With temperatures swelling to triple-digits Sunday afternoon at Placerville Speedway, determined fans were rewarded with the Placerville Police Officers Association’s 39th Annual Hangtown Destruction Derby.
Local favorite and derby veteran Ron Cannon, representing the host organization, and his No. 30 “CannonBall Express” 1979 Chevy Malibu Wagon was the last car moving to pick up the victory.
“It feels awesome to win it,” Cannon said after the event. “It’s great to finally win it. I hope that we can find a way to bring more cars and more people to this event in the future.”
As is tradition at the derby, fans voted for the aesthetics of the vehicles in two categories: Best in Show and Best Looking Police Car.
Veteran derby driver Brian Rogers of San Bruno received Best in Show honors from the crowd for his 1972 Ford Country Sedan Wagon while retired San Jose Police Department officer Rich Frazer took home the title of Best Looking Police Car for his decked-out Ford Thunderbird, complete with the “exploded roof” custom design.
Cannon qualified first in Heat No. 1, while “Team Abrasive” driver Tyson Moreland, representing Foothill Fire Department in Valley Springs (Calif.) qualified second with his 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix. Rogers qualified third, preserving most of his vehicle for the Main Event.
Guy Mullins of Modesto, Calif. took first in the second Heat, handling his No. 65 1977 Chrysler New Yorker with exceptional grace. Murphys’ driver Keith Pierce and his No. 31 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass qualifyed second while veteran Hangtown driver Tony Naples and his No. 8 1972 Buick Wagon “Silver Bullet” seized third.
After a last-chance qualifier where two more cars qualified to round out the final eight, the Main Event got underway for the big show.
Mullins went all out from the get-go but backed over one of the giant tires lining the collision area — high-ending himself. Pierce, after trading blows with Naples in two different corners of the arena, saw Mullins stuck and blasted his competition loose, much to the crowd’s delight.
Rogers gave the crowd exactly what it wanted early on, but after his vehicle caught fire was declared out of the running.
Moreland ran circles around the competition until his tire blew out near a deeper section of mud — grounding him to an unfortunate halt after numerous attempts at rocking his vehicle loose.
“That tire man,” Moreland said. “I was running fine, getting some good hits on people, and when that tire blew out I thought I could make it work, but it got in too far in that mud and that was it.”
Moreland maintained enough movement to secure second place overall. Pierce put some of the hardest hits on vehicles before being crowned the third place finisher.
As vehicles one-by-one exited the competition, Cannon’s all-stock Wagon found it’s way to stay in. With a lighter vehicle than most others in the arena, he was overwhelmed as veteran announcer Ron Sullivan called it from up in the booth. Fans stood up and cheered as Cannon climbed through his windshield-space and jumped up and down on the hood of his wagon.
“I think maybe because my car was so light, I was able to keep moving,” Cannon said. “When I started to look around and began to realize ‘Hey! I’m the last one moving!’ it felt outstanding.”
Cannon donated the $1,000 grand prize to the Union Mine Jr. Rattlers and Cheer Program. For Cannon, the success of the event takes priority over any prize money. Speaking on behalf of the association, Cannon expressed deep gratitude for all involved this year.
“The Placerville Police Officers Association is very appreciative and thankful to all the businesses and individuals that contributed to this very successful event. We would also like to thank all those that endured the heat to attend the show. We hope everyone enjoyed it.”