ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The 30th Marion County Demolition Derby was above capacity both in spectators and entries Saturday night. And when the smoke and dust cleared, a familiar face emerged as the champion.
Dean Suderman, Hillsboro, overcame some significant damage to the rear end of his 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo in the opening heat of the evening to win the derby title by outlasting another home-town driver, Jesse Hamm.
This was the third local derby title Suderman has claimed since entering his first competition in 1988. He also finished first in 1990 and 1995.
“It was pretty tough competition,” Suderman said. “I’ve heard a lot of comments that it was one of the best derbies people had seen. That’s good to hear.”
The crowd, which began arriving at the fairgrounds arena more than 90 minutes before the 7 p.m. starting time, swelled to about 2,400-which is more than the bleachers can seat.
The sizable crowd saw more cars go at it than ever before.
“We had a little more than a full docket,” said Lloyd Anderson, chairman of the derby committee. “We had a miscount and ended up having 52 cars-and we only allow 48.”
To get everybody in, an extra car was added to each heat.
“That seemed to work out fine,” Anderson said.
Three of the 12 drivers who qualified for the finals, including Suderman, came out of Heat 1. Jimmy Janzen joined Suderman in the top two, and Jason Hamm later qualified by finishing among the top two in the first consolation heat.
Brad Foth and Jesse Hamm won Heat 2 with Chad Hamm qualifying later in the first consolation heat.
Matt Foth and Mike Duerksen won Heat 3. Terry Svitak later qualified in the second consolation heat, as did Melinda Budde of Newton, the first female to compete in the derby in four years.
In Heat 4, Ryan Penner and Jarrod D. Gaines survived the pack to compete for the championship.
Suderman came out of the first heat still rolling, but with the rear end of his car bent severely downward.
“The back end was the main thing I was concerned about,” Suderman said. “We had to get it where it wouldn’t rub on the tires and go down into the ground (when it would ram another vehicle).
“I sure thought I had prepared it to where it would bend up,” he added. “There are strategic ways of doing that, but you never know how it’s going to bend.”
To protect the rear end, Suderman said he knew he’d have to use the front end of the car more if he hoped to survive the championship heat.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of strategy to it,” he said. “You try to put out the stronger cars and do what you can to survive.”
As it turned out, he just barely hung on.
“I had lost water a while before the end, and I knew it was a matter of time until I was going to quit running,” he said.
For their efforts, Suderman and his pit crew-Dale Klassen, Kevin Suderman, Justin Dick, Adam Miller and Orval Suderman-earned the top-prize money of $600.
For finishing second, Jesse Hamm earned $350, Duerksen took home $250 for third place, Brad Foth $150 for fourth, and Budde received $100 for fifth.
Each of the two winners from each preliminary heat and consolation heat received $100.