BROOKSVILLE — Mark Murchie showed up for the last day of his demolition derby career with a stomach full of butterflies and an airbrushed hoodie bearing the name that everyone knew him by: Froggy.
He had spent 25 years behind the wheels of beat-up Buick Centuries and Chevrolet Impalas, conduits of cathartic joy. He’d racked up a wall full of trophies and earned a reputation as a showman from central Florida up through the Carolinas. In recent years, though, the brute force of the sport had taken its toll: a broken sternum, a twice-broken wrist, collapsed lungs.
He had the ache of a man who’d given half his life to collision, and he had the sense that this was the end.
Froggy’s son, Mark Jr., was known by just about everyone as Tadpole. At 19, he’d already racked up a handful of wins. And he’d inherited his father’s showman sensibilities, handing out frog-shaped cutouts to kids before races, jumping up and down on his car’s roof during the judging for the best-looking car award.
Tadpole would carry on the family legacy, but Froggy’s plan for passing the baton already had ruptured. A week earlier, he’d said that if Tadpole could beat him in the derby’s figure-eight race, he retire and pass the nickname of Froggy down to his son.
But rain had pushed the figure-eight from Friday night to Saturday, and promoters let the drivers decide if they wanted to have it at all.
Race or no race, Mark Murchie Sr. would end the night retired, and Mark Murchie Jr. would end the night as Froggy.