Duel at the derby: Kids steal the show
The Hubbard County Fair's signature event attracted thousands and didn't disappoint.
But it was the human drama going on in the drivers' seats that captured the demolition derby's compact heat - and the audience's hearts.
It was a show of sportsmanship that adds to the legacy of an event.
Behind the wheel of a red Chevy Lumina, numbered 22, sat 20-year-old Andrew Carmichael.
Fourteen-year-old Lucas Pritchett, driving in his first race, was behind the wheel of a red orange car called "73 Jr.," a reference to his demolition derby veteran father Lance.
The Nissan Sentra had been custom fitted by 3 inches to accommodate Lucas' legs, which didn't quite reach the pedals.
Lucas, by the way, doesn't have a driver's license yet. His dad had to sign a notarized permission slip to get his son into his first race.
Behind the scenes, Joe St. Clair inspected the vehicles for any welds that might reinforce the cars, for extra metal that might make them heavier.
"I don't check the engines," St. Clair said. "I don't care if they run. That's their problem."
Towheaded Lucas stood with his dad and all the guys. He wasn't nervous before his first race, but the waiting was tough, he admitted.
The compact heat followed the pickup demolition. In a first ever, the pickup drivers split the winnings when their trucks could not be pried apart.
Then five compact cars entered the arena. Carmichael got off to a quick start demolishing the competition.
But he left #73 Jr. alone or only tapped him. The unspoken message was, "I've got your back, buddy."
Eventually three vehicles stopped running and Carmichael and Pritchett were the only cars able to move.
There was a moment of drama when fire personnel checked Lucas over after a nasty hit that pushed him into the dirt wall.
Carmichael, who was in a clear position to win, began waving his arms to guide young Luke into his own car. At one point Luke gave the thumbs up when he'd struck Andrew's car in a direct hit.
Andrew kept guiding him. "This way, this way," his arms seemed to say.
Luke followed the instructions and bashed the Lumina a few more times. Andrew eventually raised his flagstick in surrender, jumped out of his car and ran to congratulate the winner.
Lucas Pritchett had captured his first event.
Andrew has never won.
"I'm so proud of him," said Connie Carmichael of her son.
As family and friends surrounded the winner and Lance Pritchett beamed the proud grin of a father, Lucas was asked why his mom wasn't there to congratulate him.
"I think she's probably home crying," the teen said.
So was Andrew's mom. But she wasn't shedding the tears of a mom dreading the choices her son was about to make.
She was crying because at that moment she knew she'd raised her son to make the right choice.