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Froggy passes the torch to Tadpole


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.

Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. (left) and Mark "Froggy" Murchie (right) smile after Tadpole's final demolition derby match. Tadpole's car stopped working halfway through the match, and he finished without a trophy.
During the "beauty contest" for the demolition cars, Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. hypes up the crowd. He had a stuffed frog inside his car, which was also painted Bob Marley colors.

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.

Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. attaches two zip ties to a part under his car's hood before the final demolition derby match. His cars were stripped down to the bare minimum parts required for it to run, allowing it to be as light as possible for the demolition derby match.
Before the race, Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. attaches a stuffed frog to his car on Saturday. He had a stuffed frog on both of his cars.

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.

Mark "Froggy" Murchie (left) and Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. (right) battle during a lawn mower demolition on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at the Hernando County Fair in Brooksville, Fla.
Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr.'s s uncle Ralph Murchie, his friends Thomas Goff, Eddie Korba and Tadpole talk before the demolition derby on Saturday.

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.

During the Figure 8 race, Mark "Froggy" Murchie passes his son, Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr., on Saturday. Tadpole's car stopped running at the beginning of the race, leaving him to finish in last place while Froggy finished in second place.
Mark "Tadpole" Murchie, Jr. drives into another car during the final demolition derby match. His car stopped working halfway through the match, and he finished without a trophy.
Related: Read the full story here: After 25 years of demolition derby, local legend Froggy passes the torch to his son