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Demo derby drivers crush competition

Demolition derby drivers Lance Pritchett and Bob Meier of Park Rapids have added notable trophies to their collection, having claimed a victory in "one of the biggest derbies in the U.S., possibly in the world" in September.

Bob Meier and Lance Pritchett
Demo derby drivers Bob Meier (left) and Lance Pritchett took firsts in the recent Team Xplosion event. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Demolition derby drivers Lance Pritchett and Bob Meier of Park Rapids have added notable trophies to their collection, having claimed a victory in "one of the biggest derbies in the U.S., possibly in the world" in September.

Their win at the Team Xplosion event in Nebraska was notable in that both were driving "new cars" - 1980 or later - as opposed to the standard "old iron" contraptions, that, until now, have claimed last dog standing distinction in derbies.

"It's great, definitely big," said Pritchett, whose parents pioneered demo derbies in the Park Rapids area. "I'm still excited."

And the phone hasn't stopped ringing - with congratulations from fellow drivers from across the Midwest.

Pritchett and Meier joined their "Rage Racing" teammates Brian Cyr of Glyndon and Brett Grunewald of West Fargo, N.D. in the Columbus, Neb. event in late September. Cyr and Grunewald drove old iron cars. They competed against 15 teams in four-on-four heats.

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"It's four of ours against four of the others," Pritchett explained. The four Rage Racers moved on to the feature event, comprised of seven teams, two "consolidation."

"When it was done, it was just us," the Great Northern Café chef said of himself and Meier, a mechanic at Park Rapids Auto Centre.

Meier was navigating an '85 Lincoln Town Car, Pritchett an'86 Lincoln.

"The challenge for us was huge," Pritchett said. "I've won hundreds of derbies as an old iron driver," (cars made before 1978), six alone this summer. "But this is the first derby we've won in 'new' cars.

"That's what made it a huge accomplishment. No one has won a team derby in a new car," since they were added to the competition four years ago, Pritchett explained.

As team members, drivers work together - to a point. A driver can hit a fellow teammate off another car or hold a car against another so it can't move. "We did well together, because we ran together so long," Pritchett said.

The demo derby drivers claimed three firsts and seconds in individual contests this summer. The team event was the first time both lugged home first place victories.

Meier and Pritchett became acquainted about six years ago, Meier running compact cars in demo derbies at the time. Pritchett introduced him to the "full-sized" machines "and we've been working together ever since." The newer cars were added to keep costs down, old iron cars becoming a scarcity. "But it's hard to compete in new cars," Pritchett said.

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"In the last demo derby, the top 10 were all old iron cars," Meier said, considered the "better" car. "So we had to work harder."

Keys to winning, Meier explained are peripheral vision, good instincts and experience.

That and working nights and weekends to ready the sedans for the competition. It takes about three weeks to build a "new" car for competition. This compares with six days' labor to ready an old iron. (Lights on after hours at Park Rapids Auto Centre indicate the motor masterminds are at work.)

As the field of the pro-class derby was narrowed and Prichett saw a win in sight, he began "yelling, screaming" inside the car. "Because this was something new for me," the veteran driver said.

Declared winners, fans Pritchett met four years ago ran out from the stands with beer. He figured he was about to be toasted after the win, a beer welcome. But was doused, ale poured over his head.

The foursome split $9,000, each lugging home a gargantuan trophy.

As for the cars, they will be dismantled and rebuilt, heading back to the Cornhusker state in January for another team "bash."

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