Christopherson rides ’80s car to victory in derby

by nathan oster

If this year’s Big Horn County Fair demolition derby proved anything, it’s that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a car to win big.

Sean Christopherson of Meeteetse guided a 1983 Chrysler Fifth Avenue that he purchased for just $75 to a double win at this year’s derby, which was held Sunday afternoon at the fairgrounds in Basin.

Christopherson won the $500 purse for having the top car in the ’80s class, then turned an invitation to join the big boys for the limited weld class final into an even bigger payoff, capturing the $2,000 top prize by outlasting Mick Gonzalez, who walked away with the $1,000 second-place prize.

“It’s not the toughest car by any means, but it’s dependable,” said Shawn’s father and the derby organizer, Dwain Christopherson.  He said the car has been among the top two in the ’80s class each of the past three years, winning it all this year and last year and finishing second in 2016.

Third place in the limited weld final went to Payton Gonzalez, who won $500.  Melina McIntosh, who like Christopherson qualified from the ’80s class, claimed the $200 fourth-place prize.

Dwain Christopherson said it was a good year in general for the ’80s cars, which are “more plentiful and a lot cheaper” than traditional derby cars.  He said there were more rookies this year, too, noting that four new drivers competed in their first derby.

Turning to the truck class results, Brian Stulc claimed the $1,000 first-place prize, Mark Christopherson claimed second and $500 and Colt Rishel was third, pocketing $300.

The final order of finish in the ’80s class had Christopherson claiming $500 for first place, Hazen Jensen winning $300 for second and McIntosh pocketing $200 for third place.

And while it was his boys Payton and Mick who placed, Rudy Gonzalez had his time in the spotlight too.  He had announced before the derby that it would be the last one he’d witness from inside of a car.

Gonzalez was presented a “lifetime achievement” trophy for “40 years, hundreds of derbies competed in, dozens of wins” and for “passing the torch on to the next generation of drivers.”

Timmy Kennedy made the presentation. “Back when I started driving Rudy was the guy the younger drivers feared — but he was the first guy to help those new drivers in the pits and give out pointers on how to drive,” he said.

The car count this year climbed to 28 — with 10 in the ’80s division, 10 limited weld older cars and eight trucks.  Christopherson called it a great turnout, noting the Basin fair had more entries than the derbies held recently in Lovell and Powell and the night before in Riverton.

“I’m just tickled about how people here continue to support our derby,” he said.