In a week filled with depressing news about shutdowns, lockdowns and an overload of dissenting opinions, here’s an uplifting tale about two young people who realized their dream and the good folks who helped them get there.
While these are two separate stories, the setting and time stamp is the same—Route 66 Speedway in Joliet on September 28. It was the final night of a wildly dramatic 2013 Team Demolition Derby season and there was a championship to decide and a few spectator races to run.
The Lady Driver
It was also the third annual Breast Cancer awareness night, which meant that two teams of four fearless females would be taking to the track as part of the “Racin’ for Boobs” ladies team demo event. Competition to get a slot on a team was equally fierce so it certainly helped if a lady had an inside track with a team owner who helped decide the one who would represent them on the “Dirty O.”
Twenty-three year old Amber Domrose was one of the lucky ones. She would be driving on the Double D Destroyers and representing Wally Hartung’s Real Steel team. In addition to dating driver Nick Hartung, Domrose had been instrumental in many of the team’s behind-the-scenes efforts like painting, t-shirt procurement and other duties required to keep a demo team running smoothly.
Domrose’s brothers also participate in the Spectator Truck Race Figure 8s so Amber figured it was her turn to get in on the action. It was decided that she would drive the Oldsmobile Holiday 88.
But the proverbial best laid plans went south as the Olds had transmission issues so Domrose found herself behind the wheel of a hastily painted pink 1968 Chrysler, courtesy of Wally Hartung. While most demo drivers would give their eyeteeth to pilot a Florida Chrysler, Domrose had originally nixed the idea because she felt that the car was too large.
As Domrose sat in the staging lanes and tried to adjust to the mammoth Chrysler, she also had to deal with the fact that Nick’s car had become virtual fireball following a wicked hit with Orange Crush’s Elmer Fandrey. After that on-track mishap, Domrose said that she “was more scared for Nick” and was relatively calm and content as she waited for the flag to drop.
The Double D Destroyers also had their “A” game plan as it was agreed that Megan Decker and Jeanette McGuire would be the crushers while Amanda Clemmons and Domrose would be the lap runners. Their plan worked to perfection as Domrose collected the checkered flag on an extremely muddy track. The last-minute Mercury was also a hit as Wally Hartung said that the Oldsmobile probably wouldn’t have made it all five laps.
As for Domrose, she is still in a state of shock and finds it “unbelievable” that she won—let alone took the checkered flag. She said, “I look at my trophy and all I can do is smile.”
The Last-Minute Spectator Racer
As a technical writer for Navistar International, Kevin Beirne is used to documenting the nuts and bolts of engine diagnostics. When his day job is done, he makes regular weekend runs down to Route 66 to cheer on various members of the Craig family as they have been sharing Figure 8 Spectator racing duties throughout the season.
On September 28, Beirne made his usual trip down to Manhattan to meet up with the Craigs and prepare for a night of tailgating. He received the surprise of his life when patriarch Bill Craig called him aside to tell him that Kadi Craig wouldn’t be racing and would Beirne mind piloting the # 12 car. Beirne added “I thought I was going to be having beers at the track. Instead I got butterflies!”
Like Domrose, Beirne still thinks about his experience and said it was probably “the most excited that I’ve ever been.” Beirne also had a snafu at the staging line because when the green flag dropped and the cars dug in, he found that his safety goggles were completely covered with mud. He simply removed the goggles and "focused on the lines."
In addition to the wily veteran Bill Craig, Beirne was also fortunate to get some coaching from fellow spectator racers Casey Craig and John Klimek as they told him not to hesitate too long because the leaders were going to roll through anyway. Beirne said that he was able to follow the action on the track and after a few laps, he knew when to “put the hammer down and when to let up on the throttle.”
Beirne placed a respectable 9th and was “beyond thrilled” that he finished the race, didn’t hit a guy or wreck the Craig’s car. He said that he definitely wants to race again and is already eyeing old cars to determine how they would run in Figure 8s. Taking a page from the Craig’s playbook, Beirne said that he “thinks his best bet would be to go in on a car with Kadi’s boyfriend (Dave Pollis) and trade off driving duties throughout the season.”
With his sights already firmly set on the 2014 season, Beirne was quick to thank the clan that gave him a shot on the track. He said that the Craigs are “the nicest, most welcoming family I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting!”