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updated: 7/29/2012 8:08 PM

It's Team USA vs. Team Mexico in Lake County auto soccer match

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  • Team USA and Team Mexico battle for the ball against the wall during Auto Soccer at the Lake County Fair Sunday in Grayslake.

       Team USA and Team Mexico battle for the ball against the wall during Auto Soccer at the Lake County Fair Sunday in Grayslake.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Team USA's Gary Rogers scores a goal by knocking the ball between two cement blocks during an auto soccer match at the Lake County Fair Sunday in Grayslake.

       Team USA's Gary Rogers scores a goal by knocking the ball between two cement blocks during an auto soccer match at the Lake County Fair Sunday in Grayslake.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

Not everybody can afford to cross the Atlantic to see the Olympics.

Fortunately, the Lake County Fair filled the breach for those with a thirst for exotic sports.

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On Sunday morning, visitors were treated to the fair's inaugural auto soccer match, pitting Team USA against Team Mexico, names used for arbitrary reasons than as a reflection of the drivers' nationality.

Some of the cars were fresh from the junkyard, which was only natural, since Team USA consisted of drivers who worked at nearby Auto Parts City, which furnished the cars for Team USA.

"That's the nice thing," said driver Gary Rogers of Ingleside, who scored all but one goal during his team's 6-0 victory. "We get to be in the demolition derby (which took place later day)."

The cars were a sight for sore eyes. In fact, they were likely to cause sore eyes. No windows, no lights, no hubcaps and worn out bodies.

Drivers in the three cars on each team attempted to push a 400-pound steel ball consisting of sections of a propane tank -- it had to be lifted into the arena by tractor -- through a goal bounded by two monolithic concrete blocks.

Track announcer Joe Valente reminded the crowd, "This is not a contact sport. This is actual soccer."

And he wasn't exaggerating. The crowd, gathered on bleachers, was exposed to all the elements of soccer, including passing, goal scoring and some nifty blocking maneuvers. Only it involved loud vehicles spinning across a muddy dirt surface, kicking up clouds of dust and barreling into each other's battered bodies.

An unexpectedly long intermission ensued, when all the cars of Team Mexico stopped working, one car with a dead battery and another with a bad shifter.

But after play was resumed, only one car remained from Team Mexico, valiantly driven by Tyler Young of Woodstock, who had to serve as goalie and forward. Young tried impressively to fend off the opposing three vehicles with his 1992 Saturn, which he obtained from a friend's body shop. and almost scored a goal.

Valente, accurately, referred to him as a "one-man show."

The crowd, even with a prolonged wait, eagerly savored the action.

"It was awesome," said Lisa Stevens of Salem, Wis. "I wish I could be driving in it."

The show was put on by Valente's firm, Darkhorse Racing. Valente, a 20-year veteran of demolition derby, said the vehicles are compact cars -- 08-inch wheelbase or smaller -- front wheel drive and 4- or 6-cylinder.

"So you'll get Cavaliers, Luminas, Tauruses, Grand Prixes, things like that," he said.

Some of the cars can be obtained fairly inexpensively.

"You can get a compact or a nostalgia car for less than five hundred bucks. It's pretty easy. Go find a car sitting in someone's driveway with expired plates or grass growing up around it and make an them an offer they can't refuse," Valente said.

Injuries during the demolition derby have been minimal, mostly bumps and bruises, for his events. The worst was last year, when someone broke his collarbone.

"Most of the injuries don't happen on the track. They happen in the pits," he said.

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