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Turlockers dominate Traditional Turmoil
John Azevedo (#32) and Mark Cabral (#11), both of Turlock, smash it up at the Traditional Turmoil demolition derby event on Monday at the Stanislaus County Fair. - photo by Photo courtesy of DALE BOSOWSKI
At precisely 7:30 p.m. Monday night, a horn blared to signal the start of the first of four preliminary heats at “Traditional Turmoil” the first of two straight evenings of the fan favorite demolition derby action, presented annually by the Turlock Lions Club at the Stanislaus County Fair.
The derby was on in all of its fury.
The capacity crowd stood and cheered over every bone jarring, mud spattering hit as drivers maneuvered their cars to inflict as much harm as possible on their opponents, without sustaining too much damage themselves.
The basic strategy of the demolition derby is to hit the other guy in one of their more vulnerable areas, such as the radiator or tires, usually by backing into them, but often raw adrenaline kicks in and drivers toggle into a “damn the torpedoes” mode, just looking to make any hit possible without regards to their own car’s well being in an effort to impress the judges.
About 15 minutes later the horn blew again and the action came to a halt as the drivers unbuckled themselves to congratulate their fellow competitors, who just a minute earlier were trying to knock them to kingdom come, and inspect their cars for damage. A few cars are able to limp out of the arena and back to the pits under their own power, but most waited by their disabled vehicles for one of the tow trucks to get them back via the hook.
“That was tough out there. I am not sure how everyone else did, but I think I did enough to win. We’ll see,” said Turlock’s Mike Hobby, the 2007 champion, who finished the heat in third to advance into the final round.
With judging based on number of hits and aggressiveness, the top five cars in each heat were each given an automatic spot in the finals. The remaining cars that were still running returned to compete in a last chance round to decide the remaining five cars that comprised the 20-car grand finale.
Rookie driver Shawnesti Machado of Turlock was the only female in this year’s field, although several competed in Tuesday’s “Metal Mayhem” derby.
“That first hit felt good,” said Machado. “I learned not to be a chicken and just hit them as hard as I can.”
In a special that is reminiscent of a “Mad Max” movie, there was as much action in the pits between rounds as there was in the arena during competition as hand held circular saws, acetylene torches and sledgehammers were all in use to make repairs.
Only 32 cars were on hand this year, which reduces the number of participants in the heats to 10 or 11, but the hitting may be even fiercer as a result. Event director Carl Mikkelsen of the Turlock  Lions Club plans to address the rules to increase the car count next year.
“Less cars means a lot more room. I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but it was actually pretty darn fun out there,” said Chris Camp, a 19-year veteran and the 2006 champion. “This one is pretty emotional tonight. I am running this under the name of my brother, Shane, who passed away recently.”
When the final started, it was no holds barred as metal and mud flew in every direction. Turlock’s Mark Cabral flew around the arena making numerous huge hits as the crowd roared its approval. When the horn blew for the last time, Cabral climbed out of his car and jumped onto the hood, fists pumping into the air in triumph.
After a few minutes, the official announcement came and Cabral was declared the winner. Fast Freddie Neto of Turlock, Tony Silveria of Denair, Troy Lea and Mike Hobby, both of Turlock, round out the top five.
“I have been doing this for more than 20 years and I finally won it,” said a joyful Cabral as he accepted congratulations from family and friends. “I got a little hung up early, but then I just went all out and starting hitting everything I could.”
As a wrecker began to hook up Cabral’s car for a tow back to the pits, he quickly waved him off proudly saying, “No. I’ll drive it back myself.”