time

Kristy Wempe, a longtime 4-H member and demolition derby fan, is finally getting the chance to compete in the annual event. The 25-year-old Lawrence woman purchased a 1972 Chevy Impala for the derby, and plans to paint it red. "I joke around with the guys saying that when it comes time for my heat, they are going to have to pick me up and put me into the car because I am going to be so scared," she says.

Kristy Wempe, a longtime 4-H member and demolition derby fan, is finally getting the chance to compete in the annual event. The 25-year-old Lawrence woman purchased a 1972 Chevy Impala for the derby, and plans to paint it red. "I joke around with the guys saying that when it comes time for my heat, they are going to have to pick me up and put me into the car because I am going to be so scared," she says.

July 27, 2007


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Kristy Wempe is a big fan of the annual Douglas County Fair, which officially begins today.

As a longtime 4-H member, she has fond memories of showing sheep, modeling clothes, making friends and attending the demolition derby.

The 25-year-old remembers cheering on car No. 9 during her first derby as a junior high school student even though she didn't know the driver.

"That was my lucky number and that was the car I liked," the Lawrence resident said. Since then, she has rarely missed an area demolition derby.

Wempe, health and safety marketing director for the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross, said her male friends have competed in derbies for years. She has begged to drive their cars in an all-women's heat - called powder puff - that sometimes follows traditional derbies.

"I would sit there and pester them," she said. "I would ask them, 'Let me drive in the powder puff, let me drive in the powder puff.' Finally, I decided this year : I am just going to do it," she said.

In one week, her desire to drive will come true. Her 1972 Chevy Impala will be painted bright red - her favorite color - and emblazoned with No. 81 because No. 9 is taken.

"Eighty-one was the year that I was born," she said. "Plus if you add eight and one, they equal nine, so it works."

So far, Wempe is the only female entry in the Lawrence derby, which is expected to attract about 60 drivers and 4,500 spectators.

Chris Cheek, a derby official and former competitor, said few women compete in the sport and he isn't sure why.

"The women that are out there - they just let it go. They let loose and they tear some stuff up," he said chuckling. "That's why I don't understand why there aren't more out there. It's almost like they are scared, but that's what makes them drive harder."

'Thrown right in'

Wempe selected the car, tore out the interior and built the motor. She has received some help from friends Kyle Guenther and Luke Lang, who have competed in numerous derbies.

"They've thrown me right into it," she said. She bought the car about two weeks ago and has spent every night and weekend working on it with her friends. She expects to spend about $500; costs typically range from $200 to $1,000.

Although Wempe is entering for fun, she expects to be nervous.

"I joke around with the guys saying that when it comes time for my heat, they are going to have to pick me up and put me into the car because I am going to be so scared.

"But they told me, 'As soon as you get hit that one time, you are going to be ready to go.' So, I was like 'OK, good.'"

Cheek said experience doesn't always matter. He placed fifth during his first Lawrence derby in 1997 driving an old rusty car.

"Anything can happen out there."

His advice: Be aware.

"The ones (hits) that hurt are the ones that are unexpected," Cheek said. "If you see it coming, you can kind of brace yourself."

Crash courses?

Wempe said her parents, K.C. and Kari Wempe, are concerned about her safety but remain supportive.

"My dad wishes me luck," she said. "He actually finds it kind of funny because in high school I was known for a few wrecks."

She totaled her mom's new car on the first day of her sophomore year and then totaled her own truck her senior year. "My dad said that I might as well try to win some money at it."

Kari Wempe seems to be impressed with her daughter's mechanical skills.

"I am really surprised. She has been working really hard alongside her friends putting this thing together," she said. "Her hugging her transmission, it is hilarious. It's just funny. I am just praying to God that she doesn't get hurt."

Easing her motherly fear is the fact that she will be more than a spectator.

"I will be working the gates in uniform at the demolition derby," said Kari Wempe, a lieutenant with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "So, Momma's going to have a real bird's eye view of what is going on."

"Citations will be issued," she joked.


