|Demolition derby fever|
|Wednesday, September 12, 2012|
By KEN BECK
Not many guys like to fix up old cars so they can intentionally wreck them, but crashing into other clunkers serves as the game of choice for Lebanon’s Doug Raines, a demolition derby devotee.
Raines, 39, a partner in D & R Automotives, a car-repair business on Tennessee Boulevard, won more than $1,000 at the recent Wilson County Fair car crash circus and plans to run his two-door 1976 Impala in the Redneck Rumble demolition derby at 7 p.m., Saturday, at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center.
“I was 16 years old when I started running,” said Raines, a Lebanon native and graduate of Lebanon High School. “I always loved racing. Been around it all my life. My daddy dirt-track raced, and we went to watch my uncle who raced on asphalt. I started doing it because it was cheaper than running the round track, so I kept on doing it.”
When asked how many demo derbies he has competed in over the past 23 years, Raines said, “Goodness, I have no idea. At least 50, maybe more. I’ve won six, but I have been consistent to finish in the top five a bunch of times.”
Raines is not alone in what some may see as motor madness. In 2001, The Los Angeles Times estimated that between 60,000 and 75,000 drivers competed in at least one of the 2,000 demolition derbies held that year in the United States.
Scooter Williams, organizer of the Redneck Rumble, expects 15 to 18 cars to be entered in the demolition derby Saturday night. (Admission to the demo derby only is $5.) First prize is $800, plus the Rumble King trophy, a 5-foot-tall trophy made from old car parts.
The Redneck Rumble is described by Williams as a hot-rod show.
“We’ll have cars from all over the country, pre-1968 cars and hot rods, customs and motorcycles. It will be a big swap meet for cars, parts and vintage memorabilia, and there will be live music throughout the day on Saturday,” he said.
As for the popularity of a demolition derby, Williams said, “People like to see the competition, and the guys are really intense. There’s a lot of hard hitting and a lot of high-strung emotions out there. It’s kind of like wrestling with vehicles.”
For Raines, competing in demolition derbies paved the way for him to bond with his father, Sammie Raines, who died earlier this year.
“Me and him starting doing this together. He laid brick and blocks for a trade. I worked with him while I was in school. As a kid he loved racing, and I loved racing, too, and we started doing this as a hobby together. If we were not running, we went to other places to watch and made a lot of friends,” the mechanic and champion car crasher said.
At the Wilson County Fair derby a number of participants painted Mr. Raines’s name on their cars in his memory. “He was well thought of and they really liked him,” the son said.
As for the basic rules of demolition derbies, they differ from event to event, but safety is a priority.
“Here, we wire and chain the doors and have a cage inside for safety, and the gas tank is in a metal enclosure. You cannot deliberately hit a man in his driver-side door. If you do, they will throw you out immediately,” Raines said.
“The object of the game is to be the last one running. You’re trying to break their (the opponents’) ties rods, their steering, or a ball joint or an axle or bust the radiator.”
As for what type of car to renovate for crashing into other cars, well, that depends upon the rules and the classes.
“What I like to use up here (for the fair) is an ’80s model Chevy or Chevy Caprice and the next night a Chevy or Buick in the middle ’70s. In some classes you can do more things to the car, and if that’s the case, we run Fords,” said Raines, who went with his 1987 Chevy Caprice at the fair.
For the upcoming rumble, he plans to wreak havoc upon other vehicles with a two-door Impala that has a few dents. “A little backhoe work will straighten her back up,” he said.
“Don’t lose your cool is the big thing,” he laughed about his battle plan. “Normally I try to go out there, if you make it to the feature (the finals), you try to hold out and see what the other guys are gonna do. Some go wide open and others do not. Most people start picking on the weakest car first, so I try to save my car down to the final two or three and then really turn it loose and do some damage.
“We get out there and beat the tar out of one another, and then afterwards we’re still friends. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” the guy with demo-derby fever said.
Raines has competed in derbies with as many as 80 cars in the arena, but most Wilson County events draw about 20 participants. The county fair derby offers cash prizes to the top seven finishers with the winner earning $1,500.
Lebanon’s Roger Tippett, 46, a construction manager for Pulte Homes, entered the event for the first time this year, driving a 1980s-model Caprice. He said he was kind of talked into it by Raines, a good friend, plus he did so to run in memory of Raines’s father.
Tippett won his heat, but his car was so bashed up that he was unable to make it into the feature.
Hooked, Tippett plans to return in 2013: “I’ve already bought a car, a ’90s model Chevy Caprice, for the fair next year.”
While Raines continues to compete, he plans to share his pastime with his sons in a few more years.
“My two boys Brett, 11, and Brady, 8, they help me on the cars some. As soon as they get old enough to run (competitors must be 18), we’ll have to let them run. I don’t have no choice. And I want to live long enough to run with my boys.”