Ron Cannon was determined to win the final heat of the Open Division of Sunday’s 41st edition of the annual Placerville Police Officer’s Association Hangtown Destruction Derby at the Placerville Speedway at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.
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But his 1965 Chrysler New Yorker had a burning desire to stop the Placerville resident. Cannon was one of 11 drivers who competed on a warm, summer afternoon of the two-hour event that, for the first time ever, featured Open and Stock divisions.
Cannon finished in third place, one of nine cars that competed in the final heat. More than 15 minutes into the contest, Cannon joined Brett Gross, driving his 1966 Lincoln Continental, and Evan Daniels, who drove his 1966 Chrysler Imperial, as the final three to smash it out.
But five minutes into the race for the first place prize of $1,000, the engine of Cannon’s New Yorker caught on fire. After using his fire extinguisher to put out the blaze, Cannon continued his quest, smashing the sides and ends of Gross’ and Daniels’ cars. But that lasted for a minute, as the engine caught on fire again.
“It started early, and I could see it burning,” Cannon said. “I could see the (Cal Fire firefighters who were on hand to put out car fires) kept pointing, and I’m like ‘I’m good.’ I was able to keep moving around … I was just trying to keep it going.”
Part of the engine’s block was the cause of Cannon’s vehicle to finish early.
“Once the retardant from the fire extinguishers clouded it up, I couldn’t get it started,” Cannon said.
The battle between Daniels and Gross was short-lived. Daniels’ car stalled, sitting up crunch time for Gross, who smashed the front and sides of his opponent’s vehicle. That led to Daniels putting out the white flag, giving Gross victory and top prize.
“I was going to take out the best one I could take out first,” said Gross, who has competed in derbies since 2008, but was in his Hangtown Destruction Derby. “That’s why I kept hitting him (Daniels).”
Gross admitted after the final heat that he was a little unsettled, but became comfortable as the derby continued.
“There’s a lot of nerves,” Gross said. “You just have to figure it out once you get out there on the track, see how it feels like … where the hard spots are.”
Tyson Moreland, who represented the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department, won the second heat of the Open Division.
Patty Jean Robinson was the only woman who competed in the Open Division with her 1985 Lincoln Towncar. Others competing in the division were Jeff Tressler, Keith Pierce and Bryan Rank.
In the inaugural stock division heat and finals, William Wolf, who represented the Colusa City Fire Department, crashed his 1976 Chrysler Cordoba into a first place finish. Hunter Cannon, who was represented by the Placerville Police Department, drove his 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood to a second place. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department was represented by Brian Rogers and his 1978 Chrysler Cordoba to a third place finish.
Second place earned $500 and third place $300. Heat races paid $150 to the winner, $100 to second place and $50 to third.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.