Nate Heidecker gets pinned between two vehicles Sunday during the demolition derby in the trucks division at the Freeborn County Fair. Heidecker took sixth place out of nine trucks. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Nate Heidecker gets pinned between two vehicles Sunday during the demolition derby in the trucks division at the Freeborn County Fair. Heidecker took sixth place out of nine trucks. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Demolition derby delivers damage to delight of denizens

Published 9:42pm Sunday, August 3, 2014

Here comes the Boom

The growl of open headers and the deep thud of vehicle frames colliding at high speeds echoed through a muddy arena Sunday at the Freeborn County Fair.

In front of an estimated 4,200 spectators at the Grandstand, aggressive front-end collisions paid off for drivers at the demolition derby organized by the Masters of Disaster.

In all four divisions, the driver that won the Hardest Hitter Award also placed in the top three and took home cash.

Ron Barnick and his ’86 Ford Crown Victoria won the award in the 1980s-and-newer division and took second place with a $1,000 prize, even though he threw his pre-derby strategy out the window.

“I didn’t stick with the plan — to back up,” he said with a smile. “It’s just too much fun to go forward.”

Barnick, a Wells resident, drove in the same division as his older brother, Chad Barnick, and their friend, Loren Prange. His brother took third, and Prange finished ninth. Barnick said the trio builds their cars together. In his Ford, Barnick swapped the stock motor for a 5.3-liter LS motor with aluminum heads from a 2002 Chevy pickup.

The biggest prize of the afternoon, $1,500, was awarded to Colton Neuhalfen. He took first place in the ’80s-and-newer division after finishing fourth last year. He also took third place in the trucks division. However, he was irate after the way trucks division ended. Neuhalfen finished the derby trapped in the northeast corner of the arena by three other trucks that weren’t running. After removing himself from contention by breaking his stick, he stood on the concrete barrier and showed his displeasure with the officials.

Masters of Disaster organizer Paul Neilsen did not mention that specific event, but he said emotions can run high.

“Sometimes it’s worse than a soap opera,” Nielsen said. “It’s like a scaled-down NASCAR. There’s about as much drama.”

Nielsen is a demolition derby veteran. He’s been driving and promoting derbies for 30 years, and from 1990 to 1999, he said he competed in about 15 derbies a year.

“I ran Chryslers. I just used a stock 400 big block, and people would ask, ‘Why do you run the big block — it gets so hot?’” Nielsen said. “But I’ve always had good luck with them.”

In the trucks division, Albert Lea native Ryan Linde and his ’62 Ford with a 360 Chevy engine won the Hardest Hitter Award and took first place for the first time at the Freeborn County derby. Linde’s brother, Kevin Joel won the mini division and the $500 prize.

Brady Flatness, who works at Minnesota Corrugated Box Inc. in Albert Lea, won the Hardest Hitter Award in the mini division and took second place with his ’96 Ford Explorer. He drove in a derby at Northwood earlier this summer and took second place, despite rolling his vehicle, he said.

Cody Gaines won the compact division and the $600 prize. His car stalled but roared to life long enough to outlast the competition. Andrew Lokenvitz took second. Mike Chisholm took third and won the Hardest Hitter Award.

The Masters of Disaster organize four demolition derbies: the Mitchell County Fair in Osage, the Worth County Fair in Northwood, the Freeborn County Fair and the Mower County Fair in Austin, Nielsen said. The derby in Austin will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday.