McArthur resident Kaylee Queen attended her first demolition derby at the Athens County Fair last summer and recalls telling herself, “Yeah, I could do that.”
Queen spoke to The Athens NEWS not 20 minutes before she donned her helmet and chest protector and pulled her hot pink demolition derby car into the pit at the Athens County Fair on Thursday, Aug. 8. Intermittent thunderstorms threatened to drown fair-goers and derby contestants alike that evening, but that didn’t stop the demolition derby; it just made it muddier and more chaotic.
Demolition derby is an American pastime celebrated and enjoyed by many, and the annual derby at the Athens County Fair is no different. It’s essentially a battle royalwhere the aim is to immobilize or disable all other cars on the track by smashing into them. The last car running wins.
The fair demo derby featured multiple heats, organized based on vehicle classification and dimensions. Queen competed in the mini stock competition.
Naturally, Queen was anxious before her first outing as she sat in her car, mired in the muddy waiting area just outside the concrete slabs of the derby pit along with dozens of other cars.
“I’m a little bit nervous for my first time out here,” Queen acknowledged before the bout.
Her first outing proved to be somewhat of a false start – a large thunderstorm rolling through only allowed her less than five minutes of action in the pit before the officials stopped the match for a short time.
Queen, 20, was the only woman competing in her heat, the mini stock classification. She wondered if she would be a target because of her inexperience and/or her gender.
“I feel like I may be targeted first maybe because I am a girl or I’m new, and they might think I’m easy,” Queen said.
Queen certainly didn’t make herself an easy target – she placed fourth in her heat of 15 contestants and won the “Mad Dog” award, awarded for the hardest hit in the heat.
“I feel like I had a good outcome for it being my first time running,” Queen told The Athens NEWS on Friday. “I feel like most drivers thought I would have been a piece of cake, but I definitely gave them a run for their money.”
Queen said people approached her after the derby to congratulate her, and added she can see herself competing in more demolition derbies.
SEAN WEST, 22, HAS BEEN driving in demolition derbies since he was 16. His father, who was also a derby driver, taught him how to fix and prepare cars for these events.
“It was something me and him could do together,” West said.
During the interview with the The Athens NEWS, West and his friends were in the process of tying metal cables to the hood of West’s Chrysler New Yorker to keep the hood from coming up during the competition.
Though he was competing in the stock division, West’s car featured a variety of interesting modifications. For example, the rear tires were doughnut tires. West said this helps the front-wheel-drive car pivot better in the pit than if it had stock tires.
West’s New Yorker was not long for this world, however. West said most of his cars he runs in the demolition derby have a brief lifespan – just one or two outings.
West, of Athens, has competed in demolition derbies all across the region, at county fairs in Meigs, Vinton, and Jackson counties. Despite his tour of the region as a driver, he said, Athens is still his favorite place to scrap with other drivers in the pit.
“This is my hometown track,” he said.
West added that he feels motivated to compete for his family. “I like to come out here and put on a show for my friends and family,” West said.
Ultimately, West said he enjoys the adrenaline rush that going out in the pit and competing in a demolition derby almost always brings.
“It’s pretty wild,” West said. “It’s an adrenaline rush – you have to keep your head on a swivel because you have drivers coming at you in all directions.”