The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Last man standing wins out


Amanda Tafolla-Sutton / Sun-Telegraph

Jacob Shaw and Tanner Verhagen examine Shaw's 1994 Ford Taurus, the car he will be competing with in this year's Cheyenne County Fair Saturday July 23 at 6 p.m.

Last man standing wins in the upcoming Cheyenne County Fair's popular demolition derby event.

A demolition derby is a survival of the fittest contest for your vehicle. You, along with five or more vehicles, ram, smash, and crash into each other until only one vehicle is still operational.

The motorsport usually takes place at a county fairground in a dirt field or gravel circle. Often, the track will be soaked with water so the cars will have to contend with mud, which slows down their speed. There are also safety rules and fair-play guidelines for a demo derby to make sure people don't get hurt and that there are no sand-baggers cheaters.

Cheyenne County board member Brad Zalesky said this year's participants have their chance at a $11,000 purse.

"The derby is one of the fair's bigger events," Zalesky said.

Building a state-of-the-art derby car can take months and often requires help from skilled, resourceful friends and past derby car racers said Jacob Shaw, a competitor in this year's Derby,

Shaw said some vehicles are better demolition derby cars than others. Older full-sized sedans and wagons do the best in competition. Vehicles from the '60s and '70s are heavy, tough and have strong frames.

Compact cars, however, are plentiful and have started to gain in popularity for demo derbies. As a result, a compact car class is usually added, which means you can use that old clunker that's been sitting in your driveway.

Shaw choose a 1994 Ford Taurus as his means of destruction for the derby. This will be Shaw's second derby in Sidney. His very first was in 2008 in Chappell.

Tanner Verhagen is Shaw's derby partner, who also went with a compact car, going with a 1982 Dautsen 200 for the derby.

The two have been working on the cars together preparing them for not just Cheyenne County, but other derbies as well.

"I just came in third in Chappell's derby last week," said Shaw.

Your junk vehicle needs a few tweaks before it can be officially considered a demolition derby car ready for competition.

According to Shaw, the interior and many exterior parts need to be removed. Gutting out the interior trim, plastic, front and rear lights, and glass is important. Those pieces could come loose and represent a potential hazard.

Most of the windows are broken out, if not all, and the battery and gas tank are moved for safety purposes.

"I would tell anyone getting into derby cars, to ask a lot of questions from other derby car competitors," said Shaw.

Creativity with the cans of spray paint is an added bonus, painting multiple colors and sometimes adding names of sponsors to the car.

Shaw's said his derby car is painted purple in memory of Brandi Christensen, a young mother who recently passed away.

Zalesky said there will be a power wheels derby this year in addition to the full car derby. He said, the power wheels have water balloons attached to the sides, and breaking one of those is the equivalent of smashing the car. The last car standing with a full balloon wins.

"The power wheel cars are often sponsored by area businesses," Zalesky said.

Sponsors help with the derby, said Zalesky adding their names to cars and banners around the arena. Sponsorship is still available for the derby.

Sidney's derby will be held at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds arena on Saturday July 23 at 6 p.m.


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