Craig’s Demolition Derby at its best

Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Matt Huffman, only 17 years old, won the Small Car Final and received a standing congrats from the crowd in addition to hugs and handshakes from his fellow demo drivers. He ran over to Sammy Huffman and said, “I’m not a dribble!”, as Sammy had said when he lost the first heat, as he had the nickname, ‘Hurricane’ painted on his car.

“Saturday night’s Demolition Derby was one of the best in a long time!” seemed to be the repetitive chatter after the night’s exciting event. The weather could not have been better.

On June 24, a little after 7 p.m., several ‘die-hard’ demolition derby drivers from Craig County lined up their cars for the excitement of the night. “May the best man win,” one said to another as they shook hands and entered their creative metal trophies they were awaiting to crush. Some cars sounded like it could bust out a window while others sounded a bit more rusty.

Sammy Huffman, the well-known Craig County Demo emcee, quieted the hundreds of fans that surrounded the track to start the event with the Star Spangled Banner. The amazement of an honorable hush filled the atmosphere as the song played and hands were held over hearts and eyes focused on the flying American flag.

Huffman introduced the first heat, the Small Cars; Daniel Givens – The Widow Maker – “He’s got them big pipes sticking up out of the hood!”, Punky Greenway – 77, Lynn Medley – 3, “Old Sam Foutz” – 11 and Marcus Reed – 69.

The officials took their places. They were; BJ Oliver, Jesse Bradford, Jimmy Williams and Bubbie Ponton. “The fire department just spread about 1000 gallons of water on this track and it looks perfect,” Huffman said.

Then, the event started, gentlemen were told to ‘start their engines’. Sounds of RPM’s flooded everyone’s ears as smiles seemed to come across many faces while Huffman led the fans in the countdown. “5-4-3-2-1’. They all yelled, the robust train horn blew and the officials waved the green flags to start.

There was no hesitation in any of the drivers. The sounds of engines seemed to sing a song of ‘hit me with your best shot’ and each did. Rear ends crumbled, tires came off and parts seemed to appear on the watered down track.

Medley spun Reed around, then Reed drove across the track and hit two cars, Greenway got pushed up against the wall, but came back out and Foutz came alongside the Widow Maker and almost rode up on his driver’s side. “Huh oh…his front wheel is off, that ain’t good,” Huffman shouted. “I think Punky lost his throttle!” Foutz, Medley and Reed were the top three winners to compete later in the Small Car Final crusher.

The second heat was for the Big Cars who were; Jason Dudding – 54, Derek Dudding – 13, Donnie Wayne Fisher DW – 21 (Trouble Maker), Jeremiah Law in the Wild Thang – 17 and Michael Gialmard – 45. Trouble Maker had painted a little smiley face on the front of his car.

Most every car had dual pipes coming out of the top of the motor with sounds that created an atmosphere of, ‘I’m here for you!” It didn’t take long for people to know it was a ‘big car’ battle. Mud was being slung into the crowds as well as 30 feet into the air. Huffman had to duck and cover his face multiple times, sitting in the announcers tower.

The more mud that was slung, the louder the crowd seemed to yell. Hoots and hollers of drivers’ names and car numbers could be heard though many were shouting at the same time. Some drivers would smile, wave or give a thumbs up in the middle of the heat.

J. Dudding drove into Law and took him out as his radiator spewed. DW rammed Gialmard and took him off the ground and then Gialmard drove DW into the corner. D. Dudding took his own brother, J. Dudding, to the wall. DW rammed D. Dudding and went up on the side of his car. J. Dudding and DW then did a 10 second circular dance in the middle of the track.

Later, DW and D. Dudding played ‘Oreo cookie’ with J. Dudding. Gialmard had three flat tires and wheels aiming the wrong way that made him unable to continue though he shocked many as he continued for quite a while with them angled outward. The horn blew and the top three finishers were; J. Dudding, D. Dudding and DW.

As the cars that would no longer run were being assisted out by tractors, Huffman shared his memories of himself driving derby cars, ‘back in the old days’. “I wouldn’t trade any of it for nothing!” he shared. “If I were in a wheelchair right now, I don’t think I’d trade.” he added with a glean in his eyes that seemed to hold a lot of exciting stories.

The third heat started entering and Huffman announced them with vigor. “Here comes Charlie Foutz in the 38 and he’s ‘Bustin’ Loose,” one shared. Eddie Foutz in 88, Matt Huffman – another 88 in Hurricane, Kaleb Breeden in 63 and Coley Dudley driving the 22 Double Trouble were impressive.

In that heat, three 17-year olds, Huffman, Breeden and Dudley – were ready. Their hands were gripping the steering wheel, eyes were focused, foot was attentive to the pedal and there seemed to be a smile under the serious expression of each.

The heat proved to be a good one. Foutz continued with a tire that got split from his fender that had been pushed in. Breeden’s right front tire got knocked off but he finished in the top three along with Foutz and Breeden.

Huffman added a little family chatter, as he asked Huffman, who had the name ‘Hurricane’ painted on his car, ” What happened to the Hurricane?… you turned into a little drizzle!”

The second big car heat included; Corie Trivett – 35, P.J. Welch – 56, Matt Flinchum – Old 97, Jay Law – 77 and Matthew Kingree – 212. Huffman shared that Law, “Preacher man Law” ran back in 1989 when they ‘derbied’ in the ball field. Law had painted the scripture on his car; “Blessed be the peacemakers.”

The horn blew and ‘peace-making’ began! Law got hit against the wall and then he drove Old 97 against the wall. Welch and Kingree made a good hit and danced in the middle for a few seconds. Kingree hit Trivett and folded up the rear of the 35, but Trivett retaliated and pushed Kingree into the wall with force. They were stuck together, and Welch tried to hit them apart but 35 and 212 danced some more.

