Settle it in the mud.
That’s Redneck Rampage’s motto, Jason Dials said.
Dials, Ottawa, and other members of the Redneck Rampage group compete in demolition derbies across Kansas — most recently Saturday night’s derby at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Ottawa.
“I’ve been competing in demo derbies for about 13 years,” Dials said. “It’s something that’s a little safer than bull riding.”
Dials competes in derbies across the area, including those in Paola and Lawrence, he said. Some drivers are in it for the money, Dials said, but he does it for the rush.
“I’m in it for fun, not to make money,” he said. “Granted I’ve won a lot of shows, but I don’t drive enough anymore to make it a business as there are people out there who do make it a business.”
Cars tend to take a beating during demolition derbies, Dials said, and he’s gone through his fair share of vehicles.
“When I first started, I’d run 20 derbies a year,” he said. “That’s 20 cars if you went to a weld show, then you could get a couple good shows out of one car. So I would say probably 40 cars is what I’ve gone through.”
DIFFERENT DEMO DERBIES
There are a few different types of demolition derbies, Dials said. In a “chain and bang,” a car doesn’t last as long because of the modification rules, he said.
“In a chain and bang [derby], you can’t really modify your car any,” he said. “You can put a cage in your car, relocate the gas tank and weld the bumper on. You chain the doors shut and chain the hood shut, but the car bends a lot faster.”
The other type of competition is a weld class, he said. More modifications are allowed to cars in this derby, and the car can withstand more hard hits.
“In a weld class, you can weld a ton of stuff on the car,” Dials said. “You can weld the frame, doors, trunks — basically everything you can’t do in the chain and bang.”
Though the cars might not last as long in a chain and bang derby, Dials said he prefers those competitions over the weld derbies.
“It’s a lot less money and a lot more fun, I think,” he said. “And there’s less cheating.”
Dials said he likes the chain and bang better because it’s a class anyone can enter and compete without having to put a lot of money into a car, whereas the weld class costs more to build and prepare a car.
“An everyday Joe or somebody that’s never done a derby before can build a car in a week and have a blast,” he said. “Everybody’s car bends the same, but you don’t have certain people dominating [the derby] by their cars being overbuilt.”
Demolition derbies are safe for the most part, Dials said, but just like any sport, there’s a risk of getting hurt, so proper precautions must be taken.
“There are some dangers [in demo derbies], but they make the rules based on trying to protect the driver,” he said. “We have to wear a helmet, and a lot of derbies make us wear a fire jacket. Every once in awhile, you’ll get a car that catches fire under the hood.”
The danger of getting hurt doesn’t stop Dials from competing, he said. Competing in demolition derbies gets his adrenaline pumping, and working on the cars allows for some fun family time, he said.
“I’ve been doing it for 13 years and still before I go I get the butterflies,” he said. “Some people go to bars and go drinking, I prefer to go to my garage and work on my car. The kids help me and they get to paint it all up and write everything.”
HANDING OVER THE REINS
The number of his car and the colors with which he chose to paint it have meaning, Dials said. His paint job has changed a bit since he first started from black and white, now going with colors he’s allowed his daughters to pick out.
“Everyone has their own set of numbers,” he said. “My number is 11 [because it] was my high school baseball number, and my colors are black and pink. When my daughters got older, they wanted to paint the car, and I asked what they wanted to paint it and they picked pink and purple. I said I didn’t want purple, so we’ll go with pink. So for five years, [pink and black] have been my colors.”
Dials placed fourth at the demolition derby Saturday night after winning his heat and advancing to the feature event, he said. Once he wins an Ottawa demolition derby, he said, he’ll be able to stop competing, but he won’t be able to stay away for long.
“That’s my one goal — if I win Ottawa, maybe I can quit,” he said. “But now I’ve got my boy, he turned 14 in February and he [competed] in the lawn mower [heat], so he’s anxious to drive. I may quit driving, but I’ll hand everything over to Alex and he’ll take the reins.”