New drivers finish well in fair derby

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When Team Murdock pulled in to register for the Park County Fair Demolition Derby, they revealed secret weapons: a new driver and a fresh car.

Tait Murdock couldn’t sleep before Saturday night’s derby, despite being an experienced driver. In the middle of the night, the owner of Powell’s Body and Paint by Tait body shop pulled apart the steering box to check bolts for rust. It was all an obsessive effort to ensure the car was as safe as possible.

But Tait wasn’t driving. Wife Christeena Murdock would be behind the wheel this time — her first derby run. She slept easy while Tait went over every possible scenario in his head. It wasn’t until about two hours before her debut that Christeena started to get nervous.

“I’ve wanted to do a derby since I was 16,” Christeena said before her heat. “Now I’m wondering what I was thinking all those years.”

Going into the night, she didn’t expect to be the only woman in the derby. Tabitha Armstong was forced to postpone her debut due to issues with her car. Armstrong hopes to be ready by Smashtoberfest, she said while watching the action from the sidelines. Race official Don Adams said it’s rare for women to enter the derby. Only one female enters the derby about every six or seven years, Adams said.

Christeena said this was going to be a one-time thing. She planned to hand the 1975 Pontiac Catalina to her stepson, recent Powell High School grad Carson Murdock, for his first attempt in the arena. But that was before she won the second heat of the limited weld division.

“I thought I’d be out in the first two hits because I’ve never done it before,” she said.

The first hit was all it took for her to start looking for revenge. Christeena won the heat and was on her way to a possible win in the finals until she lost reverse gear and got pinned in the northeast corner. Finals winner Kyle McIntosh, of Casper, attempted to get Christeena loose for one last collision, but she couldn’t make a tight enough turn to get back in action.

“I was hoping to battle it out with [Christeena] a little longer. She had a good car. It’s a shame she lost reverse,” McIntosh said.

Tait Murdock said his heart was pounding while watching his wife mix it up in the finals. After taking a particularly hard T-bone by Dereck Hutzenbieler in heat two, Christeena’s arm was sore. Hutzenbieler later made it to the finals through the grudge match and Christeena was apprehensive about the finals.

“It was definitely a lot more scary out there,” she said. “But it was awesome.”

Tait was thrilled with the second place finish and raced to her car for hugs as the black flags came out.

McIntosh was responsible for quite a few massive collisions on the night in his 1970 Dodge stationwagon. He won the $3,000 cash prize for first. After a donut in the mud at the end of the contest, he climbed out of his burnt-orange wagon, sat on the roof and took in the sweet demolition carnage with a smile on his face. His wagon was limping with two severely bent “A” arms.

The 80s class was folded into the limited weld group due to lack of participation. The truck class only had three entries, but ran alone.

Preston Blankenship, from Lovell, won in his 1979 Ford truck. He decided to go into the truck class by chance, happening on an appropriate junker for the contest. It was his first derby — and he’s hooked.

“I’m going to get serious now, because that was a blast,” Blankenship said after his win.

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