John F. Russell: Remembering the good old days
Steamboat Springs — What’s not to love about a good old-fashioned demolition derby?
That’s why it’s hard for me to understand why it’s taken me seven years to jump into my car and make the 20-minute drive to Hayden to watch the demolition derby at the Routt County Fair. Apparently I’m a little late to the party; the stands were packed with fans Friday night, all of them ready to take in the action: the roar of the engines, the crunch of metal smashing into metal and the thrill that comes from watching something we don’t get to see every day.
When I was child, I dreamed of driving a car in a demolition derby, and I have to admit, there have been a few times as a grown-up I’ve imagined what it would be like as I sat in traffic.
But for me, watching the cars, light trucks and trucks spin through the mud inside the Routt County Fairgrounds didn’t inspire dreams so much as memories.
Growing up in Denver, I spent more than a few summer nights watching the stock cars race around the track at Lakeside or race at Englewood. Those memories from my childhood returned Friday evening as I sat in the grandstands watching the action unfold on the dirt.
I’m not a motorhead, but there is something about the whining engines, the vision of bent and dented metal and the hot smell created by fair food and burning oil that take me back to a time when families packed into their cars on the weekends to watch cars fly around the track. I didn’t know the names of the drivers, but the sight of a midget sliding through a corner still gets my heart pumping.
But my favorite events were not the midgets or even the demolition derby itself. At Englewood, in the late 1970s, the big event was the Figure 8. The event was a combination of stock car racing and a demolition derby. These days, that crazy form of racing seems, at least to my knowledge, to have faded away. My guess is, it’s the result of lawyers and insurance companies that were no longer willing to take the risk of a race that included an intersection without a stop sign.
Sure, it was fun to watch, but in today’s world, it’s almost impossible to do something like that without worrying about the imminent law suit that may follow.
I have to admit, it’s my fault car racing is a part of my memories these days. Living in Northwest Colorado, there are plenty of opportunities to relive my childhood on a regular basis. Of course, there is the demolition derby each year at the Routt County Fair. But just a few minutes away, the Hayden Speedway offers the same grassroots love of racing that was found in places like Lakeside and Englewood when I was growing up.
Englewood closed in 1979, and my love of heading to the track to watch Figure 8 races was lost to whatever went through a 13-year-old’s mind back then. It wasn’t until years later that I realize those nights at the speedway had stayed with me through the years.
We are fortunate in Northwest Colorado, because we have events like the demolition derby that take us back to a time when a mud track and an old car could make your heart pump a little faster. We are fortunate because this event, and those that take place at the Hayden Speedway, can take us back to a simpler time, a time when a great night included packing into the car with your family and taking in a show in which nobody knew the eventual ending.
The summer may be winding down, but the Hayden Speedway still has two events on it’s schedule, including the Aug. 22 Rumble in the Rockies Sprint Car Races and the Sept. 12 season finale.
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