by John Unrein
Valley Speedway concluded their 2020 season on October 17th with a Halloween Trunk or Treat for kids prior to ATV heat racing and demolition derby contests. The stands were relatively packed on a brisk fall afternoon as young and old alike took in the experience in Grain Valley.
Spider Man, Wonder Woman, and Kansas City Chiefs players were among the most common costumes during the meet the driver Halloween Trunk or Treat prior to racing. Valley Speedway track announcer Greg Clemons interviewed drivers prior to racing along with youngsters on what they enjoyed the most about racing.
The Carrera family of Eastern Jackson County were among those in attendance. Chris, Angie, and River Carrera enjoy getting outdoors and being able to do something together in a fun atmosphere. The Carrera’s do not come from a family racing background and were introduced to the sport upon attending their first demolition derby when they moved to Missouri.
“I like the pretzels here and when the cars crash into each other,” River Carrera said.
Chris Carrera added, “There’s a sense of community here and it’s fun to watch the comradery amongst the drivers. It’s low key and a relaxed crowd compared to what the stereotype may be.”
“The sportsmanship is good. This is a little bit inherently dangerous to do, but if someone’s at risk or it looks like someone is or could get hurt, they stop the race and check on them.”
Angie Carrera concluded, “Valley Speedway is family friendly. The modifications to cars are interesting that drivers complete to be competitive. You find yourself getting behind a driver and rooting for their car.”
“I love when they drive a minivan. The tailpipes come through the hood as part of the modification. It kind of has that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome look to it.”
Cars with hulking overhangs in the front and back along with old school body-on-frame construction are advantages drivers look for when assembling their derby vehicles. Older domestic cars provide that lengthened crumple zone in the face and trunk of the car to team with high strength steel when the weight of a vehicle (for fuel efficiency) was not quite as big of a concern as it is today.
Modifications to demolition cars continue to demonstrate innovation at Valley Speedway. Spare tires are being used more on the rear ends of cars. The idea being that the smaller size of the wheel and tire will help prevent it from flattening or being bent in during collision racing. Solid wood landscape timbers for front bumpers are also in vogue as they do not bend as easily as metal. Oversized radiators protected by a variety of metal reinforcements to protect from being damaged or overheating round out the advantage’s drivers try to gain for competition.
Willie Brown who competes in the Summit Pizza sponsored 1986 Chevrolet Caprice was among those on hand to be a race ambassador and compete in the derby.
“I’ve grown up around demolition racing my whole life. They used to race back along the tree line here in the 1980’s and 1990’s when my cousin done it. That’s what got me into this sport,” Brown said.
“I’ve had this Caprice for about a year and put it together for competition within the last week. I don’t do this for the money, I do it for the fun of it. Hitting people is an adrenaline rush. It’s better to be the hammer instead of the nail.”
“Some people will hold back at the start of a race. I don’t hold back, I just hit people and let things play out.”
Above: Demolition driver Willie Brown participates in “meet the driver” at Trunk or Treat. Below: #81 Hawkins was the winner of the small budget class.