Local Ben Rowland repeated as champion of the Pratt County Fair demolition derby Friday night. It marked the 4th time Rowland has captured a win at the fairgrounds demolition derby venue. He has won three Pratt County Fair derbies— including the most recent two, and another derby that was not affiliated with the Fair.
There were twenty-one cars entered this year, down a few from recent derbies. What was not down was the number of spectators. Once again the bleacher seats and the adjoining hillside were packed with fans eager to witness bone-crunching collisions and the flaming and smoking engines that often resulted. They were not disappointed.
It appeared to some observers that the crowd may have even topped last year's turnout, perhaps in part due to the pleasant weather conditions.
With 21 cars entered, there were seven cars in each of three preliminary heats. The last three surviving cars in each heat automatically advanced to the finals.
Cars that were knocked out in the prelims got a second chance in the consolation heat. Any of those previously eliminated cars (that could still move) faced off against each other, with the top three of those also advancing to the final heat.
That left twelve cars in the final heat, three from each preliminary heat and three from the consolation heat.
When the dust had settled after the final heat, it was again Ben Rowland's blue and black car that was the last vehicle still able to navigate.
It was all in good fun. As the cadre of demolition derby drivers is getting to be a smaller and smaller fraternity, the drivers and crews are all acquainted with one another. "We all know each other," Rowland said following the derby. "When it's over, we all shake hands and go somewhere for a cold beverage." There's nothing personal when someone smashes his car into someone else's trying to cripple it— it's just part of the sport.
Rowland had anticipated a few more cars being entered, saying the more cars there are, the more fun it is to drive. The more the merrier, basically. But with the expense and time investment it takes to get cars ready to compete, perhaps there are just fewer people out there willing to make the commitment.
Demolition derby is more than just a guy who shows up on a given night with a car. Or at least it is for those who are successful. For example, Rowland's primary pit crew consists of his brother Tom Rowland and long-time friend Doug Ray. But also in Rowland's "posse", providing various forms of either physical or moral support, are such people as Evan Hance, Richard Pope, Tyler Tritt, and Brennan and Tiffany Zimmerman. It may not take a village to succeed in demolition derby, but it takes a support group.
Page 2 of 2 - The next stop on the demolition derby tour is next week at Kingman. Ben Rowland intends to enter that one as well, but perhaps with a different car. "I kinda blew out the tranny on this one tonight," Rowland explained. "I've got another car I've been working on, and I think I'll run that one instead of trying to put this one back together in a week."
There may not have been quite as many contestants entered this year, but the enormous overflow crowd at the Pratt County Fair demolition derby was once again marvelously entertained last Friday night.