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ON THE TRACK Area driver is a hit in demolition derby



Published: Sun, August 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bill Nagy from Hubbard has won other derbies, but Canfield's has always eluded him.

By PHIL NOVAK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- This year, Ken Bennett competes for his second straight Canfield Fair demolition derby title and his sixth overall.

But winning is nothing new to Bennett. With his victory last year at Canfield, he's won derby contests in each of the last five decades.

In fact, Bennett, 57, has won so many derby contests in his nearly 35 years of competing that he often gives away the trophies.

"My wife doesn't like dusting them anymore so I just give them away," he said.

The Berlin Center native works for Diver-Steel City Auto Crusher in Youngstown and competes in about one or two demolition derbies a year. But he used to drive in about eight to 10 a year.

"Kenny is kind of the guru of demolition derbies," said Bill Nagy, last year's runner-up to Bennett.

"He's been doing it for years. The guy he works for has been doing it since the '50s."

The "guru" first entered a derby in 1967.

Hooked: "I had watched a few and I just decided I wanted to try it," Bennett said. "I got hooked, and I've been doing it ever since.

"You remember the first one. You know when you're in a parking lot and someone takes your space and you just want to ram them? That's what it's like."

Bennett said he has driven in every Canfield Fair since 1985, and though he says every year that this will be his last, he keeps driving.

Because he was last year's winner, Bennett will be driving the No. 1 car, a blue 1975 Chevrolet Caprice. The derby begins at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Nagy, 34, hopes this will be his first win at the Canfield Fair after nearly 15 attempts.

"I've won in other derbies before, but Canfield has always eluded me," he said. "I have a really, really good car this year, so I have a good chance."

How he started: Nagy, who now lives in Hubbard but is originally from Boardman, said he first started in demolition derbies as a bet between friends.

"We all kind of took it up on a little contest to see who could do the best out of the five of us, and it kind of stuck with me and another friend," he said.

Nagy competes in two or three derbies a year at various fairs. He said the sport is dying because it is hard to find late '70s Chevrolet Caprices and Impalas, especially since the cars in the Canfield Fair need to be in pristine condition before the race begins.

"You can't use a car that's already been used," Nagy said. "And the car has to be as close to stock as possible, but we can move the battery."

There are few other rules, but cars cannot ram the driver's side door, and the last car running is the winner.

And although Nagy's 1976 Impala is ready to go, he said he still needs to paint it.

"I think it will be in red, white and blue," he said.




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