21 questions with a demolition derby driver

Crash, bang, smash ‘em up: The always popular Kitsap Destruction Derby will return as part of this year’s Kitsap County Fair & Stampede at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 26.

We caught up with destruction derby driver Dan Pieze for 21 questions about derby racing before the fair’s famous fender-bender extravaganza.

Pieze, a member of the Kitsap Destruction Derby Association, is a regular racer at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

The fair derby is the last one before the season finale for the racers on Sept. 15, and the August show is their chance to introduce the sport to others, Pieze said. “We try to give the crowd a little bit of everything we do.”

Q: How long have you been a derby driver?

A: My first year racing was 1991.

Q: How did you get into it?

A: My family did it, and so I grew up around it. It was something fun I did in the summertime and something we really looked forward to.

Q: How old were you when you had your first race?

A: 15

Q: What did you drive?

A: It was a Chrysler Cordoba, from the mid-‘70s.

Q: Do you remember your first race?

A: Oh, let me think. It was in Bremerton. The first year of racing was just going out and just trying to stay alive and not really winning anything until the second year of racing.

Q: Did your car last for long?

A: That one lasted about half the season. It lasted a couple of race days. Then you get to build another one. From then on, I ran a lot of Chevy Impalas.

Q: Chevy Impalas?

A: We ran the mid ’70s ones; we ran the big, ugly boats.

Q: What do you drive now?

A: A Cadillac from the early ’70s. ’72 Coupe de Ville. For about two years I’ve been driving the Cadillacs.

Q: Why that type?

A: They seem to be the good car to build nowadays, being what you can find that are around. They’re a good strong car.

Q: Where do you find cars to race?

A: A lot of times the local wrecking yards will turn you on to cars that are wrecked but well-built – before they get ground up and sent to Japan. A lot of them are very worn out and they need to be destroyed, but some of them aren’t that bad.

Q: Cost much?

A: Every single car [from the 1970s] is worth a good $300 anymore. Back in the day, we’d get running cars for dang near free.

Q: Is there a number on your car? Why that number?

A: I do. Everybody gets to pick their number at some point as long as it’s not spoken for. The number I run is my family number; our number ever since the early ‘80s. No. 15.

Q: Paint job?

A: My cars have always been black with a two-tone of teal color.

Q: Teal and black?

A: The teal color comes from my main sponsor, Dana’s Heating & Cooling; they have the color teal on their trucks. Black is always a color I’ve raced with.

Q: What’s your everyday car?

A: Just a Silverado pickup.

Q: What’s the secret sauce for being a good derby driver?

A: Patience. There’s a lot of stuff going on while you are out there, a lot of chaos. Somebody with a bit more patience looks around the track a bit and gives themselves some space can see trouble ahead.

Q: Some sports and athletes are famous for superstitions. Are you the same way?

A: No, I don’t particularly have anything.

Q: Are there any special moves or techniques that most drivers rely on?

A: There’s definitely some key factors if there’s a car in front of you and you want to get in front without damaging your car, or without making your car stop or slow down. How to make another car spin out. … A lot like how the police officers are trained.

Q: Is it hard to get car insurance as a derby driver? Does your insurance guy give you grief about the number of crashes you’ve been in?

A: It hasn’t been. I’ve carried only two different insurance agents in my whole career of driving. They don’t give me any grief at all … they actually go and watch the races. I’m actually a very safe driver.

Q: Is the Malachi Crunch a real thing?

A: No, I’ve never heard of that.

Q: There was an episode of “Happy Days” where the Fonz was racing in a demolition derby with his girlfriend “Pinky” Tuscadero and everyone was warned to look out for the Malachi brothers and their Malachi Crunch. They would T-bone a car from both sides. They were going to give Pinki the Malachi Crunch but the episode was a cliffhanger, and you had to tune in next Tuesday to see if Fonzie saved Pinky.

A: I can definitely remember the show; I’m only 42. I haven’t seen that episode.

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