Mechanicsville, Maryland

Is there a more quintessentially American sport than Demolition Derby? Take some perfectly serviceable old cars and smash them into each other for the viewing pleasure of paying spectators.

A sensible soul might well feel unease at such a debased gladiatorial spectacle. It’s loud and dangerous, wasteful and stupid. And fun.

There may be some things offering more reckless excitement than a full-on derby, but you’ll have to take your clothes off to do them. After the first round, with ears buzzing and clods of mud stuck to my cameras and hair, the only thing I wanted to know was where do I sign up?

The cars, stripped of glass and with doors, hood and trunk welded shut, enter the arena in single file and line up. After a short countdown, it’s mayhem. Engines howl, smoke billows, metal crumbles with a sickening thud. Stomp the throttle into the floorboards and keep hitting ’till the tires come off. Then run the sumbitch on the rims. Last man moving wins.

This is a sport for guys who think Fight Club is for pussies.

The night’s big winner was Austin Davis, all 5′ 3″ of him. Driving a white ’68 Imperial with nothing short of murderous intent, Austin is barely 16 years old and doesn’t even have a driver’s license. His mom was absolutely beaming with pride, especially when he t-boned some poor bastard hard enough to knock him over the concrete barrier.

She says he is making excellent progress toward getting that learner’s permit.

Jume 19, 2009

Photographed with a Hasselblad 2000 FCM and Plungercam Lens. Neopan 400 black and white negative film.

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