Phegley among demo derbiers gearing up for 2017 county fair

Thursday, April 27, 2017
Austin Phegley, on his way to earning highest placing Saline County resident in the full-size class during the 2016 Saline County Fair Demolition Derby.
Contributed image

When the drivers enter the demolition derby pit at the Saline County Fair on July 8, Marshall driver Austin Phegley will aim to improve on a 2016 performance in which he earned the title of highest placing Saline County resident in the full-size division.

Phegley will defend that distinction and compete for the top prizes from behind the wheel of the same Lincoln Town Car he entered in 2016. Despite not finishing among the top prize winners, he said the car was in good enough shape to make another run.

Preparation of the vehicle, including modifications required to legally compete such as reinforcing the bumpers, barring the doors and removing the glass, he said could be done in as little as a week, but he likes to prepare his ride at least a month in advance. That task will be made easier by being able to reuse the car he built last year with the help of his father and a friend.

After being replaced by lawn mower races on the fair schedule, the annual demolition derby made its return in 2014. While the number of competitors had remained fairly small since then, Phegley said he enjoys taking part in his hometown event for the camaraderie with other Marshall drivers and members of the community who turn out to support them.

A 2013 Marshall High School graduate, he grew up watching the hometown event each year. He said his favorite moments occurred when a driver would cause another car to blow a tire or push an opponent up onto the berm, which is the elevated boundary of the pit, trapping it there. Citing an enjoyment of dangerous activities as the reason for selecting demolition derby as a hobby instead of alternatives, as well as finding the ideal vehicle to craft into an engine of destruction, Phegley built his first derby car and entered his first event in 2015.

This will be his third consecutive year among the field at the county fair derby, the only one he has competed in to date. He said that he plans to continue each year for the time being, and is giving thought to also taking part in some other smaller events in the future and potentially the annual derby at the Missouri State Fair.

"I plan to keep on doing it for as long as I can find cheap cars, and while I'm young enough to keep on doing it," he said. "I figure when I get older, I might not want to take the beating."

While remaining mostly unscathed, he said participation can cause soreness primarily in the neck and back.

"You think it's going to hurt, but the first one that hits really hard kind of wakes you up," he said. "Then after that, none of them really bother you."

Rules for the competition have been streamlined this year, Fair Board Representative Shelly Arth said, in an effort to attract more participants. Two classes, full-size and compact cars will compete with separate prize money in each class for first, second and third places and the highest placing resident of the county. Contest rules can be found online at or

For Phegley, his stated goal for this year, besides trying to win the top prize, was to either see how long he could make the car last or see how much he could destroy it whichever comes first.

Contact Arron Hustead at

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