The air was filled with mud, cheers and the acrid smoke from dying machines at the 28th annual demolition derby.

The event pitted 18 drivers against each other in a vehicular gladiator match at the Grant County Fairgrounds Saturday.

In the end, only one was left. Rookie Nick Stiner of Mt. Vernon drove his 1974 Ford LTD to victory in this year’s derby.

“It’s my first time,” he said before the race. “I’m just here to have fun.”

Stiner said it took about 30-40 hours to prepare his first derby car, and he had considerable help from fellow driver Tyler Nodine. The two removed all glass and flammable materials from the interior, reinforced the vehicle with two metal bars and chained the bumper and doors.

Stiner described it as “just a plain Jane, regular, sturdy body car.”

“We had a motor that fit in it and a tranny that would run, so we figured why not,” he said.

The 17 other vehicles were all American-made models ranging from the early ’70s to late ’90s.

The cars were divided into three heats. Cars that survived the heats could compete in the main event for a chance to win the $2,000 first-place prize.

“It’s pretty amazing how bad a car can get beat up and then get back in there,” organizer Hugh Farrell said.

Depsite the violent nature of the derby, there were no injuries this year, something Farrell said is typical.

The derby is hosted annually by the Whiskey Gulch Gang, and proceeds help fund other events including the ’62 Days celebration in June.

With only two truck entries, this year’s derby did not feature a truck heat, but organizers hope to have more entries next year.

“We want to put on a show,” Farrell said. “That’s the main thing: putting on a show for the crowd.”

28th annual demolition derby

First place: Nick Stiner, $2,000

Second place: Douglas Hills, $1,500

Third place: Cody Frazier, $500

Most aggressive driver: Wayne Saul

Hard luck winner: Jonathan Schmeck

Beauty contest: Eddy Hicks

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