Home-run derby? Twisted Metal Crew puts on big show

It’s been a while since Ryan Tittle has torn it up inside a demolition derby arena, but he was still smiling after Saturday’s annual show at the Seneca County Fair.

He and the rest of the Twisted Metal Demo Crew had just overseen nearly 60 entries spread out over six divisions entertain a capacity crowd.

It was a long cry from just a few years ago.

“Four years ago, they almost shut the derby down,” Tittle said. “The last two years, the fire department shut the grandstand down for being too full. This year they brought in 700 more seats and they still didn’t have enough seats.

“The last three years, we’ve been putting on a hell of a show out here; really brought the derby back,” he said. “Before we took it over, they had nine total entries – pickup trucks, cars and compacts all combined, nine cars total. I think we put 50 some cars on the track tonight, close to 60.”

Getting to that point took a little work.

Tittle and others got together to form Twisted Metal Demo Crew, taking over the organizing and running of a demolition derby. Experience helped, said Tittle, explaining that nearly every one on the crew had taken part in demo derbies in the past.

“We knew we could turn things around. We love it, and the crowd loves it,” Tittle said

And it’s been like that everywhere Twisted Metal Demo Crew has gone.

The group started with a show at the Seneca County Fair a few years ago and soon added derbies at Ottawa County, Oak Harbor, Wyandot County and Hancock County.

Crowds and entrants have grown along the way.

“Everywhere we go, they sell out the grandstand,” Tittle said. “They know we’re going to put on a good show.”

That continued Saturday.

Don Walter led off the night by outlasting Brandon Daniels for the win in the lawn mower division. Scott Craft finished third.

The division with the fewest entries followed – youth.

Each of the four drivers had to have a licensed adult in the passenger seat.

Zach Estep took the $300 prize for the win, followed by Carson Pitcher ($200) and Gavin Wilson ($50).

The compacts entered the concrete arena next, with Bret Lajti taking the $800 top prize. Joe Myer claimed second ($400), Wesley Cooley took third ($200) and Chuck Difenthaler ended fourth ($100).

The $1,000 top prize in the stock division went to Vernon Hites. Eric Reinhart captured second ($500), followed by Richard Hites ($250), Cole Kaiser ($150) and Josh Messersmith ($100).

The full-size car division had 11 entries, with Scott Theil eventually earning the $2,000 grand prize.

Runner-up Jake Phillips claimed $1,000, followed by Thomas Osborne ($500), Bill Woodford ($250) and Kurtis Zeigler ($150).

Richard Hites and Osborne also each picked up the Mad Dog prize, which was a set of tires donated by Circle H Tires. Those winners were determined each of those two two divisions via a voice vote by the fans.

The night’s final contest featured the most entries, as 16 trucks crowded in and forced drivers to line up along two sides of the arena.

The trucks proved to be a crowd favorite, getting hung up on and sometimes pushed over the concrete barriers, flipping over and even having tires come off.

Garret Danner survived the motorized melee to claim a $2,500 prize.

Buck Platt took second ($1,000), followed by Richard Patton ($500), Richard Hites ($250) and Tyler Zehring ($150).