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DEMOLITION DERBY: Drivers show off their greatest hits

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Brightly painted and stripped of their interior features and many of their engine components, demolition-ready cars crashed into one another Wednesday evening at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair’s Demolition Derby.

Twenty-seven drivers threw in their lots to compete for $1,000 in the four- and six-cylinder car division. Seven vans competed separately for another $1,000 prize.

Some drivers had years of experience, while others were brand-new to the sport.

Andy Anderson of Norfolk won last year’s derby and was back to compete again. He was driving a beat-up 1990 Toyota Camry that he bought at a car auction for $325.

He’s already seen a nice return on his investment after winning $1,500 in a derby last week in Leesburg.

Anderson said one surprising aspect of driving in a demolition derby is the sound.

“It’s actually really loud,” he said. “It sounds like you’re inside a tin can and someone is hitting it with a hammer.”

His car was crushed before the evening’s competition even began. But he still made it out of the first round to drive in the finals.

“There’s no point in scrapping it if it’s still usable,” Anderson said.

Demolition derby cars undergo a lot of custom alterations before they face an onslaught of destruction.

Everything on the interior is stripped away, and even some of the cars’ mechanical components are removed or changed.

The battery and gas tank are moved inside where they are less likely to explode, said Thurman Son Williams III of Stafford County, who was working to help coordinate the derby.

Some of the cars didn’t even have radiators.

“You just run the engine block to block without a radiator,” Williams said. “You have 30 to 40 minutes before you really overheat.”

Exhaust pipes were cut down and run through the hoods of many cars, creating a smoking effect as fumes poured out of the shortened exhaust systems.

The most efficient way to destroy an opponent’s car is to back up into their front end, according to the pros.

“You always want to protect your motor,” Williams said.

Indeed, when motors were not protected, problems emerged for competitors.

Twice in the first heat the derby was temporarily halted after fires broke out.

As cars started to break down, they became obstacles to be avoided, or tools to be used to back a competitor into a corner and then smash them into a wall of metal.

Eventually, all but four cars in each heat were destroyed and could drive no more.

The dead cars were pushed out of the muddy course by a bulldozer, defeated drivers still inside.

The survivors proceeded to the final round of crashing and hoping their engines would keep turning.

The driver of a pink car, painted with flowers and titled “The Menstrual Cycle,” was brand-new to the demolition derby scene.

Crystal Lee of Spotsylvania County said it took her about two weeks to fully prepare her Ford Focus for the event.

“It’s the only thing I’d do with a Ford: demolish it,” she said.

The mud flying all over the course in big, thick clods surprised the newcomer, who held on longer than several cars in the first heat.

“I wasn’t expecting to last that long, being the only woman out there,” she said.

After all the effort to modify the car and being struck unexpectedly by other drivers, Lee said she couldn’t wait to drive in another derby.

The last man standing of the 27 drivers was Rick Murray, who walked away with the prize money and a still-running demolition derby car.

The demolition derby will continue tonight with a new round of competitors, starting at 7 p.m.

Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417