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By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Demolition derby fans got to witness one of the best main heats in a number of years in the no-weld division of the Imperial Jaycee’s Chase County Fair demo derby Thursday night.
This year’s derby drew 16 cars in the no-weld division, five in the weld division and two in the truck division.
With 16 cars in the no-weld division, three different heats were held followed by a consolation round that gave drivers a chance to get their car back to the main heat.
The main heat of the no-weld featured 11 cars in an arena that was enlarged this year.
With five places on the line, the 11 drivers were focused on getting into the money.
Jared Sharp of Imperial keep his car going to earn fifth place and Jason Gohl of Culbertson finished fourth.
Then the battle for first began.
Matt Newcomb of Eustis, Chad Cochran of Imperial and Denis Vandike of Benkelman battled for the top money.
With each refusing to go down, demo fans were treated to a knock-down, drag-out battle for first.
Each of the three jockeyed for position, trying to knock the others out of the derby.
It was Newcomb who finally went down first, leaving Cochran and Vandike to battle it out.
Numerous times, it looked like Cochran was out, only to get his car’s engine fired back up to go hit Vandike some more.
Vandike kept his car going despite blowing out his radiator system.
Cochran then seized his chance, ramming Vandike nearly head-on, trying to take him out. Instead, it was Cochran’s car that suffered the most damage and went down for a final time.
Vandike was able to fire his car up and inch ahead to claim the top prize.
In the weld division, Shane Rippen of Culbertson pounded on the other four cars for first and was able to drive his car out of the arena at the end of the weld main.
Two drivers competed in the truck division with Gerald Peterman of Benkelman in a 1985 GMC Jimmy and J.J. Howard of Goodland, Kan., in a Chevy Suburban.
The size of Howard’s suburban allowed him to dominate Peterman’s Jimmy. Despite just two in the heat, the pair put on a good show.
At one point, officials stopped the heat because the two had locked up and had to be separated for the heat to continue.
Demo derby results
No-weld division: 1st, Denis Vandike, Benkelman, $1,000; 2nd, Chad Cochran, Imperial, $700; 3rd, Matt Newcomb, Eustis, $450; 4th, Jason Gohl, Culbertson, $200; 5th, Jared Sharp, Imperial, $100. Heat flag winners: Heat 1, Sharp; Heat 2, Vandike; Heat 3, Tayler Jensen, Parks.
Weld division: 1st, Shane Rippen, Culbertson, $1,200; 2nd, Mike Stalder, Beaver City, $800; 3rd, Jared Williams, Grant, $500 (+ flag winner); 4th, Bryan Newcomb, Kearney, $250; 5th, Alex Pollman, Trenton, $100.
Truck division: 1st, J.J. Howard, Goodland, Kan., $500; 2nd, Gerald Peterman, Benkelman, $200.