Battling beaters draw big crowds at Field Days

NEW HAVEN — Thousands of fans flocked on Wednesday and Thursday night to see cars, trucks and minivans collide, auto parts fly, and smoke and steam billow from crushed radiators and bashed engine blocks, all while listening to the deafening din of un-muffled motors and pretzeled metal.
Yes, it was time for two nights of the No. 1 Auto Parts Demo Derby at Addison County Fair & Field Days, which draws more spectators than any single event at the fair, possibly to live out their fantasies of road rage.
Those fans also got to see nine happy drivers of battered beaters raise their arms in triumph and hoist trophies after their vehicles were the last running — more or less — in the the evenings’ main events.
Kevin Pearsall, Travis LaFountain, Ethan Gevry, Jason Casino and Randy Martin won features on Thursday, and Ethan Dragon, Caleb Dion, Tristan Durante and Dustin Tierney won features on a muddier track on Wednesday.
They and dozens more all dished out and received bone-crushing blows in vehicles they spent countless hours nursing into running condition and preparing for combat.
Basic prep includes removing all glass and moving the battery from the engine compartment to the more protected passenger cabin. Just as important are paint jobs that creatively honor sponsors, family members and significant others.
The field of battle is about 100 yards long and 30 yards wide and is surrounded by concrete blocks. Rules are few: no hitting drivers’ doors or vehicles that have already been knocked out of the action, although in the heat of the action it can be hard for the competitors to tell whether a another vehicle is running or just momentarily stalled.
Strategy is basic: Try not to get hit in vehicles’ more sensitive front ends, and try to hit competitors with vehicles’ back ends, which contain fewer delicate parts.
Steady showers and then a downpour slowed the action and limited the crowd on Wednesday, and there was general agreement more fun and mayhem prevailed on Thursday.
Still, Wednesday’s winners were happy with their trophies and prize money. Dustin “Wild Child” Tierney’s No. 107 car outlasted the field in the 4-cylinder finale, with Geoffrey Grant’s No. 95 in second and Roxie Hall’s 130 in the money in third. Each of them had reached the final by first making it through preliminary heats.
In the heavyweight 8-cylinder division, Ethan Dragon thumped his way to first place in his No. 23, out-hitting Wade Steele in No. 85 in second and Kyle LaFontaine in No. 25 in third.
Tristan Durante’s No. 21 ruled the 6-cylinder middleweight class, followed by Hall in another car, this one labeled No. 118, and Jerrit Patch’s No. 93 in third.
In the minivan division, Caleb Dion’s formerly family-friendly ride took first, followed by similar dad- and mom-mobiles driven by Tim Whitney and Tajah Marsden in second and third, respectively.
ROBERT LABOSSIERE TRIES to coax his crunched car back into the action during last Wednesday’s 4-cylinder class event at the demo derby.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Thursday’s derby opened and closed with 4-cylinder bantamweight beaters. Organizers staged three crowded 4-cylinder heats in which the last five cars running made the evening-ending feature. Qualifying drivers were allowed to knock their cars back into shape during the other features.
The first heat saw Tierney, Shelby Monica, Kevin “Twisted Metal” Reynolds, Chad Rheaume and Matt Peck advance to the feature. All of them dealt big blows, while non-qualifiers Brandon Lamere, Austin Lafayette, Corbin Fox, Tajah Marsden and Alaric Bourgeois also entertained the crowd with aggressive driving.
The second heat offered plenty of action, even if some of it was misted over by smoke and steam from radiator and engine failures. Ultimately, Ethan Heffernan, Gary English, Geoffrey Grant, Nick Ouellette and Randy Martin made it through to the feature.
Ouellette started the heat by drilling Nic Clark’s No. 88 onto a concrete block and put immediately out of the competition. Wendell Mason and Amy Howard did plenty of damage, including to each other, in a full-speed rear-end collision, and Mason and another driver who got his money’s worth, Greg Whitney, also rammed each other at full speed not once, but twice. As was the case all evening, no one seemed to be worse for the wear despite the pounding the vehicles took.
As things wound down Ouellette, Heffernan, Martin, Grant, English and Whitney took turns slamming into each other, with Martin finally dealing Whitney’s No. 35 a death blow to reduce the field to five and end the heat.
