ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
Motors revving, cars crashing and people screaming. These elements describe the basics of the Marion County Demolition Derby scheduled for this Saturday night.
And for demo derby disciples like Dean Suderman, these elements and others are what keep him coming back for more.
“Every year you get nervous when you go in there,” Suderman said. “Once you get two or three hits in, then it gets to be a lot of fun then you get excited.”
Suderman’s excitement helped him drive away with a first-place finish at the Canton Demolition Derby just weeks ago-his first win at that event.
Suderman has won the Marion County Derby two times previously, in 1990 and 1995.
But, Suderman said, winning isn’t a strong motivator.
“They don’t necessarily remember that you won it-they remember the big hits and that you’re putting on a show,” Suderman said of the crowd.
“I’m trying to do that more and more. That’s what people come to see and that’s what people remember.”
Suderman has been driving in derby since 1988. His first foray in the derby proved to be a learning experience.
“I didn’t know really what to expect,” he said. “You soon realize that there’s cars coming from every direction. It kind of shakes you up at first until you catch on to how everything works.”
The mechanics of building a demo car also create a learning opportunity for younger drivers just starting out, Suderman said.
“A lot of it is stripping out the interior and taking windows out-a lot of things like that,” he said. “It’s fun for kids to learn how to do that stuff.”
Suderman said he likes see new guys come into the field each year. Helping them out is part of the tradition.
“Loaning parts and whatever they need-that’s the way it worked when I started out,” he said.
This year, Suderman will drive into the arena in an 1984 Caprice Classic station wagon, a vehicle that Suderman said is a little newer body style than he likes to drive in demolition derbys.
“I hope this turns out to be a good car,” he said. “The older models that you’d like to find are getting harder to find.”
Suderman’s goal when building his vehicle for this year’s event, as in previous years, is to get the most out of his car and be competitive.
“Part of it is trying to build a car that will outlast everything else-you don’t want the failure to be because you didn’t have something ready,” he said.
“When you get into the finals, that’s where the action is really at,” he said. “Most of them are in there because they’ve got the good car.”
Pleasing the crowd and getting young people excited about the derby continues to be Suderman’s passion.
“My nephews just love it and that’s one of the things that kind of keeps you going,” he said. “That’s the exciting part about having people you know in the derby and having people you know in the stands cheering for you.”
Suderman believes local participation is what continues to make the derby a success.
“They’ve tried to keep it a local event,” he said. “Some guys drive around and do derbies all over the state, and I guess they’re not trying to pull that kind of a crowd.
“That’s what the crowd comes to see-somebody they know. We’re looking forward to having a good derby.
This year’s event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children between 6 and 12 years old. Children age 5 and under get in free.