Ceres residents Dominic Assali and Greg Mathews finished first and second, respectively, in the first heat of the Stanislaus County Fair’s Motor Home Destruction Derby on July 12 in Turlock.
Assali, 31, pocketed $1,000 for winning the event.
Mathews, 62, was awarded $500.
“I surprised myself,” Assali said. “It could have gone either way. It’s a lot of luck.”
“I was excited to be back,” said Mathews, who last competed at the Turlock derby in 2019. “I really missed it. It’s a huge adrenaline rush.”
Assali piloted a 1977 Dodge Vogue while making his debut in the motor-home class.
“I’ve done cars for years,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do motor homes. Driving it was the most enjoyable part. It’s a lot different than a car. You can’t see when you’re going backwards. There’s less visibility. You don’t feel the hits as much. The adrenaline rush is the same.”
Mathews drove a 1977 Dodge Tioga.
“Motor homes are a lot of fun,” he said. “Strategy-wise, you have to use your back end more.”
Assali managed to take first despite losing his power steering early in the competition.
“I couldn’t turn around,” he said.
Mathews also dealt with a mechanical issue.
“I had a hard time getting up to full speed because the carburetor was overloading,” he said. “It got too much gas and didn’t run too well.”
Assali rattled Mathews’ brain with a hard hit at the conclusion of the derby.
“I ended up backing into him,” said Assali . “I think I knocked him out.”
“I got a slight concussion,” Mathews said. “It’s the first time I had to go to an ambulance. They wanted to monitor me for 10 minutes. I had so much adrenaline. I didn’t know anything was wrong.”
Mathews has competed in the majority of Stanislaus County Fair’s destruction derbies since 1993. He helped build Assali’s motor home for Destruction Derby Annihilation.
“Being a veteran, Greg helped me out,” Assali said. “He did the majority of the work.”
“I just met him (Assali),” said Mathews . “I built his first. It took me three weeks. I built mine in three and a half weeks.”
Two nights of destruction derby were staged in 2021, but the motor-home class was scrapped.
For just the third time in its 100-plus-year history, the Stanislaus County Fair was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I plan on doing one of the two derbies next year,” Assali said. “It’s fun being out there competing.”
“I wouldn’t rule out doing it again,” said Mathews, who’s currently recovering from a shoulder injury sustained while coaching volleyball at Central Valley Christian Academy in October. “I just had rotator-cuff surgery. I might look into restoring my 1965 Mustang Fastback.”
Ceres’ Tucker Tarap took fifth during Stanislaus County Fair’s Destruction Derby Obliteration on July 11 at Food Maxx Arena.
A total of 20 cars competed in the finals.