COLUMBIA — The mud trucks and demolition derby drivers have had their turn at this year's Boone County Fair, and the grandstands will see a different side of motor sports this week with a tribute to sprint car driver Jesse Hockett.
Hockett, well-known among the sport's enthusiasts across the country, was killed in an electrical accident earlier this year at an auto shop near his home in Warsaw, Mo.
Hockett had found success in the sport which features small open-wheel cars designed to travel fast on short oval or circular tracks. Several top NASCAR and Indycar drivers got their starts in the sport that often features dirt tracks. Before his death at age 26, Hockett had won 125 sprint car races over 11 years of competition. In 2008, he was featured in an issue of Flat Out Magazine.
Hockett will be remembered by family, friends, fans and fellow racers in the Door Banger Nationals, a two-night event Columbia resident Scotty Cook, a reporter for the sprint car website Racinboysradio.com, is putting on for the second year at the Boone County Fair.
A figure-eight race will be the main event on Wednesday, and an oval track sprint car race dedicated to Hockett will be held Thursday.
"Since Jesse was an oval track racer, Thursday night is dedicated to him," Cook said.
Cook had planned on having Hockett act as the Grand Marshal for Thursday night's race.
“I asked Jesse to be the Grand Marshal because he hadn’t properly been recognized by his local fans after becoming a nationally known racer,” Cook said. “He was a very humble guy. I wanted him to come out and sign autographs for fans and to show off his car.”
Instead, Cook enlisted six other top sprint car drivers from around the country to be in Thursday night's race and even arranged for the father of NASCAR driver Carl Edwards to make an appearance.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. drivers Tony Bruce, Jack Dover, Brady Bacon, Kyle Hirst, Zack Chappell and Dustin Morgan will be available to sign autographs for fans before racing together alongside Hockett’s father and brother in a celebrity race before the main event. Hockett’s entire family plans to be in attendance.
“The Hockett family are a staple in the racing community, so I wanted this race to recognize them and their son,” Cook said.
On Wednesday night, about 12 to 14 competitors are set to race around a figure-eight shaped track in refurbished compact, four-cylinder cars while trying to avoid meeting other racers in the middle and crashing. The event combines elements of both traditional racing and the more destructive demolition derbies
“I try to keep my car as clean as possible when I’m racing because I know the ultimate goal is to finish the race,” said Aric Bremer, a 29-year-old DJ at KCMQ in Columbia, who is set to race a Chevrolet Corsica this year.
Racers must make split-second decisions when approaching the middle of the track, called the crossover, and good timing is essential.
“If I see that the contact will be minimal, I’ll go for it,” Bremer said. “But I’ll do whatever I can to avoid a big crash.”