When Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” drowns out a cheering crowd eagerly waiting for an array of old American cars to start ramming one another in the mud, you can only be at one place: a demolition derby.
Spectators flocked to the Deseret Peak Complex in Grantsville on Aug. 7 for Punishment at the Peak, one of the first big shows of its kind to be put on since COVID-19 largely shut them down in 2020.
“Last year was pretty tough on drivers,” said Del McQuiddy, owner and operator of Whiplash Racing, which put on the sold-out event. “It’s our life; it’s what we do.”
The point of demolition derby is to smash your beastly car into the other beastly cars, leaving them as mangled and abused as possible. Looking like they drove straight out of a 1970s chase flick, the cars are essentially gutted, then modified to handle heavy impact while still protecting a helmeted driver inside.
In the stock event, Dalton Gullo from Ogden placed second and won the coveted “Mad Dog” title for most aggressive driver, even though he ended up having to bail when heavy smoke started pouring out of his 1973 Impala.
Gullo, who’s a deputy with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, also drove a blue 1977 Monte Carlo with “Back the blue” written in white on the side. He drives under the number 16 — an homage to his mom, Jeri, who was the first member of the Gullo family to compete in demolition derbies and drove under the number 6. Dalton’s dad, Johnny, stood by in the pits Saturday to keep both cars in fighting shape.
McQuiddy was happy to see drivers from all over the U.S. after the long break. “Every derby,” he said, “is like a dysfunctional family reunion.”
The demolition derby community is tightly knit, Gullo said. Contestants may be out for blood in the arena, but behind the scenes, they’re willing to supply whatever parts a stalled-out driver might need to get back to crashing and thrashing. “It’s a really cool community to be a part of,” he said.
But enough with the mushy stuff. On that Saturday, when the announcer decided the cars weren’t hitting one another hard enough, he shouted, “We’re not playing bumper cars, this is demolition derby.”