After 16 long years of trying Denair’s Tony Silveira was finally able to smash and bash his way to victory in Monday night’s “Traditional Turmoil” Demolition Derby, presented by the Turlock Lions Club, in the Food Maxx Arena at the Stanislaus County Fair.
The downturn in the economy over the recent years and the shortage of quality old cars has resulted in a steady drop-off of participants over the past 10 years. Long gone are the days of 50 plus car counts as a total of 22 cars were on hand for Monday’s derby, which is still considered to be one of the premier events in the state.
The derby format was adjusted for the smaller field by reducing the number of preliminary heats from three to two and the elimination of the last chance qualifying heat. Although a top five was awarded in each of the two heats — won by Jose Ayon and Chris Camp both of Modesto — any driver that could get his car back in action was allowed to lineup in the final.
The change in format caused some confusion and controversy in the pits. After a break of approximately 25 minutes following the second heat, 17 cars where able to make repairs and limp back into the arena to answer the bell for the main event.
However just as the gates were locked shut to start the final the cars of Ayon and long time derby veteran Brian Holt, of Modesto, motored up to the gate. Despite the shower of boos that fell down from the packed grandstands the late arrivals were shown no mercy and the green flag dropped to start the final without them.
“They told us early that there was going to be a consolation race and then all of a sudden they come back and tell us we have five minutes until the main event,” explained an unhappy Holt. “We tried to put the car back together as fast as we could, but they wouldn’t let us in even though they had just closed the gate.”
The catcalls quickly turned to cheers when the hard-hitting finals began as mayhem quickly spread throughout every corner of the arena. The crowd went into a frenzy when one thunderous hit sent the car of Merced’s Trenton Kemps careening up and over the three-foot high concrete barriers lining the arena.
The action eventually paired down to a two-car duel between Silveira and Camp. Unfortunately Camp got caught on the disabled car of Turlock’s Larry Butler and Silveira pounced on him like a cat on a wounded mouse to earn the victory.
“This feels awesome, just awesome! It has been a long time coming,” said Silveira, who earned $2,500 for his winning effort. “We had some problems with the car in the first heat, but we were able to fix them during the break and take this thing.”
Camp, the 2006 derby champion, lamented on coming so close to winning his second title.
“I had more hits but then I got hung up and I couldn’t shake loose. I think I could have got him if I could have kept going, but Tony is a good buddy of mine and I am real happy for him.”
Rounding out the top five were “Fast” Fred Neto and Dan Hicks, both of Turlock and Stockton’s Joe Reyes.
A crowd pleasing six vehicle RV derby following the main event left more debris spewed around the arena then a tornado going through a trailer park. Gridley’s Bryce Mathews survived the carnage to take the win over Turlock’s Eddie Dixon and Greg Mathews, Bryce’s brother from Ceres.