The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Andrew Christiansen

Few cars, no shortage of action at demolition derby


Andrew Christiansen

Maverick Frantum attacks the ridges in front of the bucking chutes during the quad motocross races at the Klickitat County fairgrounds.

Dale Arp has a way of outlasting his opponents at the demolition derby. He has been here competing in the annual Jaycees Fourth of July event for 33 years as competitors have come and gone. He didn't win all those years, but he outlasted his opponents this year for the win.

Arp says that he has brought a different car all but four years of the derby. Usually they are a mess by the end of the day. But, this year he probably could have driven the car home.

Arp has been the recipient of the hard luck award before, meaning he has had a lot of damage. Following the first heat this year when the car received mostly cosmetic damage to the rear end, one of his crew commented that they didn't want the hard luck award because it meant a lot of work on the car between races. "We have finally convinced Dale to use the back end," said one of his hands.

Saturday's event was shy on entries, but featured great action, none-the-less. Thanks to the return of Rory Duncan and his friend Chris Vessey, both from Forks, Arp had some competition. Duncan who was here last year said he and Vessey were not planning on ganging up on Arp, and for the most part they didn't. In fact, in the preliminary, five-lap race, Dusty Force, driving for Duncan, spun Vessey out in the first turn and the two tangled as Force tried to lap Vessey, allowing Arp to slip under the two and win the race. By the end of the day, it was clearly Duncan and Vessey versus Arp as the two limped along with severely damaged cars and Arp was virtually unscathed.

In addition to the car races, there were a pair of trucks competing in their own competition and a few rounds of entertaining motocross action between races. In the adult class of quads, Maverick Frantum was the class of the field, winning each of his races. The rest of the field, Brent Oswalt II, Ray Gamble and Justin Slater battled for the other positions.

In the junior division, Reanna Oswalt gave Jackson Gamble a battle at times. Gamble on a 125cc motorcycle had a clear edge over Oswalt on her pink quad, through the hills and won each event. Oswalt could stay with Gamble on the flat, straight stretches, but had to take it easy through the bumps. Others in the race were Dax Cooper and Averie Hurst, both on quads.

The truck competition was between Brian Woolery and Darren Scott, both in Chevrolet pickups. Scott won the time trials, a figure eight backwards and forwards and was the easy winner in the two five-lap races. In the first five-lap race, Woolery started on the inside lane, gaining an early lead. But, he was unable to distance himself from Scott who got to Woolery's bumper and turned him around on the first lap. It was Scott all the way in the backwards five-laps, seeming to run much smoother backwards than forwards for an uneventful win.

In the first derby heat, the two trucks spent some time circling and trying to get position for a rear-end-first hit. Woolery got the first opportunity and leveled a well-time blast with the corner of his pickup into the middle of Scott's radiator and heat one was over with Woolery winning.

There was more dancing between the two during the finals, each seeming to avoid a front end hit at all costs. Then, as if they simultaneously said, "what the heck," they squared off and blasted each other head on. The two had a battle of power nose to nose, then backed off and slammed a couple more times head on until Scott was finished. Woolery earned $650 for the win and Scott took home $350 for second place.

After avoiding contact in the first five-lap race, Arp found himself in a battle from the beginning of the backwards race as he and Vessey tangled. Duncan was behind the wheel of his car and built a straight-away lead during the first two laps. As the race progressed, Duncan got cautious entering the turns and it allowed Vessey to catch him. He and Duncan collided and Arp sneaked by for the lead. Once Duncan got free of Vessey, he came hard after Arp, and on the final lap he pushed Arp towards the barrier and passed for the win.

Arp and Vessey suffered significant damage in the preliminary lap races. Arp had trouble with a front tire and Vessey had a broken lower control arm that his team welded together in the pits. All three drivers were in back up mode through most of the early going of the first demolition heat and Arp avoided the big hits. Vessey and Duncan had trouble keeping their cars running after taking some shots at each other. At one point, with Duncan dead in front of the grandstands, Arp lined up to made a long run for a big hit. But before he reached Duncan, Vessey came to life and intercepted Arp with a hard hit, pushing Arp's rear end in like an accordion. The front end of Vessey's car was destroyed in the process and he was out. Arp was able to reposition and make a couple of hard hits to the front of Duncan's car, but became stuck with wheels spinning in the air. Duncan finally got his car to fire and he shook free of Arp, but was unable to go anywhere and shut his engine off when his throttle stuck open. Arp lined up and made his final hit for the heat one win. He drove to the pits while Duncan and Vessey left on the hook.

Arp's crew stood around in the unusual position of having nothing to do to prepare for the final race. Duncan said his car was ready to go, but underestimated the damage to the front end. He worked feverishly with Vessey and their crew to get Vessey's badly damaged car running.

Vessey, a corrections officer from near Forks said, "My goal was to have the most crashed up car," which he no doubt did. "If the crowd has a good time, then great. I can't wait to hear them when I show up for the finals." The radiator was shredded and a useless bumper hung below. The front end of the engine was totally exposed and they used duct tape to hold the rotor together, but Vessey returned to the arena and got his ovation.

Andrew Christiansen

THE RACE IS ON: Quads fire off the starting line in one of several races put on between demo derby races. The four racers put on a good show complete with aerials over the moguls in front of the grandstands.

Meanwhile, Duncan found he couldn't maneuver and had to be towed to the arena. When the green flag flew, Arp ran from the action. Vessey, who planned to only use his rear end due to front end exposure, chased Arp around the arena while Duncan floundered around with limited mobility. With officials chiding Arp to mix it up, Vessey finally caught up to Arp and put a hard lick to the side of his car. From that point on, the race changed. It went from Arp the explorer to Arp the destroyer. He first put a solid hit to the exposed front end of Vessey, eliminating him. They he went to work on Duncan who languished in front of the grand stands. Hit after solid hit to the front of Duncan's car took its toll. As Duncan searched for his white flag, Arp made one last run, riding right up the front end, onto the top of Duncan's car, stopping with driver side wheels on the ground and the bottom of his car propped up against Duncan's car. Arp was still running and was crowned the winner. His final hit also earned him the Tom Harrington Memorial Award for the hardest hit, sponsored by Goldendale Exhaust.

Vessey was named the hard luck driver and took home $300 for his trouble. Duncan's second place money and time trials win earned him $400. Arp won $650 for the race win, $100 for heat win and $100 for hardest hit. Scott was the winner of $50 for people's choice award.

Jaycees secretary, Casey Neher said the paid attendance was around 2,000 people and that the event earned the Jaycees money which helps support a long list of scholarships and financial assistance the group divvies out throughout the year.


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