Trivett was focused as it seemed he didn’t even let off of the gas pedal. He went from one side of the track to the other, ramming as many as he could in between. He drove Old 97 back and then put it in reverse and hit Welch. He hopped across the track and front rammed Kingree and then hit Old 97 and Welch into the wall. Kingree tried to rescue one car but was pushed across the field. Kingree had no rear left on his car and his tires were angled out.

Top three were; Trivett, Welch and Flinchum. “You did a good job there buddy!” Huffman yelled out to him. “Fine job!” The next two heats didn’t get to run as they place the top two and only two entered each. The consolation heats for the cars who didn’t place in the top three but could still get them fired up, were DW and Huffman for the small cars and the father-son duo of Jeremiah and Jay Law for the big cars.

As they were driving off the track, setting up for the next heat, Sammy Huffman shared that the small cars they were driving would take the blast of the hit for you as a driver. “But those big cars don’t give so your body takes the lickin’!” he said. “That’s why my back is so bad.”

The small car Final had seven cars; Lynn Medley – 3, Sam Foutz – 11, Kaleb Breeden – 63, Daniel Givens – Widow Maker, Matt Huffman – 88, Marcus Reed – 69 and Charlie Foutz – 38. Nose to nose, they fired up their engines and when the horn blew, there was not wait in any response time.

Within seconds, white mist spewed into the air from Reed and S. Foutz’s cars from busted radiators. C. Foutz and Givens went head to head in a push war. Givens took Medley into the wall but he came out with tires burning the rubber from its split. Hits from every side and angle took place until only Givens and Huffman were left hitting one another. Huffman would back up and hit Givens again and again, but Givens couldn’t get his vehicle going.

Time was up and Huffman took the Small Car Final Heat. He jumped out of the car and stood on it with arms outstretched, as the crowd clapped and gave the 17-year old driver verbal kudos. Givens got out of his car and gave him a big hug.

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Huffman then ran across the track and looked up at Sammy Huffman and said with an excited smile, “I ain’t no dribble!” (referring back to what Sammy had shouted to him after the first heat). Both laughed and he ran back across the track only to be met by Track officials and other drivers with hugs, handshakes and congratulations. Sammy announced, “You ain’t a tropical depression anymore!” It was a little family encouragement.

The last heat was the Big Car Final. Included were; Donnie Wayne Fisher (DW) – 21 – Trouble Maker, P.J. Welch – 56, the father and son duo of Jay Law – 77 and Jeremiah Law – 17, Corie Trivett – 35, Jason Dudding – 54, Matt Flinchum – Old 97 and Derek Dudding – 13.

The cars were so banged up already you could barely tell they were a vehicle and most numbers were unreadable. Still, engines fired up and accelerators spoke loudly. From the get-go of the horn, it seemed that every driver was determined to be the winner.

Trivett pushed J. Dudding and then Flinchum out of his way. You could hear ‘whee-haa’s’ from the crowd. Welch and DW sandwiched Jeremiah and then DW pushed D. Dudding into the wall. Hits and bashes escalated and the crowd was on their feet.

Then the big hit came when D. Dudding drove under DW, turning him up on his driver’s side, wheels spinning, while Flinchum hit D. Dudding at an angle from behind. It looked like DW was going over but he bounced back down on all fours. The crowd went wild!

And the drivers didn’t slow down, as Trivett lost half of his door panel and a wheel, but he kept going, getting into a dance around the track with DW. DW then drove around the track, rammed Welch, backed up and hit Trivett, backed up and hit Welch again and again. DW then pushed Welch but that only seemed to create more ‘steam’ for Welch. He came back and hit. Both engines went out but each got them started again. Welch hit DW two more times and then took the win. “That was for your birthday!” Huffman announced, as it was P.J.’s birthday. “Oh P.J. earned that one!”

The top three were; P.J. Welch, Donnie Wayne Fisher and Corie Trivett. It seemed like a family get-together as each driver exited his car and went over and shook hands, hugged and laughed with one another. “It doesn’t get any better than this!” one said with a grin. One driver shouted, “I could see under your car man!”, referring to DW being up on his side.

At the end, the crowd gets to vote by applauding and shouting for their favorite ‘Mad Dog’ driver. Matt Huffman took the Small Car and Corie Trivett the Big Car awards. Pictures being taken only made the drivers smile a little more. The beautiful first place trophies stood five feet and it seemed as if the children of the winning drivers stood just as tall as they proudly posed with their dads.

The Fairground Association had a 50/50 drawing that totaled $353.50 to the winner and the other half went to the Fairground to help defer the costs of the derby. “There will be two more derby’s this year,” Huffman shared. “One in August and the other in the evening after the Fall Festival in October.” He also reminded the crowd of the ‘Wheels4Kids’ Summerfest on Saturday, July 8, from 10-5p which includes; a car show and swap meet, vendors, yard sale tables for the community, bouncy houses and games for the kids as well as food, music, a cool dance team from out of town and a special exhibition of Power wheels designed for kids without limbs or with physical limitations. “Also, don’t kids, don’t forget to get your Power Wheels and bring them here for a car contest, as there will be trophies for you too.”

Huffman thanked everyone for coming out and for the Fire Department and all of the volunteers who made it a great derby. It seemed everyone agreed that it had been a perfect night. Matt Huffman at only 17years old got his first win, P.J. Welch won on his birthday, the weather was perfect and the sunset gave a golden and red picturesque ending. Life was good in Craig County.

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