by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In any Demolition Derby you’ve got few apprehensive first-timers muttering “What have I gotten myself into?” mixed in with veterans who’ve been duking it out in auto’s for years.
Two of those rookies, Peggy Brende of Anoka and Joe Bean of Elk River, were among the victors in the 2012 Sherburne County Demo Derby on Sunday evening.
Brende won Smash and Crash, which consists of audience members winning a raffle to give demo derby a try, so that event presumably has mostly first-timers, but she was feisty enough to also collect the Mad Dog Runner award. Bean won the Mighty Mini’s in a vehicle his daughter used to drive.
Other winners are Gene Denault of Big Lake in Compacts, Joe Muehlman of Princeton in Full-Size Cars, John Binsfield of Litchfield in Trucks, and Andy Hanson of Clearwater in Chain Stock.
First jolt chased away butterflies
In Smash and Crash, six spectators are drawn in a raffle and are presented with a helmet and a mid-1980’s Oldsmobile to drive, provided by the auto salvage firm Karels Brothers and Sons of Waverly.
Brende, a trainer for Domino’s Pizza in Elk River, said she got her $10 raffle ticket through Domino’s, which also had a driver in last year’s event. When her name was called, she said, “Sure, why not?” but as time approached to strap on her helmet and get behind the wheel, she was overcome by “more butterflies than I’ve had in a long time!”
Fortunately, all those butterflies fluttered away.
“As soon as I took the first hit. After that I said, I’m gonna win this!”
Brende outlasted four male drivers and one other female, with Jeremy Humphrey of Elk River second and Rick Vickerman of Buffalo third.
When it was just her and Humphrey, they got into a reverse tug-of-war, each taking turns backing up and pushing the other back on the muddy turf. After a few volleys of that, Humphrey pulled down his stick.
Brende earned the $500 winners prize plus another hundred bucks as the “Mad Dog Runner” award as most aggressive contestant in all the events. Second and third got $300 and $100.
He got used to it
“Nope, never done this before. I really don’t like crashing cars,” commented Joe Bean after winning the Mighty Mini’s in a 2000 Caravan.
So, how was it?
“I had fun … I took one jolt right away. I think I had out a few good ones, too,” said Bean.
Bean said he was asked to drive in the derby by a co-worker, Chris Guimont, who drove another vehicle in the same event and had fixed up the Caravan with help from friends. Bean said they did a really good job fixing it up.
“This is actually a car my daughter used to drive, but she quit because it had a transition problem,” said Beam. That problem persisted as the minivan didn’t have much zip left at the end. “There was something going on with the front end.”
Drew Karels of Waverly placed second in a Chevy and Fred Hemmerich of Elk River was third in a 1993 Caravan. Prizes were $800, $500 and $300.
Bobcat fan wins again
Eugene Denault of Big Lake was a winner here for the second straight year, again driving a 1978 Mercury Bobcat to take the Compacts division. (Last year he used the same make but different car to win Vans).
Asked what put him over the top, the 49-year-old ironworker grinned, “Good old American steel! It’s tough to beat the Mercury Bobcat wag on in compacts. There was one other good car out there, a Pacer, but I got his tire out when I caught him with my bumper.”
Denault, who’s done demo derbies for 12 years, said he bought this year’s Bobcat for 80 bucks at an auto salvage in Staples where “they were gonna crush it” and has gotten four demo derbies out of it, including a third-place finish at the Wright County Fair.
Jacob Tews of Litchfield placed second in a 1994 Ford and Tim Roller of Foley placed third in a 1991 Suburban. Prizes w ere $700, $500 and $300.
Judge’s decision ends marathon
The Heavy Cars feature was a marathon as the final three cars from the original eight struggled for almost 20 minutes with no real knockout punches thrown. Finally officials declared Joe Muehlman of Princeton the winner in a 1992 Town Car, with Andy Hanson of Clearwater second in a 1976 Impala and Chad Davis of Becker third in a 1992 Ford. Prizes were $1,000, $500 and $400.
The action was a bit tepid as the field was reduced to three. From them on it was mostly a stalemate with the cars straining to get traction in the muck. Hanson on three occasions was hit by the other two cars simultaneously, and then took a big jolt from Davis who backed into him hard, but he kept re-starting.
At the end, Muehlman and Davis were tussling at the wall while Hanson had to re-start his car. Just as Hanson revved up for a run at the other two, he was declared timed out, a decision he hotly disputed to officials after leaving the track. After reviewing the action, officials put the stick back on Hanson’s car and he was declared the runner-up.
Race announcer and judge Andy Lewis explained that Davis was pinned to the wall and took a hit from Hanson, after which Muehlman gave Hanson a shot, and on that basis the stalemate was broken, although there were some hard feelings about it.
The pickups division had some good action among six entrants with John Binsfeld of Litchfield winning in a 1968 Dodge, Andrew Hanson of Andover second and Brandon Hanson of Benson third. Prizes were $1,000, $$800 and $500.
The Chain Stock derby was won by Andy Hanson in the 97 Chev with Paul Davis second and Jacob Davis third. Prizes were $800, $500 and $300.
Best Paint Job and a $300 prize went to Chris Middendorf of Elk River in a blue-and-white 1976 Pacer (selected by audience applause).