Big hits, fire, injuries mark demolition derby drama

NEW HAVEN — With lightning providing a dramatic backdrop at Addison County Fair and Field Days on Thursday night, Ferrisburgh’s Andy Husk and what was left of his bright blue four-door sedan won the No. 1 Auto Parts Demo Derby feature after delivering one final blow to Chuck Havens’ bigger, but no longer mobile, black car.
Husk’s victory capped an evening in which the popular annual demo derby just dodged the thunderstorm, but was halted for about 20 minutes when Leicester’s Joe Kemp was injured in the evening’s second heat.
Kemp’s black ride, already knocked off kilter by one blow, took a clean broadside from another car. The blow flipped Kemp’s sedan onto its roof, something veteran Field Days derby observers could not recall having ever seen.
Vergennes firefighters jumped the concrete blocks to help Kemp and immediately waved to the EMTs on the scene. After what seemed an eternity with Kemp lying under the car, rescuers carried him off on a stretcher.
Derby announcer Rudy said that measure was mostly precautionary. A relative later told the Independent Kemp was eventually taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care for testing, and was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder. Kemp was back home on Friday, the relative said.
Action was also halted briefly in the first heat when Amanda Bull of Bristol was shaken up by an illegal blow to her driver’s door. But Bull walked off under her own power and did not seek medical attention. One of the few demo derby rules bans hits on drivers’ doors, and the other driver was disqualified.
Husk outlasted Chuck Havens of Brandon to win the feature, which was contested by the top finishers from the earlier heats.
Other heat winners were Stephanie Comeau of Addison and Maddy Martell of Lincoln from the 6-cylinder first heat, with Salisbury’s Brett Warren and Husk also advancing to the feature; Geoffrey Grant of Addison and Kylie Martell of Starksboro from the 8-cylinder second heat, with Havens and Steele also advancing to the feature; Cody Broughton in the 4-cylinder third heat; and Ethan Gevry of Addison in the fourth heat, a minivan battle.
Wednesday’s 6-cylinder feature winner was Shaw Kipp, with Gary Grant taking second. Heat winners included Kipp, Gary Grant, Chuck Havens, Kelly Forbes and Jordan Grant.
In Thursday’s eight-car, 6-cylinder first heat, Bull got the first big hit in, a thump of eventual winner Maddy Martell, before being illegally knocked out. Gabe Laberge’s 007 ride and Cody Haines’ 69 also did damage before dying in the dusty pit. Husk took a 70-foot run at Martell, but her green beater kept running.
Husk did hit Warren’s black “Kid Dynomite” sedan — which by that time was crumpled up to its rear axle — hard enough to hang it up on the blocks, leaving just Husk, Martell and Comeau running. Shortly after Comeau slammed Husk, Husk’s car gave up the ghost, and Martell and Comeau were the co-winners.
Heat Two was more crowded, with 15 eight-cylinder junkers jockeying for position. Despite the crowded pit, action came fast and hard, with Cody Steele, Aaron Baker, Kelley Forbes, Havens, Wade Steele, Kylie Martell and derby veteran Boomer LaFountain mixing it up right from the start and kicking up clouds of dust that obscured some of the screaming engines (Mufflers? Mufflers in a demo derby?) and tortured metal.
Then Kemp’s car flipped on its roof, and dust and quiet settled over the tractor pad. After Announcer Rudy said Kemp was apparently not seriously injured, the crowd gave firefighters, EMTs and Kemp a round of applause, and mayhem resumed.
As cars began dropping by the wayside, Geoff Grant took over, crunching Gary English and then joining with Wade Steele to sandwich Martell repeatedly. Steele took out LaFountain, who could only watch one of his wheels fly into the air and then sit in the middle of the action.
Finally, English’s and then Steele’s and Havens’ rides ground to a halt, and Announcer Rudy declared Grant and Martell the co-winners.
About 18 4-cylinder compacts made Heat Three even more packed, and for much of the heat the cars bounced off each other like the balls in a lottery drawing.
No drivers were shy, but Kelly Forbes, Brian Blake Jr., Cody Broughton, Eric Huestis, Ken Backus, Tim Frederick, Jameson Bannister and Jason Porte may have had the most fun.
But once only a handful remained, none were running well enough to do any real damage, and it became a waiting game. Despite Backus’ alert dodge of a sandwich hit by Porte and Broughton, his car finally decided it had enough, and it was down to three: Broughton, Porte and an Essex driver known only as “Rock Pile.”
Then Rock Pile’s car caught on fire (“That’s what they mean by hot rocks,” Rudy cracked), and was out after firefighters leapt into action again. In the end, Broughton’s multi-colored wagon — or what was left of it, anyway — caught a second wind and slammed Porte’s stalled red, white and blue wagon four times, and Porte waved the white flag.
Only four minivans showed up to contest Heat Four, piloted by Jordan Fleming and Ethan Gevry of Addison, Eric Huestis of Bridport and Ed White Jr. of St. Albans.
Huestis and White teamed up to deliver a huge — and final — hit on Fleming in the far left corner. Huestis crunched White twice, and White slammed Huestis, who may have regretted the “Hit Me” painted on his rear liftgate when his minivan soon decided it had enough. Gevry then creamed White, and after about two minutes that was it.
Seven rigs limped out for the feature, many having survived at least two heats in the past 26 hours, driven by Comeau, Maddy Martell, Brett Warren, Kylie Martell, Geoff Grant, Havens and Husk.
Warren, despite the condition of his ride (the complete lack of a rear end meant he could not adopt the preferred strategy of backing up to deliver blows), set the tone by taking a 50-foot forward run into a knot of three cars in the far right corner, a move that knocked Grant up onto a block and out of the running. Warren kept on attacking, banging Comeau’s multi-hued wagon and Kylie Martell’s big orange four-door at least twice each.
Havens also took no prisoners, whacking both Martells, Comeau, Husk and Warren, among others.
Attrition, rather than big hits, claimed most cars. Maddy Martell’s green sedan stopped running, as did Comeau’s colorful wagon, leaving Warren, Havens, Kylie Martell and Husk to duel for the $200 prize.
Warren crunched Martell, and Martell’s black and orange cruiser ground to a halt. Husk survived a double hit from Havens and Warren, and then Havens slammed Warren and Husk. Soon after that, Warren’s Kid Dynomite car ran out of TNT and started smoking, and only Husk and Havens remained.
By then, both cars, about four feet apart on the right side of the pit, were struggling to move. The next hit would be decisive. Finally, Husk’s blue beater inched forward and gave Havens’ black four-door what might best be described a love tap, and Rudy announced him as the winner.
Husk jumped on the hood of his car, and the evening ended with his fist pump.
Andrea Warren and Marshall Hastings contributed to the reporting for this article. Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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