For decades, Americans have crowded into county fairs to watch battered, souped-up cars ram each other to pieces for sport. It's called a demolition derby, and it draws a loyal following. But the aging sport may be running out of steam. It could be another year, or more, before a new generation of drivers takes up the challenge of crashing cars for fun.
A demolition derby typically consists of five or more driver's competing by deliberately ramming each other's vehicles until one is left with a car that can move under its own power. Drivers wear helmets and all glass is removed from the vehicle to make it safer for spectators. A safety cage is added to the vehicle as well. Most competitors choose full-size sedans and station wagons, which offer more ramming space than compact cars. Smaller, front-wheel drive vehicles also work in demolition derbies, and some events include a separate class for minivans or motorhomes.
Before a demolition derby, the drivers and their cars are thoroughly inspected by three or more officials to ensure there are no illegal modifications or hidden reinforcements. Then the cars are soaked with water to prevent damage from the dirt track or field where they'll race. John Breeden, who has competed in more than a dozen derbies since he was 14, says the process of prepping his car can take up to 60 hours. He estimates that he invests about $500 to $1,500 per event in making his car derby ready. Breeden understands that his hobby seems strange to outsiders. "People will say, 'Why do you spend so much time and money to intentionally ram your car into someone else's?' And the answer is, 'The adrenaline rush.'"