YORK – For the past 34 years, the voice of the York County Fair Demolition Derby and Figure 8 Races has been Doug Becker.
Not only has Becker announced at the York County Fair, but he has also done the same in Crete and Geneva, and in 2013 he took his talents to the Nebraska State Fair’s Figure 8 Racing card.
“Back when I started, the Jaycees were the ones who organized and put together the Demolition Derbies and I can’t recall the guy’s name, but he asked if I wanted to announce at the Demolition Derby and I thought I’d give a try,” Becker said.
“Back in the 80s and 90s there was no Figure Eight racing. The demolition derbies have kind of went by the wayside, just because in figure eight the goal is not to bang up into each other. There just are not that many old cars out there anymore, so the drivers are trying to keep their cars working for as long as they can.”
Becker worked for several years at the York Country Club and now works at KAWL. He has also tried out his skills as a driver.
“I drove the KAWL Crusher car at Aurora one year and it was my first and my last time,” Becker said.
“We had the little red antenna on top of the car representing the radio station and the biggest problem we had was the car kept stalling. We weren’t smart enough to have the push button start installed, and every time I tried to get the key into the ignition I would get hit and have to start over again. I looked back through the back window and I saw this black station wagon getting ready to hit me. He hit me so hard that I hit my chin on the steering wheel and he jarred me pretty good. I couldn’t move my neck for the next three or four days. That was the end of my driving days.”
Becker says the area has produced some pretty darn good drivers and races, but the one demolition derby that he recalls took place in Geneva.
“It came down to the Turner brothers, one’s name was Chad and the other name escapes me right now,” he said.
“They were the only two drivers left in the race and they decided to settle it by lining up, one at each end, and just going full speed into each other. It was like the shootout at the OK Corral. Those boys revved up their engines and hit each other so hard.
“Another one was the time the axle, the tire and the wheel broke away from a car and went right through the driver’s side window on one of the Demuth brothers’ cars. This was down in Crete and he had to be taken to the Crete hospital. He was OK, but that was a pretty scary scene.”
Becker said the sport has really evolved with all the safety features that are now required in cars and the changes to the rules in the Figure 8 racing.
“When they first started driving in figure eight, running into each other was OK as long as you were not purposely trying to hit the other car. Now they try to avoid contact at all cost, because if you run into another driver you risk being black flagged and disqualified from the race,” Becker said.
“They have two divisions in figure eight racing, the stock and the open class. I really enjoy the open class. They are loud and anything goes. Safety requirements have changed and are pretty standard now for both classes. The open class drivers run with high-dollar motors and really get after it.”
Becker said the Demuth brothers, Collin and Creighton, are two drivers who come to mind from the area. He added that he’s been doing this for so long he has started to see the sons of the dads he used to cover.
“My son, Dax, used to be called Stickman, because he would go around and hand out the sticks to the drivers to put on their cars,” Becker said. “Those were used in the demolition derby events and the drivers would place them outside their driver’s window, so that when they could no longer compete, they broke the stick to indicate to the other competitors that they were done and could not be hit.
“There have been a few times when the cars have come pretty close to hitting the crow’s nest, but so far I have not been knocked out of the crow’s nest on to the track.”
Becker said he looks at the car and drivers registry before a race to make sure he can pronounce the names correctly and he’ll look up bios on the drivers to have that information as well.
“I just want to make sure I can pronounce the names without a mistake and I like to know where they are from, what kind of car they drive and any other information that I can use during the race.
“It’s been a fun 30 years and even though I say every year this will be my last, I don’t have any plans right now to stop,” Becker said. “It’s a lot of fun and I guess until they get tired of me or find someone else, I am going to keep doing it.”
Well, the end of Becker’s announcing career came on Saturday night at the York County Fair where he closed the book with his swan song performance.
**Most of this story first ran in the York News-Times in 2014**