Scott Ruic has found a strange way of making a good living, but people seem to appreciate it.
Ruic, from Cleveland, brought his Motorcycle Demolition Derby to Sunshine Speedway Saturday night and drew a crowd exceeded only by that for the extremely popular School Bus Figure 8 races. At the end of the strange show, fan reaction ranged from pleased to perplexed.
"My father started it and I took it over from him," Ruic said. "I've been doing it for 10 years now. It's all I do. I usually take the winters off and go hunting."
Ruic and his crew of two are on their Florida tour. For the shows, Ruic shows up at the tracks with two professional riders and 21 motorcycles. His riders get two bikes, but anyone who wants to can ride one of the others, on a first-come, first-served basis. Far more people signed up than there were bikes available. The payoff included just a trophy.
"I don't ride a motorcycle," Ruic said. "That's part of my deal. I don't ride."
Ruic employs some of the same showmanship involved in professional wrestling _ good guys, bad guys and crowd antagonism. "Rocking" Randy Lewis, also of Cleveland, was the big, bad guy. He beat up on the little guy, threw water onto the crowd, and fought with the chief demolition official.
In the demolition, the bikers smacked into each other, fell down, were driven over, got up, got hit, fell down, got run over, ran over somebody else, fell down, punched and got punched, fell down some more, until all but one gave up or couldn't run or get up anymore.
And who was that final rider? Well, Ruic said, someone apparently threw the list of drivers away, "but it was some guy named Sal, who was from some town with five letters."
NASCAR NANA: Sunshine's No. 1 fan, Louise "Pat" Mazzochetti (aka NASCAR Nana), who had been hospitalized for more than a month, has improved enough to be moved to a nursing home, pending her return to regular fan status.
A TIP OF THE CAP: Frank Bonfili, co-owner of El Cap bar and restaurant and a major fan of all sports, died at the age of 46 after a heart attack. Frank not only had a talent for remembering names and the favorite beverages of his customers after their first meeting, he also bestowed nicknames on many regulars. I was Race Track Bob. It was an honor.
Frank turned customers into friends, and shared them with other friends. Although he and his wife, Mary Jean, never had any children of their own, they created an extended family of hundreds. Frank was the soul of El Cap and, through Mary Jean and the family, his spirit will live on.
NOTES: Although few of the thousands in the crowd were aware of it, Dallas Cowboys star running back Emmitt Smith saw his first live stock car race at Sunshine on Saturday night. At his request, no announcement of his presence was made. The few who knew managed to stifle their excitement, and kept a safe distance.
Smith was on hand as the guest of No. 70 Mini Stock driver Marty Neikens of St. Petersburg. Neikens ran well, moving from 11th to fourth in the feature, but No. 69 Jay Zolciak of Pinellas Park did better by going from 12th to first. No. 40 Dennis Valdez of Tampa was second and No. 49 Skip Buchanan of Spring Hill was third.
Although their first ones didn't count for season points, Late Model driver Sammy Coghill of Largo and Figure 8 driver Chet Senokossoff of Clearwater picked up their second feature wins this year. That's two out of three.
Johnny Stanford, No. 69 of Pinellas Park was second in Late Models, while Pinellas Park's No. 68 Jimmy Cope, who is fifth in Hooter's Series points, was third. Next behind Senokossoff was No. 31 Donny Thomas of Clearwater and No. 89 Ron Davis of Pinellas Park.
In other action, No. 7 Mark Cooper of Dunedin picked up the win in Street Stocks, followed by No. 3 Todd Murphy of New Port Richey, and No. 71 Barry Bartlett Jr. of St. Petersburg.
Chris Robbins, No. 88 of Indian Rocks Beach, was tops in Open Wheel Modifieds, with No. 72 Larry Shobe of Largo and No. 11B Jamie Burrows of Valrico next in line.
In the weird Wet and Wild Enduro race, No. 85 Mike Gamache of Palm Harbor was first, with No. 7 Wayne Calkins second and No. 98 Roger Welch third.