WELLINGTON — Road rage was legal and encouraged and being “bashful” took on new meaning at Sunday’s 69th annual demolition derby at the Lorain County Fair.
“Where else can you get in about 15 car accidents in a minute?” asked demolition driver Jack Edwards.
Edwards, of North Ridgeville, was one of dozens of drivers getting their smash on in front of about 3,500 people at the derby. Edwards finished second in the 1980s and newer heat at the derby.
With the air thick with the smell of gasoline and coolant, Edwards and winner Jason Thompson of Elyria rammed their Ford Crown Victorias into one another on a track littered with about a dozen crumpled wrecks. The heat was frequently interrupted by red flags so firefighters could extinguish car fires. Clumps of mud flew and smoke rose from their damaged engines until Edwards’ Crown Vic took one broadside too many and died.
The derby featured nine heats including the old iron — featuring cars made before 1980 — compacts, modified cars and full-size trucks. Entry fees were $25 before the fair and $35 during the fair, said Tim Sickels, derby chairman.
Competitions can get nasty — Thompson said he was threatened after winning a heat at the Cuyahoga County fair earlier this month — but Edwards and Thompson shared a laugh after the heat. Thompson said he has won as much as $1,000 for a competition, but both men said there isn’t much money in competing.
Winnings are often spent on car repairs.
“It’s all about the fun,” Edwards said.
Thompson, a 34-year-old electrician and owner of Black River Auto Salvage in Elyria, said he’s been competing since he was 18. Edwards, a 30-year-old landscaper with TEX Maintenance in North Ridgeville, said he’s been competing and racing since he was 16. Both enjoy the intensity of the hard-hitting derby.
“It’s just a blast,” Thompson said. “The thrill to hit people. It’s amazing.”
Many drivers are second- and third-generation competitors, including 14-year-old Alex Goss of Wellington, the winner of the first youth derby. Brent Goss, Alex’s 42-year-old father, said he has raced and competed in 25 to 30 derbies and encouraged Alex and his brothers,
Andrew, 20, and Austin, 16. Andrew bought the 1999 Dodge Neon that Alex drove.
“It’s hard to explain until you do it,” Brent Goss said. “These guys have been going to the derby since they were big enough to walk. That’s why they want to do it. They watched me do it all their lives.”
Like Alex Goss, 12-year-old runner-up Mercedes Gecking’s father also competed. Robert Gecking owns Ride Now Auto Sales in Medina and supplied the 1999 Monte Carlo his daughter drove. Mercedes, of West Salem, said she expects to be sore today but hopes to compete again.
Mercedes’ passenger, Karen Thomas, 43, of Medina, said Mercedes is a fearless driver.
“She’s going to be just as good as her dad,” Thomas said.