Attending demolition derbies was always something I looked forward to for many years.
A friend introduced me to them when I was 16. I was one of the younger ones in the group and they needed a designated driver. It was also my first time driving a pickup truck. There were a lot of firsts my first day out.
I had never seen anything so cool. It was like bumper cars on steroids. The sound of crunching metal, the explosion of radiators, cars getting flipped on their side, even the occasional car fire. It was epic!
As the years progressed, I began to film the derbies and got to see a whole other side of the sport. There were camaraderie and competitors helping each other in the pits with repairs. The more I wandered through the pits to sell the videos I filmed, the more interesting people I met.
One of these guys was Ken Wahl, number F41. He was much older than the other drivers. He was like everyone’s grandpa. He always had a smile on his face, and a little fuzzy dog at his side. Kenny was willing to help out anyone. He was known for his love of the “W body” style of compact cars and typically placed in the top three finishers.
I believe the first time I met him was in Perham at one of their shows. I was shocked when I saw how hard this guy would hit other cars. I remember one time he hit a car in the back end and the car flipped onto its roof. The driver was fine, but seeing what this guy did was just amazing.
For many years, he would attend most of the derbies I would be filming. I would always find him and make sure to say hi.
About four years ago, I stepped away from filming the derbies. It was hard to fit them into my busy schedule, car counts were dropping and I had enough of the backstage drama. It was time for me to move on. I’ve only been to a handful of derbies since then. The last I knew F41 was still going strong.
Until recently, I got the sad news that he passed away from cancer.
Kenny had been derbying probably 35-40 years! If you have attended a derby in the area, you probably saw a little white compact car with F41 on it tearing up the track and giving the young guys and girls a run for their money.
Derby season is coming to a close. Many shows were not held or were canceled this year due to the pandemic. But I hope to see F41 on everyone’s car at the next derby that is held. Love him or hate him, everyone respected Kenny.
The derby community mourns the loss of not only a great man, but a legendary wheelman. Rest In Peace F41. Thanks for the memories.