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Finishing with a Bang

By Todd Travis

It’s Derby Time

The demolition derby is an event that most everyone would be able to identify as a group of wild drivers who fearlessly crash into each other for the entertainment of others. But outside of the niche group of participants and die-hard fans, there’s probably not much more the average person could tell you about the sport. As the Hendricks County Fair quickly approaches, and with the demolition derby being one of its premier events, now might be a good time to learn about how it works and what you can expect to see on Saturday night, the 22nd, in the Fleece Performance Grandstands. With an inside look at this event, who knows if one of you might find yourself behind the wheel of one of these vehicles one day- or at least, you’ll be informed about what is going on amongst all the carnage.

“The first thing people need to know is that it’s not a redneck sport. Truth be told, some of these people have more money in these cars than they do in their personal cars. They got $10,000 motors, rear ends around $2,000, and transmissions that are around $2,000. It’s very competitive,” explained David Lawrence, a Hendricks County local who works at Hendricks power and has won the points series the last two years.

Different competition classes

There are five different classes that drivers will be competing in throughout the evening. A “class” is similar to what you might hear about in boxing terms such as a heavyweight, lightweight, etc. The first class is the perfect one for anyone who feels a little bit squeamish about seeing the big crashes and major damage- it’s the power wheels class. Yes, power wheels, as in small battery-powered cars that you see kids riding around in their driveways. Contestants are under 10 years old. If you need a dose of heartwarming, good fun, this class is for you. The other four classes are going to be a bit more intense. Lawrence’s son, Gunner, is a regular contestant in this class.

David Lawrence holds a derby trophy beside his wife, Alyssa, and his children, Gunner and Emma. (Submitted photo)

One of the more crowd-pleasing classes is the youth compact class. According to event promoter, Chase Thompson,

“This class is designed for ages 10-16, it’s a chance for young drivers to cut their teeth. A lot of times, it has a high crash value because those kids are usually new and they don’t understand that you need to save a little bit of car, so they’re full-throttle all the time. On the other hand, some of them can be scared to death of it and never hit the throttle. It’s one way or the other but it’s a fun class to watch.”

As you move up the remaining classes, what you will start to notice is that the cars are going to get bigger and more modified. The compact gut ‘n go class is the smallest class. It’s going to be cars that more people are going to be familiar with. 

“The cars you’re going to see in this class are going to be more of your daily driver grocery-getters.” Thompson mentioned.

After that, the next class up is called the full-size motor swap. These are going to be larger cars, but they still won’t have too many modifications made to them. Between the compact gut ‘n go and the full-size motor swap, these cars are going to get banged up and bent up because they are not made or customized to be used in a demolition derby. Again, similar to the youth compact class, the crowd tends to get excited with these classes because the crashes are generally more exciting and the cars get pretty bent up.

The final class is called the full-size SS class. These cars are built for demolition derby’s. That means the engines are bigger, the cars are reinforced to make them stronger, and they are not your typical everyday driving cars. They may not get bent and crunched, but they are going to be loud and powerful. If you want to see some unique, heavily modified cars, this is a good class to watch.

Gunner Lawrence is a regular contestant in the power wheels class.(Submitted photo)


In a demolition derby, the two parts of a car that a driver must protect are the radiator and the front tires. The radiator is at the front of the vehicle and it keeps the engine cool. If a driver is able to keep the front end out of trouble, they are going to have a good chance at winning the derby. The winner of the derby is going to be the last car standing, with second and third place also being awarded in order of when each car goes out. A driver can also win a prize for being the hardest hitter, even if they aren’t in the top three. As Thompson mentioned with the younger drivers, it’s important to know when you need to save your car a little versus going full speed into crashes non-stop. Although that might help your chances of winning the hardest hitter award.

“A big part of the derby is having a family that will back you. I’m out in the garage a lot. I know that puts a certain stress on the family, but I’m thankful for their support. My wife is out in the garage helping me out quite a bit,” Lawrence mentioned.

Lawrence participated in his first derby at age 16 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s a favorite at the Hendricks County fair, and one to keep an eye on as he will be competing again this year, looking to take first prize.

Watch all the action on Saturday, July 22 in the Fleece Performance Grandstands starting at 7pm. For more info visit 4hcomplex.org.

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