Head-on metal mashin’
Ahhh — the sound of crunching car parts, the smell of exhaust fumes and the sight of mud slinging from beneath the tires of two head-to-head vehicles, both refusing to be the first to let up on the gas pedal.
Pillowy clouds of car exhaust float into the grandstand, limiting the view of the action taking place below.
Spectators fill the seats, and some of the more brave ones stand in the pit, anxious to be as close as they can to the aggressive cars.
It’s a familiar picture, most often seen at county fairs in the summertime.
Except in this scenario the spectators aren’t in shorts and T-shirts, snacking on half-melted ice cream cones. Instead, they’re bundled in sweatshirts, snowpants and blankets, drinking hot chocolate or eating warm mini donuts.
This is exactly what was seen Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Faribault County fairgrounds, where the “Winter-Slam Demolition Derby” held its inaugural run.
Despite the chilly temperatures, the crowd in attendance lucked out, because the weather on Feb. 5 was uncharacteristically warmer than what southern Minnesota has been experiencing since the beginning of the new year.
“We got very fortunate on the weather,” says Randy Mosloski, who worked with Jeremy Ertman and Joe Sanders to organize the winter derby.
While it was nice to have temps above zero, they weren’t required for the event to be held.
“In case it was 5 below, we would have still run it anyway,” Mosloski says.
Even with the winter weather, the event was able to draw a crowd that Mosloski thinks was made up of the same number of people, or more, who attend in the summer.
“We don’t have a physical count as of yet,” he says, “but I know the stadium was pretty packed.”
The demo derby featured four classes — full-size, mid-size, compact and truck — and had more than 40 participants, some of whom traveled from as far north as Sauk Rapids and as far west as Mitchell, S.D.
They may have come such a distance simply because they couldn’t wait until summer to mangle up some metal, but a little extra incentive also might have grabbed their attention.
“Most derbies only pay back about four spots,” Mosloski explains. “But being this was in the wintertime and we had to generate the interest and make them come, we paid back six places.”
For all classes — except full-size — first-place finishers received $600, followed by $300 for second, $150 for third, $100 for fourth, $75 for fifth and $50 for sixth. The payout for full-size cars was considerably higher, with first place earning $1,200.
“You have to invest more money to build one of those cars,” Mosloski says. “They get rather expensive.”
He would know, because he’s been doing demolition derbies since he was 14 years old. Mosloski, who lives in Mapleton and promotes the demolition derby there in the summer, says it was a little difficult to sit back and watch all the action during “Winter-Slam,” rather than taking part like he’s used to.
He had actually started building a car for the event, but ended up taking on the role of organizer more so than participant, so he gave the 1973 Ford to his dad, Tony, to race in the full-size class.
“He had some car troubles early on and wasn’t able to steer,” Mosloski says, adding that his dad came through with an eighth-place finish.
Jason Pagel of Red Wing ended up winning the full-size class in his 1976 Chevy Impala.
Other first-place winners were Justin Kanzenbach of Faribault with a 1990 Lumina in the mid-size class, Harry Wallem of Brownsdale driving a 1977 AMC Pacer in the compact class, and Brett Nelson of Glencoe with a 1970 Dodge that beat out the other trucks.
“A lot of the drivers that we spoke to — they were very pleased with how it was run,” Mosloski says. “The drivers were more than willing to come back next year.”
The event cost about $10,000 to put on, and Mosloski says he appreciates the help from area sponsors and support from everyone who attended.
“It’s what makes it possible for us to try to do it again,” he says.
Some of the area sponsors included G & S Drainage Excavation, Bob Moore’s Drainage & Excavating and Coxworth Water Conditioning, all of Blue Earth, Ron’s Trenching of Winnebago, J & J Recycling and Marlin Krupp Auctioneer services, both of Elmore, and B & R Auto & Truck Salvage of Mapleton.