Things went more quickly in the final 4-cylinder heat with a series of early crunches narrowing the field. Zach Stearns did a lot of the early damage, but did not survive a mutual affray with Mark Billings Jr., and Billings joined Lamere, Carter Leggett, Gevry, and Austin Bowdish in the feature. Also doing damage in the heat were Matt Bourgeois and Matt Titus.
THE USUAL STANDING-room-only crowd takes in the action at the #1 Auto Parts Demolition Derby last Wednesday night at Field Days.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
In the 4-cylinder feature Tierney made end-to-end runs to drill Ouellette, Bowdish and Monica. Billings and Reynolds rivaled Tierney in knocking cars out of the heat, and Kevin Reynolds nearly wiped Martin out early on.
It came down to Martin, Leggett and Billings. Billings’ engine still sounded good (and loud), but structural problems left him stuck in third place. Leggett then stopped moving, too, after he had whacked Martin one last time. Martin was then able to deliver what the announcer called a “love tap” good enough for first place.
Pearsall won Thursday’s 6-cylinder feature after organizers allowed him to return from the dead. Seconds after the announcer had said, “10x, you’re all done,” Pearsall got his car moving again. Fans near the booth lobbied in Pearsall’s behalf, and the announcer gave him the green light.
By that time Pearsall had whacked a few competitors, including Ashlie Bodington three times, but he and his sedan had been also been rocked by Caleb Dion and Bodington. After his revival, Pearsall drilled Bodington again, and she ground to a halt. Bodington had just clobbered Grady DeVoid twice, and soon after her car died, so did DeVoid’s, and Pearsall was the last driver running.
Cody Haines, Devin DuBois, Brent Warren and Wyatt Forbes also made the most of their time in the heat.
GREG WHITNEY, LEFT, takes a hit from Adam Stewart and his teddy bear passenger during the #1 Auto Parts Demolition Derby at Addison County Fair and Field Days last Wednesday night.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Call Thursday’s 8-cylinder feature the LaFountain Invitational. Three members of the LaFountain family, which has been driving in Field Days demo derbies for decades, showed up in the seven-car field: Boomer, Kyle and Travis.
Fittingly, one of them, Travis, won. He wiped out third-place finisher Ethan Dragon with back-to-back blows, just after Dragon got loose from being hung up on Wade Steele’s car. After Dragon’s car died so did that of second-place finisher Kylie Martell.
Boomer, to no one’s surprise, got a couple licks in, as did Trevor Hallock, but they and other cars got jammed up on the right wall, and the battle quickly came down to the top three finishers.
None of the minivans or the couple of smaller pickups that joined them proved to have stamina in the demo pit. Like the 8-cylinder feature, the minivan event quickly got down to a final three, and there Gevry, in his “Hog Wild” van, wiped out third-place finisher Brendon Huestis and second-place finisher Johnny Hill with back-to-back crunches.
Cody Broughton in a smaller rig — it might once have been a Honda CRV — took on comers of all sizes, including knocking a much bigger van up onto a concrete block. But he and many other drivers got trapped in a pile-up in the middle of the pit in which Wade Terrier’s pickup caught fire, causing the firefighters always on the scene to race out with hoses.
MARK BILLINGS JR. watches as smoke pours out from under his hood during a 4-cylinder class event at last Wednesday night’s demo derby at Field Days.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Potential injury also caused a delay in the truck heat. Winner Jason Casino’s pickup was knocked on its side by a thump from Chris Bapp’s truck. Casino was face-to-face with the track as his truck teetered on edge before it rocked back to upright position. The announcer asked if he was OK, Casino gave a thumbs-up, and it was back to bashing.
Among those doing the bashing were T.J. Knight, Josh, Parker and Tierney. A crowd favorite was Maddie Martell’s rig, which looked like a small school bus decked out to look like a pig in a wedding dress, but she was left at the altar.
Bapp also drilled Casino again later, knocking him into — and under — Johnny Hill’s pick-up bed. But Casino’s Houdini act continued, and he wriggled loose from that sitting-duck position before he could be clobbered.
At that point those three trucks were all that remained, and none were moving well. Hill’s truck gave up the ghost, and Babb drilled Casino twice. The second time his truck stuck to Casino’s, however, and couldn’t move. And Casino was able to persuade his pickup to back up an inch or two and return to tap Bapp’s, just enough of a blow to make him a winner.
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