Let’s get ready to rumble…on four wheels, that is.
The Demolition Derby at the Ottawa County Fair is set for Friday, July 19, at 7 pm.
Demolition derby, a motorsport that involves ramming the other drivers’ cars until your car is the only one left running, has its many fans across the United States.
Joe Lenke, of Oak Harbor, is one such fan. So much so that he decided at the age of 18 to start banging his car with the best of them.
“I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I just love it,” Lenke, 29, said. “It is the adrenaline rush, and the camaraderie of the people. There is a whole derby community that likes to go out and have a good time.”
The 2003 Oak Harbor High School graduate travels across the state and the country to compete. He has won in 2001 in Loraine County, 2008 in Oak Harbor, and in 2010 in Erie County.
In demolition derby, competitors may use full-size, American made sedans or station wagons. The Ottawa County Fair has several classes of cars in the derby including 1980’s or newer full-size cars, compact cars and minivans.
Car owners typically modify the vehicles including taking out all of the glass in the car before going into the automotive gladiator ring.
Lenke will be competing in a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria. His number L3 car is sponsored by Otis Motors, Danner’s Towing and Recycling, and Phillips Excavating.
“I am a Ford guy,” Lenke said. “I like the way the frames are. They are a better car with a full frame, not a uni-body. I have my own motor and transmission I switch out between cars.”
Lenke said he has 60 hours into the building of the car. He said drivers typically spend $1,000 - $5000 on their rides, depending on the car they buy.
Lenke’s engines are built by his father Otis, of Otis Motors, in Oak Harbor. His father Otis, along with his brother, Matt, and friend, Billy Estep, will serve on his pit crew during the event.
“I have won second place at the fair once so I really want to win this one,” Lenke said. “It all comes down to who is the last man standing. It feels awesome when you smoke another car and back away. Just awesome.”
The cars will be competing on the horse track this year, Lenke said, which will be turned into a mud pit with the addition of water. Mud slows the vehicles down and adds to the competition, he said adding he has seen people get hurt before.
“I have seen some guys have to be hauled away because they blacked out after getting hit,” Lenke said. “For the most part it is safe. Although I did break my wrist last year in Washington Court House, Ohio, I usually do not get hurt too bad. I usually get back aches, whiplash, and some bruises. It takes me about a week to recover, but, usually it is nothing major.”
Although Lenke’s wife, Stephanie, is not all too thrilled with the derby, the couple’s two children, Jake, 5, and Abigail, 4, love to cheer their dad on.
“It really is very entertaining,” he said. “This sport is for anyone who loves to see mud flying, cars smashing into each other, and the sound of motors. People just need to come on out and enjoy it.”