Corey Near wins Chautauqua County Fair Demolition Derby finale

With a chance to reach the state demolition derby championship up for grabs, 14 cars took part in the large car feature Sunday evening at the Budweiser Grandstand on the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds. After a series of huge hits, three cars remained.

Johnny Krupa and Corey Near of Dunkirk, along with Jarod Talbot of Salamanca, delivered blow after blow. Talbot tried hard to keep his car going despite the back end smashed, but he had to quit after the two rear tires blew out. Once Krupa could not get his car going for another round, Near became the victor. Out of his car he jumped as friends, family and fellow drivers came to congratulate him.

Near said he has worked on producing a solid car and taking part in the demo for 10 years. After six months working on his car, he won for the first time. Commenting on the victory, he said there’s a little strategy involved in order to succeed.

“You have to hit the tires and know exactly where to hit them,” Near said. “And you also have to try and pop the radiator to disable and weaken the car.”

Near said that he’s going to save the car and work on it to bring it back to next year’s demolition derby. Now that he’s heading to the state championship in Syracuse, he will be working on a new car to compete in.

Fourteen cars smashed and crashed in the small feature final. But before the start, three cars did not want to start and had to exit from the competition. The feature saw cars flying from one end to another, bringing some big hits and cheers to the packed crowd. The final two cars, Brian Gonzalos of Springville and Don Scharf of Westfield, remained. Gonzalos came out on top once Scarf could not move.

In the first heat, first-time driver Kelly Dougherty of Fredonia beat out 18 other drivers in the win. Dougherty felt great after the win.

“I just went out there and hit other cars as hard as I could,” Dougherty said.

In the fourth heat, 11 large cars entered for a chance to reach the large car feature. Wayne Clemens of Fredonia went out, competed and won with a heavy heart. His father, Dennis Sr., died last year.

“It’s not the same thing without him,” Clemens said. “I’m doing this for him.”

This is Clemens’ 30th year building cars and competing in the demo, and he mentioned that he had no aches or pains. He spent six months working on his car, and his work showed as his car zoomed around the track nailing cars.

Angelo Guzzett of Farnham came in second.

John Robinson of Stockton became the victor in the fifth heat with Keven Sealy of Jamestown placing second. Robinson donated the earnings from the heat to Brennen Maddux and Team Brennen. The 5-year-old boy from Brocton was diagnosed with progeria, a rare disease of accelerated aging in children.

In the second heat, 38 small cars were slated to compete. Since there were a lot of cars competing, the heat was split in half with 20 cars participating in the first half and 18 in the other half. Robert and Jade Frank of Fredonia finished first and second in the first part of the heat. David King of Cattaraugus finished first in the second part with Chuck Dillenburg of Sheridan placing second.

King pumped up the crowd during the last stages of the heat as he backed his van into the few cars remaining. King’s van was the only one in the heat.

“I chose the van because I could demo it here,” King said.

Before the crashing and bashing commenced, the best paint job contest between 10 cars was voted on by the audience. Winner of the contest was Keith Martell of Dunkirk.

Near will head to the state fair to compete at the state championship on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m. to end the fair.

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