Figure 8 is great, crazy and colorful at Bloomsburg Fair
BLOOMSBURG - An early-1990s compact car. No windows. Covered in spray-paint. An interior stripped to the bone.
Only at a dirt track would you find someone smiling ear to ear at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of a car like that.
Bloomsburg Fair hosted Championship Double Figure 8 Racing Saturday afternoon on a temporary dirt track at the grandstand. About 80 racers hauled some colorful beaters to whip around the track. Top prize was $700.
"It's an adrenaline rush," said Steve Brown, of Bloomsburg, seated on the hood of his 1993 Ford Escort wagon. He's been racing double figure eights about 15 years and said he's been itching all week to do it again.
"I'll still be hyped up tonight when it's all over," he said.
To get his Escort race-ready, Brown said its tire rods were reinforced, its gas tank chained and its interior stripped of nearly everything but a front seat and a steering wheel.
Like nearly every other car, it was decorated in spray-paint.
Joe Young, of Benton, has been racing for seven years; said he won last year's race at the fair. His car this year was a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier. It had a bright blue paint job and a Superman decal on the hood. With some cleaned-up hub caps, his may have been the best looking car at the track.
Keep in mind, he bought it at a scrap yard.
"Time well wasted, I guess," he joked about his hobby.
Spectators at the event on Saturday would have to agree. Along with the drivers, there were hundreds looking on from the grandstand and a few more sneaking peeks from a fence, cheering on the winners and cheering more loudly for the collisions.
Drivers took the track in groups, usually eight cars. Placed between the grandstand and the main stage, the dirt track was simple: three large tractor tires, tons of dirt and jersey barriers on the perimeter.
Given the go, racers zipped around the tires for eight laps, bumping, rubbing and spinning out along the way. Bumpers and fenders got knocked off. So did some exhaust pipes. Some cars quit running after getting smacked in a collision. They were towed away at the end of the race. At least one had a few flames spread under the hood before being extinguished.
The winners were often aggressive around the turns, patient when rammed by a competitor and daring when dodging cross-traffic through the figure eights.
The Cavalier seemed to be the top model of choice. That's what Michelle Pruden was driving - adorned with pink and black checkers to boot - when she won her heat. She crawled from inside over the dashboard and onto the hood, standing up and throwing two clenched fists into the air. The crowd loved it. She got a trophy and a ticket to the feature race.
"I think they all are kind of rooting for me because I'm a girl," Pruden said.
She agreed that patience is key to driving figure eight races. "You want to go fast but you don't want to mess up your front-end going through the intersection," she said.
Young said it takes a little luck to win these races. Takes some skill, too. Brown said the same.
"It's not really the car. It's the driver," he said.
Final race results weren't available late Saturday. It's not clear winning was as important as the racing was anyway, for the drivers or the spectators.
"You get to crash into people legally," Kevin Mains, of Kulpmont, said leading up to his heat. He was driving a 2003 Ford Escort on loan from SOS Metals and has a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice for the annual demolition derby, scheduled for 1 p.m. on the fair's final day next Saturday.