Always one of the most popular events at the Stanislaus County Fair, the annual demotion derby once again packed the house at the Food Maxx Arena on Monday night.
The event was put on by the Turlock Lions Club for the 43rd straight year, which uses the proceeds to fund a variety of local charities.
Only 13 cars and five RVs where on hand, but even with a low car count, there was plenty of slam-bam action to please the capacity crowd which roared its approval throughout the evening.
Opening with the traditional parade of cars, the field was split into two groups for the preliminary heats. Veteran driver James Cabral, of Turlock, claimed the win in Heat 1 and another long time participant Guy “Moon” Mullins II, of Modesto, took top honors in Heat 2.
While for some of the drivers the only goal is to win the event, others like Modesto’s Shawnesti Machado, the only female entry in 2018, had more modest expectations.
“My boyfriend and I promote some derbies so this was a lot of fun to be on the other side of it,” said Machado, who finished a respectable 4th in the first heat. “My goal here is just to have fun.”
Turlock’s Dan Hicks, a former five-time winner who has participated in the derby for almost 30 years, was also less than optimistic after the heat events.
“My chances are not too good. The car is hurt pretty badly. I broke an axle,” admitted Hicks as he and his crew attempted to patch up his 1956 Desoto for the final. “We’re here to have fun. We kind of threw the car together at the last minute.”
Another driver working feverishly to repair his car for the final was Patterson’s Kyle Guido, who was making his return to the derby following an eight year absence.
“I stopped when my kid was born. I came last year to watch and my wife said as long as I had sponsors that I should do it again. So here I am,” explained Guido. “It is more fun than ever and now I have my kid watching me in the grandstands.”
While the teams labored intensely in the pits to put their cars back together for the night’s final, five RVs lumbered into the arena for their event.
Within minutes the arena was littered with more rubbish than the floor at Walmart following Black Friday. Many of the crowd were on their feet as debris spewed everywhere on several hard hits.
Whipping the crowd into even more of a frenzy was PA announcer Doug Holt, of Oakdale, a long time derby participant and former two-time champion.
“I did this for over 30 years and got hurt a couple of times,” told Holt. “This is a great way to stay a part of it. I love it!”
The RV competition came down to Gridley’s Bryce Mathews and his brother Greg Mathews of Ceres. The pair went at it mono a mono for several rock’em, sock’em minutes before the horn blew to end the epic battle.
“Man, that was great fun! My brother came after me, ripped my top off and then we really went at it,” exclaimed Greg Mathews after he was declared the winner by the judges. “Usually he beats me one on one, but now I have bragging rights for a year.”
Much like the RVs the 13-car finale came down to the two battered cars of Mullins and second generation pilot Anthony Hicks, of Turlock, where Mullins put on a late flurry of hits to take the title.
Rounding out the top five were Denair’s Tony Silva and a pair of Turlock drivers Fast Freddie Neto and Clarence Olivera.
“We were here to get it on and hit them as hard as we could. I came here to tear my toy up and not dink around,” said the triumphant Mullins, who picked up $2,500 for the victory. “Now I have to pick up my mess and go home.”