Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

Published 7:58 pm Sunday, August 9, 2015

Darren Sonnek of Albert Lea drives Sunday in the trucks division during the demolition derby at the Freeborn County Fair. Sonnek won the seven-car division. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Darren Sonnek of Albert Lea drives Sunday in the trucks division during the demolition derby at the Freeborn County Fair. Sonnek won the seven-car division. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Hometown drivers made their mark.

Albert Lea wheelmen won three of five divisions — trucks, mini and rookie — Sunday during the demolition derby organized by the Masters of Disaster that featured 40 vehicles at the Freeborn County Fair.

After five of the seven drivers in the trucks division were eliminated, the remaining competitors were Albert Lea’s Darren Sonnek and Jon Kluver.

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“It’s a lot of fun coming out and wrecking stuff,” said Sonnek, who drove a Dodge 3/4-ton pickup from the late ’60s.

Trouble struck for Sonnek about halfway through the heat. His passenger-side rear tire flew off the rim during a collision, so he only had traction from one wheel.

“I knew something was going on, but I couldn’t tell exactly what,” Sonnek said. “Then, there’s also no power steering, so it was a little work.”

Sonnek overcame the problems and outlasted Kluver for the $1,000 purse. However, Kluver not only won $600 for second place, he also claimed the Hardest Hitter Award in the trucks division and finished third in the mini division.

Drivers from Albert Lea dominated the mini division. Six of the 13 drivers hailed from Albert Lea, and all six finished in the top eight, including a sweep of the top three spots. Along with Jon Kluver’s bronze, Steve Kluver took first place and Josh Gulbrandson was the runner-up.

Albert Lea’s other division champion was in the rookie class, which had two entrants: Brady Nielsen of Albert Lea and Caden Crews of Austin. Brady Nielsen took first place in a car that had a large confederate flag that extended out of its roof.

“We added a rookie class and dropped power puff because we haven’t had any cars the last couple years,” said Masters of Disaster promoter Paul Nielsen. “This was the first year, and hopefully (the numbers) will build.”

The biggest prize was for the full-size division as $3,500 was distributed among the top five finishers with $1,500 for the winner. The division had eight entrants, and four drivers from Blue Earth took the top four spots. Nick Bleess won the division, and Colton Neuhalfen was the runner-up. Albert Lea’s Jake Baas took fifth.

In the compact division, seven of the top eight finishers were from Glenville. Kenna Gaines, a 14-year-old girl, competed in her first derby and won it. She participated alongside her father and brothers. Gaines said she plans to use her $500 winnings to save up for a car.

Albert Lea’s Dalton Bradley competed in his second derby and took second place in the compact division. Last year, Bradley said he competed in the derby at the Mower County Fair and finished third in the mid-sized division.

The Mower County Fair’s demolition derby at 2 p.m. next Sunday will be the last of the season for the Masters of Disaster, Paul Nielsen said.


Rookie division (Ages 14-18)

1. Brady Nielsen, Albert Lea (Hardest Hitter Award)

2. Caden Crews, Austin


Compact division

1. Kenna Gaines, Glenville (Hardest Hitter Award)

2. Dalton Bradley, Albert Lea (Best of Show Award)

3. Blake Lundmark, Glenville

4. Dustin Rayman, Glenville

5. Mike Gaines, Glenville

6. John Hornberger, Glenville

7. Jake Sanderson, Glenville

8. Cody Gaines, Glenville

9. Harry Wallen, Brownsdale

10. Greg Harrison, Brownsdale


Mini division

1. Steve Kluver, Albert Lea

2. Josh Gulbrandson, Albert Lea

3. Jon Kluver, Albert Lea

4. Shawn Ellingson, Glenville (Hardest Hitter Award)

5. Jason Pestorious, Albert Lea

6. Jim O’Byrne, Albert Lea

7. Chad Roche, Wells

8. Kevin Joel, Albert Lea

9. Matt Rislov, Hollandale

10. Eli Dyvig, Hollandale

11. Mike Krohn, Hollandale

12. John Giefer, Vernon Center

13. Jordan Giefer, Blue Earth


Truck division

1. Darren Sonnek, Albert Lea

2. Jon Kluver, Albert Lea (Hardest Hitter Award)

3. Tanner Kalvig, Glenville

4. Alfred Hemann, Austin

5. Cody Kalvig, Northwood

6. Bryan Bauman, Oakdale

7. Andrew Eischens, Taopi


Full-size division

1. Nick Bleess, Blue Earth

2. Colton Neuhalfen, Blue Earth

3. Robert Thompson, Blue Earth

4. Chance Langford, Blue Earth

5. Jake Baas, Albert Lea

6. Chris Wittenberg, Renville

7. Benjamin Wunderlich, Lyle

8. Victor Kruse, Stanchfield