It’s in his blood. When Neil Moore got the call this spring asking if he would be interested in being part of a team for a demolition derby in Las Vegas, NV in the fall he knew pretty quickly what the answer would be. His biggest dilemma was that the derby was during hunting season. There were 32 teams registered for this derby; 128 cars, their drivers from all across the United States and Canada. His team, named The Sleepers, was made up of Neil, a father and son duo, Jace and Trevor Rogers from Huntley Project, MT and Chantz Ogden from central UT.
After his already planned derbies were over for the summer, Neil, with the help of some friends and family from time to time, started stripping the Suicide Lincoln down to the body. He then installed his set-up from his stock of custom parts, from the engine, transmission, rear end, even the gas and brake pedals, seat and steering wheel. Many parts of the car frame and body can be reinforced and welded too, and many of these welds have very precise spots that need welded or exact lengths they can be to be legal in the derby.
The weekend before the derby, Neil painted his car their team colors, black and green, loaded the car, plenty of spare tires, repair parts and tools, a welder, cutting torch and much more in an enclosed trailer to make the 1,200 mile trip to Sin City for the derby.
The cars had to be checked in by Tuesday evening. Inspection started at 8 a.m. Wednesday, and The Sleepers, being in the first heat was the first team to be inspected. They had two hours from the time their initial inspection was finished to complete all the changes required on their list. Changes were as minimal as a weld being too long, something bolted in the wrong place, plastic lights that got overlooked when the car was stripped to having to rebuild the safety cage because it was too close to the body of the car. The team got all their changes made and passed re-inspection within the time frame and then were not allowed to work on their cars again before the derby started.
The Sin City Showdown started the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 14. The Sleepers won their first heat against an all girls team, made up of girls from North Dakota and Arkansas. The last team with a car that still has a flag up wins. The Sleepers had three cars drive out of the arena after their heat. Thirteen more heats followed that evening. They were not allowed to work on their cars after their heats, they had from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thursday to work on their cars to get them ready for the next round.
This derby is not run like most derbies around here. Usually, if you win your heat, you go to the championship heat. In this derby there were so many teams that they ran two brackets. The winners from Thursday came back on Friday against two or three other winning teams. It was the same for the losers side of the bracket. The teams that won both heats, moved on to the championship. The teams that lost both heats were out and if they won a heat and lost a heat they got to go to the grudge to try and qualify for the championship heat on Saturday.
The Sleepers’ second heat had two other teams, one from California and one comprised of guys from Canada and South Dakota. Since this heat only had three teams, they only took one team to the championship. The South Dakota/Canada team was out and Neil was the last car from his team running. The team from California had three cars running and the odds were stacked against Neil. In an attempt to possibly be able to take his car into the grudge match and earn a spot in the championship heat, Neil pulled his flag and ended the heat.
The drivers and pit crew had from the finish of the last heat Friday night until 10 p.m. and from 7 a.m – 10 a.m. on Saturday to work on their cars. Neil got his car ready Friday night, the others on his team did some work on theirs Saturday morning also.
The grudge heats started at 11 a.m. on Saturday, The Sleepers were in the second heat. The Grudge didn’t go well for Neil. The dirt conditions in the arena weren’t good all weekend, it went from too dry to too wet. The dirt didn’t pack down so when the car’s powerful engines would spin the tires, they would dig huge holes in the dirt almost immediately. Neil got high centered on a hump in the arena when he pulled in and his teammates did not recognize that he was stuck until his minute to make a hit had already passed and he had to pull his flag. Trevor did try to get Neil out and in his attempt, he too became stuck right beside his teammate. Jace and Chantz were able to get in some great hits on some of the teams, but in the end, all four of The Sleepers were stuck in The Bermuda Triangle on the track. They all went in and never came out.
Championship heats ran that evening with a team from Pennsylvania and a team with drivers from Minnesota, Canada and Utah winning the Grand Prize of $30,000 per team.
Neil had a great pit crew and cheering crowd come down to Las Vegas to help him with his car and cheer him on. When asked about the experience Neil said, “I questioned myself when I was first asked to do this but after going down there and driving in the biggest derby of my 25 year career, I have no regrets. Any team that won a heat was invited to come back to the March 2021 team show, which I am considering. I really appreciate everyone who made the trek to Las Vegas to watch me and help in the pit, everyone who put time in our shop at home stripping and building the car and Baker Metal and Recycling and Spiffy’s for always sponsoring me. I’m grateful to my family for putting up with all the time it takes to build these cars.”