Saturday night Demolition Derby


Homan wins Saturdays Demolition Derby 

MILLVILLE -- Nate Lloyd lined up Ron Rabe for a jarring wallop Saturday evening in the Cumberland County Fair Demolition Derby.

He revved the engine of his battered yellow 11B car and charged. The back end slipped to the right a little, and mud flew from beneath the rear right tire.

But Lloyd maintained and slammed Rabe's black #13 car, which overturned. The 11B wound up resting on top, and officials stopped the action to ensure Rabe was safe.

The crowd roared at the wicked hit but cheered more loudly when Terry McCalmont, Derby Chairman for the County Fair Association, announced that Rabe would climb out safely.

"Now are you happy?" McCalmont asked the fans. "You came here to see what you wanted to see. Now you have it."

That blow didn't determine the winner of the 60-car Derby. That honor, along with a $500 prize and a massive trophy, went to Kurtis Homan of Fairton.

His car was the last running after several heats that saw warrior cars smashing each other inside a roughly 60 by 100 foot dirt pit of destruction.

Homan credited his crew with the victory.

"The welding my buddy did on the car held her together," he said as he tried to cradle the huge trophy in one arm.

"The crew kept the motor running. Every time she stalled, she started up again."

Homan said he's been competing in the Derby for 10 years, but this was the first time he's won it overall.

He's won Fans' Choice awards (no explanation needed) in the past, as well as the Headache Award, given to a driver who takes a vicious hit. (Rabe, of Laurel Lake, took that trophy this year).

Runner-up in the Derby was Mario Forcinito of Vineland. Not a bad showing after sitting out these competitions for 16 years.

"The kids now hit a lot harder than they did 16 years ago," Forcinito said after the first heat, as he and his crew mended his car for the next go 'round.

He dubbed his ride, a 1974 Caprice, the Italian Stallion. An American flag and an Italian flag flew side by side on the roof.

"Eye of the Tiger" was written on the hood.

"There's stuff in the basement" - written just above the back bumper - references a line from "Rocky V."

As Homan pointed out, repairs in between heats are crucial. For first-time spectators, it can be hard to believe teams can get their cars back out to battle.

Forcinito's car, like those of his opponents, was bent, busted and mangled all around, and plastered in mud.

"This is the tool to use," said his crewman Mike Scalfo, carrying a sledge hammer.

The radiator concerned him. After a check under the hood, he said it was busted. But a kink in a hose had caused overheating.

Throughout the pit area, teams worked feverishly to keep motors running and mend their rides enough to keep competing.

Vern's Place, a team apparently with one of the largest followings, worked on 11 cars during the more than four hours of competition.

Sparks flew as a few crew members welded beneath the front end of one Vern's car. A member pumped air into the tires of another beat-up team car.

Not far off, Brian Walzer took a blowtorch to some twisted metal near his front passenger-side tire as his wife Mary looked on.

Getting beat up and dirty is nothing new to Walzer, who Mary said served in the mighty U.S. Marines several years ago. His car represented both Texas Roadhouse and the Corps.

"He did really good," Mary said of her husband's performance. "I'm amazed when he gets back in there. I'm even more amazed by what the crew does out here."

"They're able to bang it out and get the car back out there."

In each heat, competitors begin by forming two lines, one on each of the long ends of the pit. The lines of cars face away from each other.

After a five-second countdown by McCalmont, they charge in reverse toward each other or in another direction, and the melee begins.

While the cars slam each other almost mercilessly, McCalmont and other officials stress safety rules. For one, hits on the driver side door are prohibited.

Cars must also be stripped of glass and just about the whole interior. Basically the driver's seat and steering wheel remain.

Combatants battle out each heat until there are only two cars still able to run. They are deemed the co-winners of that heat, and trophies are awarded. A driver also receives a Fans' Choice trophy each heat.

Those unable to run are pulled to the pit area by tractor, backhoe or whatever, and the crews try to get the engines turning again.

A trunk end bent grossly upward or downward is not uncommon, nor are a host of crippling injuries, like a bum wheel or two that leaves a driver helpless in the pit of battle. Each emerges a battered mess.

Paradoxically, competition was both fierce and light-hearted. Many vehicles sported a theme or colorful character.

A Sponge Bob Squarepants about the size of the average pillow was fastened to a pink car. A smiling stuffed Elmo was comically jolted around on the roof of another through heat after heat.

Many had sayings that make sense to even newcomers, like the Vern's car that quipped, above the rear bumper, "This is anger management." Others would puzzle an outsider, like the car that heralded "The Poop Man" on at least the driver's side.

And despite all the vehicular violence, a kind of fellowship among drivers and fans dominated.

"It comes once a year, it's fun and it's all about the camaraderie," said Ryan Schofield, who founded the team KB's Edged Up.

This was Schofield's eighth Derby year, and he founded the team five years ago.

Anything that may be considered a rivalry, he said, is basically between drivers and teams from area towns, like Port Norris, Dividing Creek and Pittsgrove.

A Derby was also held during the County Fair Monday night, and another is planned for Sept. 26.