After 25 years Mel Chikato has decided to jump into a 1972 Continental Mark IV and smash it up in the Antelope Valley Fair’s Demolition Derby. Don’t miss it August 26th.

Team Sluggo Press Release (Revised 9/27/12)

August 30, 2012 Acton California
On Saturday August 26, 2012, I ran the Demolition Derby at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster,California. This was the first event I have run since I took third place at the Nevada State Fair in Reno back in 1987. 25 years later-what a journey! The car preparation was plagued by engine problems, a leaking power steering box, and leaking, rotten freeze plugs on the engine block. Thanks to the help of my excellent crew, we were able to overcome all of these trials and get the car to the track. Unfortunately we arrived 2 minutes after they closed the entry gate and were surprised when they would not let us in. After pleading for 25 minutes, I informed them this was being filmed for the Discovery Channel (we are filming a documentary of the event) and they were passing up a great opportunity to promote the Fair. A call was then made to one of the Fair Directors and the gate was opened. I immediately went to the mandatory Driver’s meeting at 5:00O’ clock while my crew waited for the event tech inspectors to approve my car. The driver’s meeting yielded very little new or important information with the exception of learning which heat we were in. A few minor changes were mandated, one of which was cutting out 3 pieces of rebar that I welded in place of my missing front grill. Jose got out the cutting torch and took care of this quickly. We also had to strap the seat back to the roll bar behind it. While I was stuck listening to officials bloviate to a captive audience at the driver’s meeting, Chris Peedan backed the car off the trailer while the rest of the crew began to unload our equipment and set up our pit. A recurring coolant leak coming from a rotten freeze plug on the driver’s side of the block, behind the motor mount began to pour out coolant. The crew put the car up on Jack Stands and Tom Schell crawled underneath the car to investigate. A desperate attempt was made to stop the leak by shoving pieces of wood into the hole to plug the leak was eventually abandoned, and the third and final container of radiator stop leak was added, but it did not slow the leak. I changed clothes and began to get strapped into the car. Good thing we drew the third heat because we had no time to spare.
I kept the engine off as much as possible while waiting to start the event because we were losing our water. As the countdown to go approached, I hit the start button and the 460 cubic inch engine immediately came to life. I backed up a few feet, turned left (in honor of my film crew) and headed west in a CCW direction around the track. Going CCW along the outside edge exposes the driver’s door of the car, but conceals the passenger side and reduces the surface area of my car that fellow drivers can legally hit me. It is against the rules to intentionally hit someone in the driver’s door. My car had plenty of power, but unfortunately not enough traction to hook up and go somewhere fast. Because we were running on a wet clay surface, when someone hit me, the car would respond by spinning around instead of absorbing the impact.
I skillfully ran the heat race (keeping out of trouble) and transferred to main with minimal damage. My plan was to glance off cars, spin guys around and just lightly mix it up and preserve the car. Remember, everything you break in the heat, you will need to fix in about 30 minutes for the main event! I also attempted to push cars across the track and stick them on the dirt berm that runs all the way around the track. I took a couple of guys for a tow, but couldn’t take them all the way to the berm before they figured out what I was up to and broke free of my hold and attempt to stick them. I blew the upper radiator hose towards the end of the heat. The water from the hose soaked my distributor and killed the engine. No problem! By now I was in the main and the heat soon ended with Team Sluggo being one of the eight cars from heat #3 to transfer. I limped the car to our pit under power and the crew repaired the hose from a spare I had and added more water to the radiator. Everything was intact and in working order on the car-just a few dents and scrapes here and there. It was soon time to go out for main event. I started with the same strategy as in the heat. About 40% of the way thru, I took a moderate hit and the car stalled. It would not restart. I sat there and quickly deduced that I had power to the start solenoid on the dash and that the problem was down at the starter. A brand new starter had locked up and would not engage. Just my luck! All I could do is sit tight and watch the show, and a good one it was. There was some skilled driving demonstrated by the guys who got first and second place and some very reckless hard hits by a few guys who were not out to win, but impress the crowd and probably hurt someone. In fact two drivers were disqualified for hitting too hard and a third for intentionally hitting a car in the driver’s door. Most of this occurred just a few feet from my idled car. After about 3 red flag delays, the event was resumed for the final showdown and came to an end. I emerged from the car after the event feeling like I was 25 years old again. What a rush! What a tonic for life! I believe I’m hooked again! Fortunately, I never took a big hit and suffered not even a bruise.
After the event, I was talking to Stan McDonaldwho skillfully drove the 707 wagon to second place. He invited me to come to Bishop next Sunday and compete in a $3,000 to win DD. I originally agreed, but after I obtained a copy of the rules and carefully read them, I realized I could not repair my car and prepare the car to pass their tech in just a few days. This had been a fire drill for the last month and I couldn’t do another. My crew was not available, and there were just too many things making this a struggle. I will go to Bishop next year and compete in a car I will prepare especially for that event.
The next event I plan to run is at Perris Auto Speedway on Sunday October 7, 2012. I have Team Sluggo shirts and Bumper Stickers for Sale on E-bay or by requesting them at TeamSluggo@EarthLink.Net. I will be posting photos and information on the new website TeamSluggo.Com soon. Thanks for your interest and support. Now go and buy some T-shirts and tell your friends!

Mel Chikato
Team Sluggo Demolition Derby

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