Derby ‘all about making the crowd happy’

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan / The Herald
Greg "Bubba" Ubelhor of Ferdinand shouts from the hood of his car after winning the Mini stock class during the demolition derby at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Saturday. This is Ubelhor's third year winning the class and he has been participating in derbies for 25 years.


BRETZVILLE — Cars roared to life at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds Saturday evening in time for the 29th annual demolition derby.

The wheels from lawnmowers and derby cars flung dirt across the arena as they maneuvered over the crumbled dirt. The smell of gas filled the air and debris flew as the metal cars crashed into one another.

“I do it for the adrenaline rush,” said Shelby Berger of Ferdinand. “I kind of just go out there for fun. I don’t usually have a strategy.”

Berger, who placed seventh in the Mini Stock division, began competing in the derby three years ago after watching her boyfriend Deion Henke of Ferdinand participate.

A crowd gathered in the grandstands to cheer on the contestants, getting louder with each bone-jarring hit.

“It’s all about making the crowd happy,” said Mini Stock division winner Greg “Bubba” Ubelhor of Ferdinand. “I don’t really care about winning. Winning is just a plus.”

Travor Jones of Washington, left, looks out his window as he crashes into Luke Worland of Monroe during the Bone Stock class in the demolition derby at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Saturday. Jones won the Bone Stock and the Metric Stock classes.

Ubelhor has competed in demolition derbies for 25 years, starting a year after watching his two older brothers, Scott and Tim Ubelhor compete. He said running in derbies is his passion and that love for competition even led to another part of his life as he married his wife, Cheyenne, at the derby in 2017.

Ubelhor has competed in six derbies so far this year and said he usually runs in seven to eight a year.

“If I could run all the time, I’d run all the time,” he said. “It’s just a good time. I love it.”

Ferdinand resident Derek Hoffman has run in the derby at the fair for three years. After watching his friends compete for a number of years, he finally decided to try it for himself.

“I figured I’d give it a shot,” he said.

Hoffman, who placed third in the Mini Stock division, said he loves the car-building aspect of the derby, which includes stripping the cars of all glass, side and rear windows, headlights, door handles and trim. Gas tanks and batteries must also run inside the vehicles.

Brayden Slunder, 8, right, helps his nephew, Blain Reynolds, 4, both of Winslow, put his helmet on before competing in the Power Wheel class at the demolition derby at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Saturday. Brayden and Blain competed in power wheels with six other family members.

He bought his derby car from his cousin, who wrecked it earlier this year.

Hoffman said the best way to win the derby is to protect the front end of the car, which is where the engine sits.

“You want to use the back end of your car,” he said. “Just stay running and keep moving.”

Steven Tempel of Jasper has been wanting to compete in the derby in Dubois County ever since he was little.

He has run in the Mini Stock class since he began competing in derbies three years ago, but ran in the Bone Stock class for the first time Saturday.

“Minis are a lot simpler builds than big cars are,” he said. “I think minis hit harder and they go faster.”

Tempel, who placed fourth, said growing up, his grandpa brought him to the fairgrounds every year to see the derby and he has wanted to try ever since.

“Three years ago I purchased a foxbody Mustang from someone I knew and next thing you know it took off like wildfire,” he said.

Tempel bought his car this year from a friend of his who told him to trash it. After only getting four hours of sleep Friday night, he was up for the challenge.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of driving your front end through somebody,” he said. “You can have something on your car that’s set so perfect and then next thing you know, something goes wrong and you just take all of your anger out on whoever is on the other end of the track.”

Winners from each class were: Lawnmower, Brandon Epple; Mini Stock, Greg “Bubba” Ubelhor; Bone Stock, Travor Jones; Metric Class, Travor Jones.

Kaylee Wells, left, hands her boyfriend, Luke Worland, a wrench while their son, Bryar Borwn, 9, all of Monroe, watches as his dad makes last minute changes before competing in the Metric Stock class during the demolition derby at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Saturday. Worland placed third in Metric Stock class.

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