'You Gotta Keep Smashin' And Smashin' And Smashin'!'

A postcard from a summer staple: the demolition derby. The "demos" have their roots on New York's Long Island, where fans got a thrill from accidental race car crashes. Now at Riverhead Raceway in Riverhead, N.Y., drivers and spectators relish the thrill and excitement of crashing cars on purpose.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's summertime, and on weekend nights all across the country, that means demolition derby time - cars bashing cars for the pure thrill of it. Charles Lane from member station WSHU recently went to a demo on New York's Long Island, the legendary home of the demolition derby. He brought back this audio postcard.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Fire it up...

CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: A white four-door Chevy Impala. It's got graffiti writing down the side that says Misery Machine, and it's number 86.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: They call me Mad Mike. You got to get angry. And to win, you know, you got to keep smashing and smashing and smashing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I've been doing it, I guess, for a while now but I'll still get light-footed, where my foot will start shaking and you get the queasiness in the stomach because you don't know what's going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Cars are going in every different direction. Cars are hitting each other and spinning out and smoke and steam and...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: And the gas tank came undone, flames shot out of his zoomie pipes and they ignited.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: I got out. My right shoe actually melted to the gas pedal. My left shoe melted to the driver's floor. And I got out. And my sister came down, ripped my sweatshirt off, my helmet off, and I stripped down to my boxers. No, I was naked. I was naked in front of the middle of the racetrack. And I turned to my sister and said, everyone's going to see my doodle.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: The show begins.

CROWD: Two, one, go.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: It's upside down.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: He won. It's done.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: The green flag dropped. I hit a couple of cars. A couple of cars hit me. Then it was me and Petey and we were demoing and I turned around and he was out. So, I got out of the car, ran over to him to help him out 'cause he's my friend and he flipped over. So, we wanted to help him get out of the car. And then I looked back and there was only one car running and I knew I had to take out that one car.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #10: My favorite part of the demolition derby is friendship. Through the demolition derby and the racing community, I have developed lifelong friends, over 20-something years.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #11: Well, between my boss helping me get the cars and my brother and the guys at the shop all helping me build the cars, it's really a big group thing. It's like a bonding thing for us. It keeps us out of trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #12: Go, go. Off the track.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: What do you mean you want to go home? We just started.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #13: Pete wants to go home. We started at 5 A.M. this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Oh, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #13: While you were still getting your beauty rest.

WERTHEIMER: That was the demolition derby at Riverhead Raceway on New York's Long Island. "Mad Mike" Smith came out on top, beating out Jason Savoy in the Misery Machine. "Pistol Pete" Mikos and "Jimmy the Kid" White - and since we're using monikers - the story was produced by Charles "The Awesome" Lane.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

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