Bassetlover 6 years, 8 months ago

2---ez........What a tacky, petty, mean-spirited, classless thing to say. But that should come as no surprise based on your screen name. Your comments reflect someone who is jealous and obviously has a personal ax to grind. But don't pick on someone who is just trying to have some good, clean, old-fashioned fun. That girl is obviously a hard, hard worker who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. What a kill joy you are. Now go to your room!


justanother 6 years, 8 months ago

2--ez, i was just wondering how you know so much on how much she has worked on her car? I know for a fact that she is working on that car everynight, and with the help of luke she has completed her car. She has learned over the years how to 'derby' a car, and she has used the guidance of luke to finish her first derby car. And you mention the fact that many women have ran in these derbys and havent recieved any attention; dont you believe that this article serves as a notification to the public that women are trying to make it in this field as well. Kristy is not trying to take the lime light, as her name was given to the paper for a possible candidate for the annual pre-derby article.
2--ez, take it easy and try not to discourage an individual just trying to have a good time. -Ms. Wempe, I surely will be rootin on that Red 81.. good luck to you and your crew


institches 6 years, 8 months ago

You bet, 2- ez, Luke does deserve credit, but he wanted the article about Kristy and not himself. she did a lot of work on the car, too. Best of luck to her.


2fknez 6 years, 8 months ago

Really what is the big deal. I know for a fact there has been several women before Kristy that have run in the Lawrence derby in the past and not to mention several other derbys in the area. None of these other women have had a article done on them. And really how much work did she really do on this car? And don't you think Luke deserves a little more credit for all of the work he has done.


softtalker 6 years, 8 months ago

GOOD LUCK KRISTY!! it'll be tough i've got about 4 people i'll be cheering for out there you being one of them. I expect to see myself in your shoes in about 3 years! kick a$$ girl!


trinity 6 years, 8 months ago

lol, enjoy the movie py&let us know what you thought of it! :)

ah, derby-good clean fun! ;)


Pywacket 6 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the encouragement, Trin! Yes--one of these days, I'll score a '66 Electra or something and POW!! To the MOON!!!

But for now.... Friday Friday FriDAY!! Have a good one, everybody. We're off to see the Simpsons. I could have waited until the hype died down, but there are certain persons of the male persuasion in my household who have no self control when it comes to Springfield's First Family.


acg 6 years, 8 months ago

I drove in a powder puff derby in Overbook once. It was my brother's car and he smashed it pretty good in the regular heat, so when I went out there the car almost immediately died and I spent the whole time being crashed into. It was fun, though.

BTW, you go girl. I hope you kick their butts!!


Bobbi Reid 6 years, 8 months ago

Write... haha that's funny. I meant because I have two small kids I don't have the time...That is a great idea though. I know my oldest would love it!! It would be kind of hard to get them in a seatbelt as there are none except for the driver...hmmmm


Write2Know 6 years, 8 months ago

dbrm4ever - Your kids would be fine in the derby. Just make sure they are securely fastened in government approved child safety seats.


TheYetiSpeaks 6 years, 8 months ago

My wife would be good at the demo derby...she seems to drive in one every other day or so.


Bobbi Reid 6 years, 8 months ago

Way to go. I have had the chance a few times, but because my kids are so small decided against it. Kick those guys butts!!!


trinity 6 years, 8 months ago

you GO girl!!! and don't be scared; easier said than done, i know...but it is the MOST fun you'll EVER have!!! i drove derbies many moons ago, when i was not yet 40, lol. first one with the guys-vowed NEVER again, they seem to not care for girls in their lil' game! got smacked around dang hard. powder puffed from then on, and GOD what fun! she's got a good strong car, too-how'd ya score an old impala?? but my preference is mopar, hehe. ohhhhhhhhhh this brings back memories! for several years my oldest daughter derbied with me; she had a '62 buick, and that girl was ruthless-only she'd giggle every time she had to hit me! ;)

DO it py, it's just soooooooooo fun! only, the next day-agggghhhh, a little hard rolling out of bed. :-/


Pywacket 6 years, 8 months ago

Good for her! Driving in a demo derby has long been one of my secret trashy longings. Maybe some day...


beardedmystery 6 years, 8 months ago

That's my cousin and she's going to kick-a**


Ragingbear 6 years, 8 months ago

I get to see the demolition derby everyday. It's called Iowa St., or 6th, or 23rd, or any of the other streets where KU students drive. Maybe they should have stock races where they are all required to text while driving.


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