COLUMBIA — Clouds of dust and exhaust obscure the track, but even without the debris, it’s hard to tell what’s happening. The cars, dented and spray-painted, narrowly avoid T-boning each other as they speed along the figure-8 track.
But then a car stalls, another clips the bumper, and there’s a backup until the leader can break out of the pack again. Even the people tasked with counting laps have trouble following along with their assigned vehicle, let alone the drivers in the thick of things.
The Compact Figure 8 Scramble and Tuff Truck Competition at the Boone County Fair on Thursday night brought out beat-up compact cars and trucks to the dirt track at the Grandstand.
The amount of damage on the cars and trucks before the event began said volumes about the nature of the rough-and-tumble sport. The announcer, Tim Boggs, threw out jokes and anecdotes for the audience as the derby progressed.
"This must be competitive because I haven’t heard a single thank-you," he deadpanned.
Think about it like an eggbeater, said Bruce Longan, an employee of J & B Promotions, the company that put on the competition. "We call it a scramble," he said, aptly named for the way the cars weave around each other.
This is the second year the event has been held at the Boone County Fair, but Longan, a self-described motor sports junkie, has been involved with derbies for 12 years. He said one of the goals is to keep new blood coming into the sport.
Nathan "Shags" McLeod, a morning DJ at 96.7 KCMQ, is a newcomer — this is the first year he’ll be involved in Figure 8 racing. He rode shotgun in coworker Aric Bremer’s car. After being in the passenger seat, he wants to drive next time. "The adrenaline rush is incredible," McLeod said.
Bremer comes from a racing family, and has driven for four years. "It’s a fun family sport," he said, and one that doesn’t cost a fortune while still offering a chance to bond with relatives, with whom he has worked on cars.
"Racing is an expensive sport. Figure 8 is not an expensive sport."
Amanda and Andy Roselius brought their 10-month-old son Colby along with them, but only the parents rode in the race. "Last year I was pregnant and couldn’t ride with my husband," Amanda said, but she was excited to ride in the passenger seat this year.
There are extra precautions taken for the vehicles in the derby, such as windowless cars to avoid broken glass and reinforced bars across the doors so if a car gets hit it doesn’t crumple.
In the "tuff truck" races, the trucks run individually, racing over mounds of dirt to see who can get the fastest time. Those trucks run the risk of being damaged as well. Driver Mike Mauzy once folded his pickup nearly in half — the frame at the middle of the truck was about three inches from the ground, he said.
This was Mauzy’s 14th year with the same truck — number 88 — a gray pickup covered with random stickers. "The more stickers I put on it, the faster it seems to go," he said. He drove the truck on the street for the two years until it was unusable. He "jerry-rigged" it to run in a tuff truck race, where he figured it would break.
He ended up winning and has been at it ever since.
Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.