Electrifying fun at Washington County Demolition Derby

HURRICANE – The 2017 Demolition Derby at the Washington County Fair had a little bit of everything: fun, fast cars, spectacular crashes, a lightning delay, noisy engines and enthusiastic fans. Wait, a lightning delay?

For the first time in history, the 2017 Demolition Derby was forced to start an hour late. Fair officials and the Hurricane fire marshal announced just before 7 p.m. Saturday night that fans would have to vacate the aluminum bleachers and head indoors while everyone waited out a fierce thunderstorm cell passing through the area.

“I’ve been doing this for about 25 years and this is the first time we’ve ever had to delay the derby for weather,” said public address announcer Carl Lamar. “We’ve had plenty of crazy things happen out here, but nothing like this.”

Several lightning strikes were within a quarter-mile of the arena and fair officials opened up an empty building for fans to seek shelter in during the delay.

Washington County Fair Demolition Derby, Hurricane, UT, Aug. 12, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

When the action finally began, more than an hour later, about 20 percent of the fans had chosen to head home. But the rain and lightning didn’t dampen the spirits of those who stayed. Dozens of racers and crashers revved their engines to life as the derby went through seven rounds of “heats” before finally getting to the crash-’em-up portion of the evening.

And it took no time at all for the action to heat up. The first heat of the night featured youth drivers, some as young as 8 years old. Leeann Smith won that first race, qualifying her for the later demolition portion of the night.

Steve Pettit in his yellow No. 33 car, Washington County Fair Demolition Derby, Hurricane, UT, Aug. 12, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

With the infield a murky pit of mud, many races were a matter of attrition as cars stalled and the rain persisted. The winners of the next six heats were Landon Cox (in his green X64 car), Eric Crosby (in the “heavy” figure eight race with his mud-covered 67 car), Lance Byington in his No. 31 Caterpillar car, Randahl Hill (in his black and red Rareform No. 90 car), Layne Zaharia (in his black and orange No. 45) and James Pease (in his black and white “Wam” car).

The racing and crashing paused for about 15 minutes, as did the rain, and Washington County put on a fireworks show for the fans.

Finally, the demolition portion of the evening began. Starting with the open or no-restrictions derby, there were four fight-to-the-death (of the car) battles. Steve Pettit won that first derby.

I was trying to play a little bait early in the race,” said Pettit, who hails from Phoenix. “That Gilmore guys’s got a gun compared to my butter knife here, and it worked out for me.”

Washington County Fair Demolition Derby, Hurricane, UT, Aug. 12, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Pettit simply outlasted the other competitors in his derby, with the other cars falling apart and getting bogged down in the mud, Pettit’s school-bus-yellow car was the last one running. He said the adrenaline of the derby, and the great Utah effort made it an amazing night.

“I’ve been doing this about 20 years,” he said. “You get to take out your anger on frustration on other cars and don’t get in trouble for it. It’s a fun way to blow off some steam. And you guys in Utah put on a helluva good show. It’s so much fun to come up here.”

The top three finishers in the final three derbies were: Stock: 1. (tie) Pat Hunter and Jerred Jensen; 3. Amanda Hunter; Car: 1. Stan McDonald; 2. Tanner Smith; 3. Chris Pritchard; Trucks: 1. Clint Chastom; 2. Paul Cox; 3. Josh Jensen.

Despite the lightning, rain and mud, Lamar said it was a great night.

“I think everyone was really into it,” he said. “The fireworks were great and, yeah, the mud slowed things down a bit, but it was still a lot of fun.”

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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