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Garage creations vie for glory in Hansville Coaster Games
Photos by Brad Camp
HANSVILLE — Lou Krukar sped down a hill in Hansville Saturday, gripping the handlebars of a car he’d built from the cannibalized skeleton of a recumbent bicycle and a wheelchair found in a dumpster. With his racing scarf fluttering, Krukar crossed the finish line and pointed to the sky in triumph as a line of spectators cheered him on from the shoulder of the road.
It was a strange return to the track for the former formula and stock car driver from Kingston. But for Krukar, 55, who hung up his track suit in 1984, the thrill is what matters.
“I just like racing anything,” Krukar said.
Strange was the norm Saturday at the first-ever Hansville Coaster Games, an event that tested the speed and creativity of a colorful field of homemade rolling contraptions.
Krukar’s bright yellow Super Bee car joined 23 other contenders, including a car with a bathtub for a body and a four-wheeled coaster made from a Thule car top carrier.
Drivers negotiated a gentle, downhill track on Benchmark Avenue, off Twin Spits Road, vying for time trial trophies and style points.
A few cars “succumbed to the track” and were unable to finish, but a minor asphalt scrape was the only reported injury, said Greater Hansville Community Center Vice President Chuck Strahm, who organized the Coaster Games.
“The event went really well for a first time effort,” Strahm said.
One of the Community Center board’s goals for the games was to engage younger families in the community. They appeared to succeed. The drivers, who ranged in age from 8 to 62, were nearly as diverse as their cars.
When John Ellsworth, 50, read about the Coaster Games, he decided it was his turn for some downhill competition. His 9-year-old daughter Kit is a regular on the Soap Box Derby circuit.
“The whole time she’s racing and I’m helping her and thinking, this would be pretty fun,” he said.
Ellsworth brought a Soap Box-style intensity to his engineering project. He began scavenging parts for his coaster car three months ago, tearing a wheel off one of his daughter’s old bicycles and two more off a lawn cart.
He sewed together body panels made of hardboard and bolted together plexiglass windscreens. He stayed home from work when he felt squeezed for time and spent more money than he cares to admit.
After dozens of hours and about 20 trips to the hardware store, the car began to take shape. What that shape was, Ellsworth wasn’t sure.
“For a while I couldn’t tell if I was building the Exxon Valdez or a coffin,” he said.
Ellsworth finally decided the long body most resembled a slug. He added a pair of antennae, slapped on a coat of green paint and rolled with it. Ellsworth guided the Super Slug to a win in the 20-50 age class.
His daughter Kit was away on vacation during the Coaster Games but Ellsworth said she was excited to hear about her father’s day on the track.
“She was happy to hear my trophy was smaller than hers,” he joked.
Krukar claimed the trophy for overall best time, reaching speeds of about 26 mph in the Super Bee. Then the former formula car driver ran into trouble in a head-to-head match against an 8-year-old.
Luke Fortenbacher, the youngest driver in the games, had already won the 5-10 age group driving the Black Rocket car built by his father David. Luke was pitted against Krukar in two match races as the finale to the games. The second grader won both, perhaps due to some ill-advised, last minute adjustments to Krukar’s Super Bee.
“It was fun, but it was a little scary,” Luke said
For Krukar, the day of coasting ignited some of his old street racing drive. He’s considering taking the Super Bee to out-of-state coasting competitions.
“This weekend was my debut, comeback to racing,” Krukar said.
Class 1 (ages 5 to 10)
Winner: Luke Fortenbacher, 8
Class 2 (ages 11 to 14)
Winner: Kellan McLaughlin, 14
Class 3 (ages 15 to 19)
Winner: Brady Krukar, 18
Class 4 (20 to 54)
Winner: John Ellsworth, 50
Class 5 (55 to 64)
Winner: Lou Krukar, 55