Chris Hamm prevails in wild demo derby

On a Saturday night that began with the car bearing the American flag stalled only yards from the center of the arena, Chris Hamm proved unstoppable at the Marion County Fair’s 32nd annual demolition derby.

Other drivers were not so fortunate; red flags brought the contest to a halt no less than seven times.

Injuries stopped the competition several times and the event was delayed briefly as officials, fans and drivers patiently waited for an ambulance to return to the Hillsboro fairgrounds.

Most of the injuries were treated on site and the injured were usually able to walk out of the arena unassisted after being attended to by emergency personnel.

The first red came only moments into the first heat, when Eric Norstrom’s 1971 Chevy Impala was turned onto its roof. Norstrom returned for the first consolation heat and the No. 14 car held up long enough to carry him to the finals.

A total of 12 drivers earned berths in the final heat.

Two drivers from each primary heat moved on: Lonnie Hamm and Scott Schultz from the first heat, Chris Frantz and Jason Hamm from the second, Jason Bernhardt and Jesse Hamm from the third, and Brian Nickel and Chris Hamm from the fourth.

Two drivers from each consolation heat moved on as well: Matt Foth and Norstrom from the first consolation heat, with Brad Foth and Matt Farnsworth moving on from the second.

In the compact cars division, event organizer Dean Suderman’s 1975 Mercury Bobcat proved too tough for a field that included a 1975 Ford Maverick, a 1980 Chevy Citation, a 1980 Ford Pinto and a 1986 Ford Mustang.

Asked whether he might enter with the same car next year, Suderman said, “I haven’t had a chance to look it over too much yet, but there’s a chance.”

Dustin Hendricks nearly stole the show with his second-place finish in the compacts. Having charged trunk-first from half an arena away, a collision with a competitor left his vehicle immobilized and idling quietly.

In a failed final attempt to find traction for his 1987 Subaru sedan, Hendricks revved his engine, spun his tires and raised a tall column of blue smoke and a roar of approval from the crowd.

With roughly 2,000 fans in attendance the derby was, according to Suderman, “as big as we’ve ever had.”

“We had 56 entered and 56 was our maximum-we had to turn four cars away,” he said.

The cars ranged in age from the 1961 Galaxy entered by Jason Terrell to the 1988 Crown Victoria entered by Chris Monares.

The final heat came down to Chris Hamm’s 1974 Chevy Impala against Lonnie Hamm’s 1974 Cadillac DeVille, Jason Hamm’s 1974 Chevy Impala, Frantz’s 1973 Chrysler New Port and Schultz’s 1976 Pontiac Bonneville.

Schultz was knocked out fifth to take $100. Lonnie Hamm was stopped fourth and earned $150.

Each of the top three drivers received a trophy for his effort.

Jason Hamm finished third and pocketed $300. Chris Frantz finished second and won $500. Chris Hamm drove home with $800 in prize money.

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