COLUMBIA — The thick wet mud mostly covered the bottom part of the blue 2000 Pontiac Sunfire and splattered the rest of the car, making it hard to read the bright yellow number "20.8" painted on the side. Huge chunks of dry grass and dirt stuck to the car's tires. Dents covered the front end.
The Pontiac was parked on a grassy area just outside the grandstand at the Boone County Fair. It was about to race.
But it was not about to enter into a regular racing competition. The dents indicated something far more dangerous. The car was getting ready to race in the compact figure-eight scramble on Thursday.
Figure-eight racing consists of cars completing laps around a race track shaped as a figure eight. At the race track at the Boone County Fair, two large tires mark the points where the drivers must turn around. Whoever completes the most laps around the track wins the heat. The most dangerous part is the crossover, where cars have the high potential to crash and bump into one another.
"You need some skills and some luck," Nathan Dummermuth, the Pontiac's driver, said about the crossover. "Some skills are reaction and reflex."
Dummermuth and his son, Tyler, have been competing since 2008. A friend of Nathan Dummermuth competed in figure-eight racing, which caused him to try the sport. The father-son team, with Nathan Dummermuth as the driver and his son as the passenger, has been competing in every figure-eight tournament in Missouri.
Tyler Dummermuth said his job is to direct his father on where openings are and pull the emergency brake if his father does not have a free hand. He enjoys the sport because of racing's big adrenaline rush.
"It's always fun to do something outside," Tyler Dummermuth said. "It's a hobby to get into."
Nathan Dummermuth's car reached the final round of the competition, called the feature.
Collisions with cars and the race track are inevitable. One time in Eldon, Nathan Dummermuth did not see a car going through the middle and T-boned it, Tyler Dummermuth said. And at the Morgan County Fair in Versailles, Nathan Dummermuth's car hit one of the jumps toward the side of the race track, rolled over and landed on its top. Everyone helped push the car back over, and Nathan kept racing.
Jacob Wood, another figure-eight racing driver, has been through many collisions. On Tuesday, he hit someone's car and its back tire flew off.
Because of the high likelihood of cars hitting one another, safety precautions are put in place. The race cars have stiff metal bolted on all of the doors, so if it does get hit, the car does not bend too much. Glass windows are removed to avoid shattering, and all drivers wear helmets.
Thursday evening's race produced several bumps and hits, but no major collisions. Many of the race cars slowed when they encountered another in the middle path, allowing the other to pass.
Wood and his brother, Joshua, have been racing for years, Jacob Wood for 12 years and Joshua for eight. Their two bright orange cars, one a Toyota Camry and the other a Porsche Boxer, reached the final as well.
"I just go as fast as I can and try not to get hit," Jacob Wood said about the crossover. "But collisions happen."
Supervising editor Raymond Howze.