Thirty years of derby thrills

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CCM/Carol McIntire Brian Shuman closed out a 30-year run of demolition derbies at the 2023 Carroll County Fair Sunday night. He is shown above competing in the mini-van class where he fell short of his goal of winning, but came back to win the final event of the night - the pro-stock class.

By Carol McIntire
In 1993, a young Brian Shuman competed in the Carroll County Fair demolition derby with a 1985 Chevy station wagon he called “a rust bucket.”
Sunday night the Carrollton man closed out a 30-year career as a derby participant and promoter at the county fair level on the same derby track where he started: in front of a jam-packed grandstand at the Carroll County fair.
“It’s time,” he said before heading to the fairground Sunday afternoon for his farewell ride. “I’m going to be a grandpa in nine months. “Besides,” said the owner of Countryside Recycling, “I just don’t have the time to put into it.”
He reflected on the early days of derbies, saying,” Back then you bought a car for fifty bucks, knocked out the windows, put a bar behind the seat, moved the gas tank and you were ready to go.”
In the early days, just like today, the county fair demolition derby attracted huge crowds. Back then, the derby was only for county residents, but because of the low cost of getting a car ready, the infield at the fairground and racetrack filled up early in the day with kids of all ages ready to bang up some cars in front of a roaring crowd.
“There were probably 150 vehicles in the derby back then. We’d run 10 heats with 15 cars in each heat,” Shuman noted.
Over the years, the cars and money to get them ready have changed.
“Nowadays, you show up, run once and you’re done. “It costs more to buy a car and get it ready. The purses have blossomed for derbies but have not yet caught up to the cost of cars. Some derbies pay $25,000 to win.”
Shuman ran the derby circuit for several years, many of them with a 1971 Chevy wagon and, in 2004, won $10,000 in prize money.
For about seven years he owned a derby promotional company known as Mangled Metal Promotions. For several years, he managed the county fair demolition derby as well as events in the spring and fall of the year and traveled to Virginia, Maryland, Indiana and West Virginia to put on shows.
Shuman recalled the names of some of the drivers he “grew up” with, like Randy Bird.
“I think I’m about the last one standing,” he said. “It’s time to go.”
For Sunday’s fair demolition derby, Shuman purchased a pre-ran car (one that had been used in demolition derbies previously).
“I bought the car, put my motor in it and all my goodies to run the pro-stock class,” he said.
He also purchased a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van to compete in the stock- mini van, truck- SUV class.
Both had one thing in common when they entered the derby track Sunday at Carrollton: the red, white and blue No. 86 sign on the roof with the words “Mangled Metal Productions” printed on the metal.
The veteran driver may have saved his best performance for last.
Although he didn’t fare so well in the mini-van class due to a broken axle, Shuman came back in the last event of the evening to claim the victory.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said Monday after the win, admitting he was a “little stiff.” “It sucks that it’s over, but we got the win. It was a battle.”
He received a trophy and a $1,000 check.
Shuman said he has one more derby in the wings before he’s done for good.
“I closed out my county fair derbies where I started and this fall, I’ll close out my derby days for good,” he said.
He doesn’t plan to close out his career with just any derby – he’s headed to Kansas in November for the Super Bowl of demolition derbies.
“It pays $50,000 to win and I’ll be a member of a four-man team,” he explained. “You have to be invited to be a member of a team.”

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