JOHN DAY An arena filled with brutalized classic cars captivated the crowd in the grandstands at the Grant County Fairgrounds last Saturday night.
The occasion was the 24th Annual Demolition Derby, sponsored by the Whiskey Gulch Gang.
Pit crew members hung on the perimeter fence of the arena to see if their hours of painstaking preparations painting and reinforcing of their cars, removing the glass, moving the gas tanks to the back seat had paid off.
After a moving rendition of the national anthem by Annie Intile, a Filipino-born U.S. citizen, the action began, with dust and smoke rising and tires tearing through the mud in the freshly watered arena.
The first heat consisted of just five cars, after car No. 118 had a few difficulties before entering the arena. Flames shot out of the left side of the engine and the pit crew rushed to pour their refreshments on the broken fuel line.
The old and not-so-pretty station wagon did make it to the arena, but wouldnt start, leaving just five cars in contention.
Midway though the heat, the white flags were flying after repeated collisions stalled several cars. Fans and pit crew members were on the edge of their seats, cringing and shaking their heads at each metal-bending crash.
After No. 77s engine started to squeal, followed by a rhythmic clunking sound, that driver was out as well, leaving just two cars alive.
Cars 126 and V13 smashed into each other in the battle for the $250 pot awaiting each heat winner.
As 126 timed out, the crowd roared its appreciation for V13, the winner of the heat. It was the 13th derby for that tattered jalopy.
In the second heat, the 66 car was the first to fly the white flag after it was slammed by the other five contenders.
No. 33s radiator and front end suffered a brutal hit from the No. 10 car, driven by hometown favorite Wayne Saul, and dropped out after three minutes.
The duel between the remaining two cars 10 and 23b ended in front of the crows nest, as Sauls rig repeatedly hammered the front end of the other vehicle until white smoke from the engine area filled the arena.
No. 23b, sporting a giant wooden bunny on the top, timed out and Saul claimed his first heat victory and cash prize.
A 40-minute halftime show featured ATV barrel racing, as the pit crews prepared for the final events.
away with the fastest time, and Scott Wells entertained the crowd as he rolled over on the second barrel.
Although the mangled cars that littered the runway behind the arena appeared to be on their last legs, quick tune-ups brought them back for the final debut in the arena sealed off by log barriers.
Of 12 possible contenders, only nine contenders stayed alive to seek the big money $1,500 for the grand prize, $1, 000 for second, and $500 for third.
One of these cars that fell short was No. 10 car, which had to be pushed out of the arena by a backhoe.
A car driven by Brian Clark of Prairie City timed out when it couldnt muster enough spark to regain the smash fest.
Within 10 minutes, four more cars were out.
Two cars remained, the battered No. V13 gaining popularity with the crowd and No. 26, which seemed to have the least amount of damage among the cars.
Driven by Ed Moulton of Hines, No. 26 repeatedly rammed No. V13, driven by Grey Ferrando of Stayton, pushing it into the log barrier until a cloud of white smoke and a loud racket signaled the end of the battle.
Moulton took home top honors and the $1,500 prize, while Ferrando settled for $1,000, and Spencer Stegman in No. 23-b went home with $500.