When Brad Jantz's No. 7 car smashed into No. 77 Jesse Rouse's car over, and over, and over again near the end of the 2016 Demolition Derby, it was right in front of his cheering section — the latest cheering section at the derby.
That section erupted, over, and over, and over again. Their greenish-teal T-shirts making it obvious they were there. When Rouse broke his stick, ending the derby and giving Jantz his first derby win, the cheer that erupted was big.
“Once I saw there was about half the field sitting, I started pounding hard,” Jantz said.
And followed by prayer. Jantz was driving the No. 7 car sponsored in part by the Gathering — the second consecutive year the church has sponsored a car.
That is just one of a couple of storylines that comes from his win. Jantz is the third generation of the Hartman family to win at the Harvey County Fair derby. He is the grandson of derby legend Chet Hartman, and Jantz's father won the derby about 20 years ago.
All of that weighed on Jantz after the derby ended. He wasn't sure if God or Chet was prouder of the win, and if he was more excited to represent the church or his family Sunday night.
“Don't ask me with him standing there,” Jantz said, pointing his thumb at Hartman. “They are both cool for different reasons.”
Jantz and the church chose a station wagon for the derby, partly because of grandpa's advice and partly because it was a car that made sense to enter.
“He's ran the same kind of wagon, and it fared well and it rant good,” Jantz said. “The older cars are getting hard to find. We decided to try and get into some newer cars with fuel injection and see how they handle. It worked good. … We were really pretty much looking for any car that we could build.”
The station wagon lost most of its back end in the first heat race of the night, a qualifier for the final. Jantz was able to finish in the top three of that heat to qualify for the final race of the night.
It didn't look pretty — some kind of a coolant leak led to heavy, thick steam rolling out of the engine for much of the qualifying heat and some of the final. For Jantz, vision was a struggle as that steam rolled through the cab of the car throughout the night.
“It ran good though,” Jantz said. “It died twice and started up both times.”
And in between races, the pit crew was forced to try and piece together a back end that was decimated in the opening race.
Jantz's entry collected $1,200 and a trophy for the win. There were a total of 24 cars entered in the derby this year — including 11 in the “Bolt and Chain” division.
The Bolt and Chain is designed to be easier to enter than the regular derby. Kevin Sauerwein picked up $800 for the division win after a single, winner-take-all heat race for the division.
“For this it is supposed to be less preparation,” Sauerwein said. “It is a little simpler and not so much time. … You basically strip the car down, put the safety stuff in it and away you go.”
His No. 27 was the last car running after a race that featured several engine fires.
Sauerwein is an experienced derby racer, participating for about 10 years in the derby before sitting out the last five years. This was his first year back.
“It is a little different and it has changed a little bit,” Sauerwein said. “But experience always helps.”