Willoughby's Tom Powell got his first lesson in demolition derby at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds last summer. Powell, a 53-year-old master technician at Mazda-Saab of Bedford, placed second in his first derby behind 21-year-old Ashley "Smashley" Saponari of North Royalton. Older, wiser and a little sorer, Powell returns to the event this year.
I've always been a gearhead. ... If it's got wheels, I'll race it. I became the driver of this car by default. I basically showed up with my helmet in my hand. The car was a Saab, and I've been a genuine Saab freak since 1984. There were about 20 cars in the final, and I was trying to chase Saponari down on three wheels. By the end, my car had 2 miles on it. You try and save the front of the car and do as much with the back end as you can. You don't have much room to operate and things happen a lot faster than it looks. It's like a bumper car on steroids: You're getting in six car accidents per minute. I'm no spring chicken, so I was a bit sore after. ... My mother doesn't know I do this. —as told to Barry Goodrich