While the Chautauqua County Fair started Monday, many packed the fairgrounds Tuesday to see the annual event get off to a roaring start. Dirt, mud and car parts were strewn about the track as drivers competed to have the last engine running at the Demolition Derby sponsored by Shults Resale.
Seventy-three drivers competed in five heats featuring small, 4- and 6-cylinder front wheel drive and larger rear wheel drive cars. One feature heat cut from this year's event was the gladiator heat. According to Al Wilson of the Chautauqua County Fair, which runs the demolition derby, the event was cut due to budget constraints.
"We had to cut someplace and that is where we made the cut," he said.
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
Kris Cerrie of Fredonia climbs out of his car after the second heat of Tuesday’s Demolition Derby.
Winners of the heats included the last two cars running and eligible for a legal hit, a third-place winner and best of show voted on by members of the crowd.
First- and second-place winners received money and a trophy and best of show winners received a trophy as well.
Prior to the first heat, a winner was announced for best paint job. Eric Remmington (C2) of Brocton won the trophy donated by the Nasty Dawgs demolition team and a cash prize which was donated by Turftenders.
This was the third year the prize has been awarded to a driver prior to the derby in memory of the late Mark Carlson.
The first heat saw 18 small cars. The action got off to a quick start when a collision sent two cars on top of each other. Jason White of Fredonia (A8) was on top of Bill Burgess of Dunkirk (A6). After a minor delay, the cars were separated and the heat continued. Winners from the first heat included Brian Gonzolas of Springville, White with Chuck Dillenburg of Forestville (A9) in third place. Chris Kachermeyer (A16) of Fredonia was chosen as best of show.
In between heats, the track was cleared by various towing and automotive companies. Wilson said he was pleased by the efforts of those working to remove the cars.
"The tow trucks worked well to clear the track," he said.
The second heat saw 22 cars, which brought out bigger hits by drivers. This heat left more car parts strewn about the track after all the damage was done. Two red flags were called due to unsafe parts on the track which had to be removed. Toward the end of the heat, three cars were left battling it out for the win. Drivers Gonzolas (B6), Scott Manning of Silver Creek (B15) and Kris Cerrie (B17) were all vying to have the last hit and the last car running. In the end, the winners were Cerrie and Manning with Gonzolas coming in third place. Best of Show went to Ed Gibbon (B20) of Jamestown.
The third heat saw only eight large cars competing. Since the number of cars was so low, they were lined up differently to start the heat. Since the heat saw so few cars, the heat was the shortest of the evening. Remmington (C2) put up some hard hits in this heat. The winners were Aaron Robinson (C3) and Johnny Robinson (C6), both of Stockton. Aaron is Johnny's nephew and Remmington came in third place. Best of Show went to David Riddle of Fredonia (C7).
The fourth heat saw 15 cars which featured large cars. Since the cars were bigger, the hits were still hard. A red flag stopped the heat early on for a tire axle that had fallen off. After returning to action after the red flag, four cars kept running and vying for the top spot. They were Cerrie (D4), Dan Kessler of Fredonia (D12), Steve Gromala of Sheridan (D13). After the engines died out, the winners were Kessler and Cerrie with Gromala coming in third. Ed Paluch (D3) of Dunkirk earned the title of best of show.
The drivers saved the best for last. The final heat of the night which featured large cars also provided the biggest and hardest hits. Hank Pencek (E3) of Dunkirk was driving his station wagon around hitting any car that would get in his way.
"'Hammering' Hank just doesn't give up out there," announcer Brad Blizzard said.
After a red flag, three cars were still running, Evan Seeley of Jamestown (E2), David Sealy of Jamestown (E5) and Pencek. Winners emerged as Pencek and Sealy with Evan Seeley coming in third. Todd Ellman of Dunkirk (E12) won best of show.
To keep drivers safe, Dunkirk, East Dunkirk and West Dunkirk fire departments and ALstar Ambulance were on hand in case of an emergency. Wilson was amazed there were no fires at the event but was happy the drivers were safe and the event went smoothly.
"We stress driving safely," he said. "All the drivers drove safely."
All winners from Tuesday's event will move on to the feature heat on Sunday. Wilson hopes for a good show on Sunday.
"We should have a good feature on Sunday. A lot of good drivers went through," Wilson said.
The demolition derby will feature more qualifying heats and will start at 4 p.m. Gates will open 45 minutes prior to the event. Grandstand reserved seats can be purchased at the fair office.
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