The two drivers pushed the accelerator pedals to the floor. The engines roared as they hurtled toward each other. Their cars slammed together, the violence of the collision evident in the wham and crumpling sheet metal, the two drivers pitching forward, their seat belts straining.

Then they backed up and did it again. And again. And again.

After the fourth bone-jarring collision. They backed up and moved to another area of the track to try a different strategy.

This was a typical Saturday night demolition derby at the Goodhue County Fair. The two drivers were the remaining competitors in a contest that started with a dozen cars. 

But these two drivers were not the typical competitors in a demolition derby. Both were women, part of a small but growing group pushing their way into a male-dominated sport.

The men in the competition sat in their disabled cars watching the two women battle for the $800 check that came with winning the class – mid-size cars with drivers 21 years old and younger.

Taylor Kish, the class winner, has been racing for the past four years since she was 16. Like many of the women racing at the Goodhue County Fair she started because her dad and brothers had raced and competed in demolition derbies. 

“I started because all my brothers and my dad do it, so I had to start,” she said.

Kish’s opponent when it came down to two cars was Sidney Majerus, who was in her first race. Still Majerus was familiar with Kish and knew about her reputation as a competitor. The two grew up next door neighbors.

“She’s my neighbor,” Majerus said. “I know that she usually wins, so I was trying to avoid her.”

After their bone-jarring competition, the two women embraced and talked on the track while Majerus waited for her car to be towed off the track.

“It was really fun to run with her,” Kish said. “I really enjoyed that. It was fun to be out there with a girl I knew, and I had fun with her.”

What did they talk about after the race?

“I told her she did real good for her first derby and that I was amazed because she had some pretty darn hard hits,” Kish said.

The two women were competing in the demolition derby. The previous night, the grandstand attraction was autocross – kind of a combination of stock car racing and demolition derby. In autocross, drivers race around the dirt track. Pushing somebody onto a bank on the small oval is common.

The autocross competition features a “powder puff” class for women. There is no women only class in the demolition derby.

Altogether in the two competitions there were about two dozen women competing. There were well over 100 men. Many of the women competing were like Majerus, driving in their first competition.

Keera Krauss, a 29-year-old from Rochester, was in her first race driving a minivan in competition that included men.

“We got to get more women in here,” she said, adding her strategy was to “put it in first and give her hell.”

She had a plea to other drivers painted on the back of her van: “Be gentle to me, I’m a girl.’

Not everybody wanted to be treated gently.

Miranda Woodward races in both autocross and demolition derbies.

“Getting to compete is something I love to do,” she said. “I played sports almost my entire life, so now that I’m not playing those anymore, I moved into the competitive derby and autocross world.”

She likes the demolition derby more than autocross.

“I feel it is a little bit more competitive,” she said. “You have to be more strategic.”

Then she added: “I kind of enjoy smashing the boys around.”

Erin Ganrud from Zumbrota has the same attitude. She just turned 19 this month and is in her first year of autocross racing. She skips the powder puff class and goes up against the guys in the compact car class.

Why?

“I got to emasculate the men.”

Jenna Sommers of Lake City just competes in the powder puff.

“It’s a really fun thing to do … be out there at the track with the girls and just have a good time,” she said.

Cassandra Hall is a 21-year-old interior design student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout who competes in the demolition derby.

She likes to be a daredevil.

“Usually I get nervous and a lot of adrenaline before I go out there,” Hall said. “And then when you get out there you forget about everything.”

Saturday night she got knocked out of the derby early. 

The intake fell off on her car and the fuel sensor wasn’t reading properly causing her engine to shut off.

“I was hitting hard. I wanted to let some anger out,” she said. “I probably should have saved my front end.”

What about first time driver Sidney Majerus, who came in second in her first derby? Will she be out there the following week?

“If the car can work by then.” 

 

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