MOUNT VERNON — They came in all sorts of trucks, 101 competitors in the annual Knox County Fair Rough Truck Challenge held Wednesday evening.
The trucks were all grouped in one class, despite their broad ability and preparation. But it was the performance of each truck — mostly how much air each one got over the several jumps along the course — that pleased the crowd that filled the grandstand and spread out onto the racetrack. When a truck made a good run on the track it was great action, drawing applause from the packed grandstand.
Eighteen-year-old Matt Proper, Butler, was racing his first year. With three friends, he strengthened the frame by welding steel on it, and mounted mud tires.
And they needed the mud tires, as the sometimes-heavy morning rain left a muddy track in the infield of the racetrack and in front of the grandstands.
Proper’s competition included Adam Blankenhorn of Mount Vernon, who has a superbly prepared 2006 Chevrolet Silverado that he races on a national circuit.
“It takes a lot of time and money,” he said of his Chevy.
A winner of the Knox County Fair event two years ago, Blankenhorn will be in Vermont this weekend at another rough truck event.
Each competitor was timed for his or her run; the times ranged from under a minute to two or more minutes, depending on the ability of the driver to handle the truck. Each driver had two runs.
The evening did not start out well. Several entries had engine problems and simply stalled.
The jumps created problems as well. Two new ones were added this year, concrete traffic barriers laid on their sides with a dirt ramp for the approach. Several trucks couldn’t get enough speed to make the jump. Stopped astride the ramp, they had to be pulled off with a tractor.
The driveshaft pulled loose on one truck, and it was towed away, bouncing on the ground as it went. An hour into the event came another delay. A spectator became ill and Mount Vernon medics needed 20 minutes to treat him before transporting him to Knox Community Hospital.
Larry Fath, Howard, came to the competition with his 1998 Ford F-150 pickup, which has 218,000 miles under its bumpers. He injured his back in a demolition derby and asked a friend, George Bender, to drive Wednesday night.
“We’ll get beat,” was his assessment of the competition.
The truck, painted in hunting camouflage, and had a for sale sign under the windshield wipers.
Another competitor, Jimmy Grubaugh, 21, Fredericktown, was driving an old farm truck. Grubaugh said this was his first rough truck competition, but said he has smashed cars in demolition derbys.
Fair Board Member Jim Shipley was the announcer for the event, describing the action and urging the drivers to make longer and more spectacular jumps.
A list of winners will appear in the News when it is received.