Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Fans head to derby day

Demolition competition takes care of road rage

By Jeff Carlton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Sporting a red cap and no shirt, demolition derby driver Matt Thompson, 18, stood beside his No.13 car and surveyed the competition at the Kenton County Fair on Tuesday.

(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        As the runner-up in the fair's demolition derby last year, Mr. Thompson was one of the favorites for Tuesday's derby, where about 40 drivers competed to see which car could last the longest.

        The derby is typically the biggest draw of the week-long fair, which began Sunday.

        Tuesday, about 75 fans found seats on the hill by the derby pit more than two hours before the event. Virgil Young, a retired machinist who lives in Independence, said fans arrive early to battle for prime seating in the shade of the few trees that dot the hillside.

        The appeal, he said, is in “the crashes, the noises and the drivers.”

  What: Kenton County Fair
  When: Through Saturday; open 9:30 a.m. daily
  Where: Intersection of Taylor Mill Road (Ky. 16) and Harris Pike, Independence
  To get there: From Interstate 71/75 south, take Interstate 275 east to Ky. 16 exit. Follow Ky. 16 south to Independence.
  Information: Call (859) 356-3738.
        “I'm 70 years old, and I'm still here watching almost every year,” Mr. Young said.

        But some fans, such as 19-year-old Jeff Fightmaster of Independence, come early to sit front and center, just 15 feet from the dirt pit.

        Mr. Fightmaster said he has gone to derbies since age 5, but he was at this one to pick up on strategy. Come August, Mr. Fightmaster will have converted his 1986 Pontiac Sunbird into a derby car for the Boone County Fair.

        A derby car driver must remove all of the car's glass, move the gas tank out from under the car and into the back seat and move the battery from under the hood into the passenger seat. These steps are taken for safety, Mr. Fightmaster said.

        Fan Monica Schilling, 14, and a friend of Mr. Fightmaster, said she thinks the derby is a big draw because “some people just hate their cars so much.

        “Like Jeff, he used to take me to school every day and his car would break down all the time. He couldn't wait for a derby.”

        But Mr. Thompson said people turn out in droves for a different reason.

        “You can smash up all these cars and not get in any trouble.”

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