Arts and Entertainment

Destruction derby season crashes to an end

Derby cars race around the track at the Thunderbird Stadium last year. - Courtesy photo
Derby cars race around the track at the Thunderbird Stadium last year.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

For one derby driver, spinning tires and grinding metal is a way of life.

“I used to have a real road rage problem and then I started doing the derby and I let all that frustration out on the track,” driver Steve Harris said. “If someone gets in my way, I move them. It’s therapy for me.”

The destruction derby season wraps up at Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday, but prospective racers can take a turn behind the wheel of a demolition car Sept. 18 when Thunderbird Stadium in East Bremerton hosts a “play day.” Drivers keep coming back to the races, which prize big wrecks above hair raising speed. Harris estimates 90 percent of drivers return from season to season.

“Hopefully we can get some new blood,” Harris said. “It’s the most fun for the most time you can have for a cheap price in Kitsap.”

Rookie drivers should beware. What begins as a hobby can turn into an obsession.

For his first two years on the derby circuit, driver Rick Hicks competed in the Mini Car category, with vehicles weighing less than 2,800 pounds. Last year he switched to the Big Car category because he likes the “power and the hard hit of the cars.”

Hicks, who is in fourth place in the seasonstandings, believes he has a shot at taking the second-place prize.

Hicks is meticulous about his cars, often spending four hours a night modifying them after finishing his day job as a submarine mechanic at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Prior to each Kitsap Destruction Derby event, he paces around his vehicles—used, stripped down eight-cylinder engines provided by various Kitsap County sponsors—a good 20 times for maximum inspection.

“It’s just fun to take the cars out and see how much abuse they can take before they just die,” said Hicks, a Belfair resident.

Hicks will have one more chance to test his met Saturday.

Beginning at 4:30 p.m., 12 of the Pacific Northwest’s fastest drivers will compete in time trials for placement in the evening’s first event: the six-lap dash race. Full contact is allowed, and expected.

The powder-puff race is next, consisting of female drivers picked by the regular competitors themselves. A few selected pit men will then get a chance behind the wheel in the evening’s third race.

For Harris, 43, the dizzying pace of the Figure 8 race is the most exciting act of the night.

“It’s like going through an intersection with someone not stopping at a red light going the other way,” said Harris, a Port Orchard resident.

Other event highlights include the roll-over, which is scored based on how many of the cars’ sides hit the dirt, and the grand finale, where the vehicles ram each other until there is only one car still standing. The event normally runs until about 10 p.m.

Harris said about 70 drivers show up for each event to compete, with a relatively even split between big and mini cars. About eight to 10 drivers compete in each event.

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