Preparing for the Demolition Derby
By Turner Walston
Published in News on September 25, 2005 2:04 AM
By TURNER WALSTON
News-Argus Staff Writer
David Goins has spent a lot of time working on his 1973 Pontiac Safari station wagon in preparation for this year's Wayne County fair.
But he isn't busy spit-polishing tires or shining up chrome.
Goins' Safari is a warrior of sorts. He is putting the car back together again for another battle -- in the demolition derby ring.
This week, the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair will host its 20th annual Demolition Derby at the fairgrounds. The object is simple: Take everyone else out while keeping your car running.
The Safari has sat idle in Goins' back yard since 1997, when he used the original front end on another derby car. The back end belonged to a Chevrolet Caprice.
Time has not been good to the Safari. It's stripped to the bone. As per derby rules, all the glass has been removed. The battery is bolted to the floor on the passenger side. As of Friday afternoon, the car had no motor or transmission -- yet.
"I build a motor just for the derby," Goins says. "I swap it from car to car."
Goins, who works at Miller's Body Shop, said the Safari is ideal for the derby.
"From '73 to '76; that's the years you want," he said. "They've got a hard body, and they fold up better."
Other popular models are Buick 225s, Chevrolet Caprices and Impalas and Cadillacs.
Goins finished third in 1985 -- his first derby. "It's been in my blood ever since," he said.
Drivers have to pick their battles during the derby, if they want to make it to the final round, Goins said.
"If you go in there and just go crazy, you ain't going to be there in the end," he said. "You don't want to talk a whole bunch. You've got to drive smart."
"He's not as aggressive as most of them are," said Shane Holland, who is helping Goins get the Safari ready.
Most demolition derby drivers in Eastern North Carolina drive on a 'circuit' of sorts. Goins has driven in Holly Ridge, Kinston, New Bern, Greenville and Raleigh. He even appeared on TNN (now Spike TV) several years ago.
Scotty Thornton is one of Goins' competitors on that circuit. He is working on a 1974 Chevrolet Impala. Thornton has won the state championship twice since 1999.
"My goal is just to get in the main event every year and then go from there," Thornton said.
He said the regular competitors have a friendly rivalry.
"It's pretty much like racing on TV," Thornton said. "You want to beat the guys, but if they need a part, you'll help them out."
Depending on the number of entries, there will be a number of heats to qualify drivers for the main event. Final winners on both Saturdays will qualify for the derby at the State Fair.
Drivers are required to hit live cars within a time limit or risk disqualification. Both Goins and Thornton say they stay calm.
"If you go out there and just go crazy and run back end to back end, you're more or less wasting your time. You need to save your car," Thornton said.
With a bookcase full of derby trophies from the past 20 years and a 16-year-old daughter ready to get behind the wheel herself, Goins said he is ready to hang it up after next week. If he wins.
"I keep swearing this is going to be my last year," Goins said.
"You ain't going to quit," Holland said.
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