Friends and veteran mud racers yet to face each other

Saturday, July 24, 2010 | 11:55 p.m. CDT
Josh Garrison drives his mud truck back up on the trailer with assistance from his uncle after Saturday's races at the Boone County Fair were postponed. Garrison drove two hours from Steeleville to compete in the side-by-side mud racing event. "No we have to drive two hours back," he said. "A long ride for rain. Oh well."

COLUMBIA — Leslie Bradshaw-Dingwell and Joey Burks have known each other for nearly 15 years. The pair of Columbia natives first met as competitors in demolition derbies.

Bradshaw-Dingwell stopped entering demolition derbies four years ago in favor of mud racing and Burks followed a similar path two years ago. Injuries caused the drivers to switch to the sport which pits two 4x4 pickup trucks against each other on two 170-foot long lanes made of mud.

But until Saturday night at the Boone County Fair, Bradshaw-Dingwell and Burks had never competed against each other on the mud track. The pair of friends were set to race against each other in the first round of the double-elimination event.

The race never materialized, though. Lightning and heavy rain forced the fair board to postpone the event. Bill Thompson, who runs the mud racing for the fair said he is not sure if the event will be rescheduled or not.

Although the drivers never made it to the starting line, Bradshaw-Dingwell and Burks still had time to appreciate their friendship and reflect on their experiences on the mud track before the event was set to begin.

"It's (mud racing) a very good sport to be in," Burks said. "If one guy's car breaks down, the other guy will try to help him and make sure he gets to race."

For Burks, a back injury suffered two years ago in a demolition derby event forced the switch after 17 years in the sport. He also saw a great deal of camaraderie in mud racing that he did not experience in the demolition derby.

"I got a buddy and we'll face against each other.  I'll win one race, he'll win the next and we'll just shake each other's hands," Burks said.

Bradshaw-Dingwell's list of injuries from 20 years of demolition derby events is much longer, including broken bones, scars on both arms and "many a stitches."  She and her car have also caught on fire several times because of car battery explosions. It wasn't until one morning four years ago, when she woke up and could not walk, that she finally switched to mud racing.

The demolition derbies are still appealing, though, especially this year's Boone County Fair event, set to take place Sunday night.

"My dad is dying from cancer, so this (demoltion derby) would have been nice to get all that frustration out," Bradshaw-Dingwell said.

A back injury suffered five weeks ago as she was playing with her grandchild will keep her away.

"That was my sign," Bradshaw-Dingwell said. "This (injury) is telling me no, no, no."

Bradshaw-Dingwell said she will continue to compete in mud racing as long as her health permits.

"I give all my trophies to my kids and grandkids," Bradshaw-Dingwell said. "I like to match them up with their birthday years."

Although the race between the friends was postponed, both appear happy not to have had to face each other so early in the event. 

"We know each other, but don't want to run against each other because that way we won't knock each other out," Burks said.

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