Superlist no. 808

Crash course
Smash into the season of totally fun automobile destruction.

By Matthew Shechmeister

THRILL TO THE porcine shrieks of tearing steel, the jungle-cat roar of revving engines, and the simian howls of your fellow auto-mangling fans. What is it about painstakingly constructed objects that makes us want to bludgeon them back into raw material?

Demolition derbies are old favorites at racetracks around the country, and we have a handful in the Bay Area. The game is simple: get a bunch of junked-out cars, weld on extra armor à la The A-Team, and then let the drivers ram into each other until there is only one car left able to drive off the field. Start your engines ...

Altamont Raceway and Arena

Spring Fling 200 Enduro and Destruction Derby This race features two monuments to human bravery. First is the "Enduro" race, where drivers race around a track covered in traction-reducing gunk. The slick surface guarantees big crashes, and if a car gets stuck or immobilized, it is left as an obstacle (read: more crashes). Then the destruction derby begins, with all the cars arrayed around a central point, reversing into each other at full speed. After that it's motor mayhem, as the competitors smash into each other. April 23, 5:30 p.m., 17001 Midway Rd., Tracy. $12, $6 seniors and for ages 6-12, free for 5 and under. (925) 606-0274,

Pumpkin Smash 400: Enduro and Halloween Double Destruction Derbies Following a race where the track is covered with busted pumpkins are two classes of destruction derby: one for vehicles with four-cylinder engines, and one for the big V8s – known for walloping blows and serious noise guaranteed to have you howling with primal rage. Oct. 15, 5:30 p.m.

Antioch Speedway

Contra Costa County Fair destruction derby This is a true extravaganza of auto mayhem, with more than 20 cars and five heats, topped off by a final round for the survivors of the initial heats. The event usually features a rollover contest, making for a total run time of about two hours. June 5, 6 p.m., Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 10th and L Sts., Antioch. $6 with fair admission ($7, $4 seniors and for ages 7-12, free for 6 and under). (925) 779-9220, (925) 757-4400 (parking information),

Petaluma Speedway

35th Annual Destruction Derby This is the destruction derby closest to San Francisco, just 39 miles north. The event takes place during the Sonoma-Marin County Fair, so you can spend the day on carnival rides before the engines rev. Management encourages unique car designs: expect to see an old police car with "#54" painted on the side; some contestants have strapped disarmed World War II bombs to the roofs of their cars. The event attracts between 14 and 24 racers and is expected to last until almost 9 p.m. June 26, 5:30 p.m., Sonoma-Marin County Fairgrounds, exit Highway 101 at Washington St. and go west, Petaluma. $12, $8 for ages 6-11, $6 seniors. (707) 763-RACE,

Stockton 99 Speedway

Demolition Derby The season closer might just be the coolest. Forget burly old domestic sedans. This is a school bus destruction derby! That's right: 50-foot steel monsters (sans passengers, of course) go at it, head-to-head. The school bus event begins with a standard race between all the buses and also features a "powder puff" race with all-female drivers, plus pickup, "Grand American," and "Western Late Model" races. Sept. 17, 6 p.m., 4105 N. Wilson Way, Stockton. $15, $10 for ages 13-17, $5 for ages 6-12. (209) 466-9999,

Watsonville Speedway

NASCAR Weekly Racing Series and Crash Nationals This sleepy farming community features weekly races throughout the spring and early fall. Spend a day at the beach or in Monterey's sublimely serene aquarium, then cruise over to Watsonville for a destruction extravaganza. A ticket buys you a full Friday night of motor sports under the banner of NASCAR, but there's only about 30 minutes of destruction. This is also home to the Crash Nationals, a competitive destruction-centered event that attracts some of the most committed/crazed drivers and teams in the sport. Nascar Weekly Racing Series April 8, May 27, June 17, and Aug. 26, 7 p.m., Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 East Lake, Watsonville. $11, $6 seniors and for ages 6-12, free for 5 and under. (831) 724-5671, Crash Nationals Oct. 15, 7 p.m. $15, $7 seniors and for ages 6-12, free for 5 and under.