Jon Huff | The Gazette
MEDINA — If you don’t succeed, try and try again. That is the mindset the St. Clair family used for the Medina County Fair Old Iron Demolition Derby.
On Friday night, the persistence paid off.
Ben St. Clair of Montville Township won the feature event as his brother, Nate, finished third. Second place went to Lafayette Township’s Dan Thomas, who was running in his 27th derby and has a handful of titles to his credit.
The victory was a long time coming for the St. Clairs, with near misses along the way. Nate took second in 2003, 2006 and 2009, while their father, J.D., started the tradition 28 years ago.
“We finally won Medina,” the 39-year-old Ben said. “It took us years.
“It’s the one we started in. We had to win it. Now we can venture out to other derbies.”
Ben and his 1972 Chrysler Newport, which was “Frankensteined” together using parts from the family stockpile, placed in the top three of the second heat to qualify for the final.
Thomas’s route proved more difficult. After a poor performance in the first heat, Thomas and his 1968 Chrysler Imperial went into the consolation round, where he outlasted two other cars to make the final.
“We worked hard to get there,” Thomas said.
Replacement parts salvaged from a teammate kept him in the competition.
“A big thanks to Kyle Fry,” Thomas said. “He saved my day.”
Before the final, qualifiers had 20 minutes to make repairs. The crowd watched as team crews raced out with tools to resurrect the cars. Crowbars forced crushed metal away from wheel wells and sledgehammers pounded bodywork back in place. As the time dwindled, the engines roared back to life.
Hits came hard and fast in the final. Cars slid in the mud, engines straining as they tried to outmuscle others. A huge hit from Ronnie Cotner popped Nate St. Clair’s helmet off, forcing a brief stoppage. Steam later bellowed from Nate St. Clair’s engine after he broke a radiator hose.
Cars died one by one until Thomas and Ben St. Clair remained. Both cars suffered their share of damage and the drivers fought to keep their cars moving.
St. Clair appeared to be the underdog due to failed steering that relegated him to donuts. Thomas’ engine then overheated nearby, allowing St. Clair to spin around, throw his vehicle into reverse and deliver the winning blows.
“After a while I couldn’t steer,” St. Clair said. “I just did donuts until I could hit him.”
After three taps to Thomas’ driver-side rear quarter panel, the final siren blared and Ben had the win. In the excitement, Nate pounded on his car’s roof before running over to congratulate his brother.
Doug Wilkinson of Lodi and his 1976 Ford Mustang took top honors in the five-car sub-compact division. The Mustang also won Best in Show as judged by the crowd.
Jeff Clark of West Salem won the truck division in his 2002 Dodge Ram 2500. Only two trucks competed in a contest more ballet than battle, ending in boos from the crowd.
Contact Jon Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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