Wiersma Construction outraces competition at Lynde 500 push kart derby

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 3, 2013 

LYNDEN - As "Pink Cadillac" and "Mercury Blues" played over loudspeakers, spectators cheered the racers who sweated and laughed their way through the Lynde 500 push kart derby at Centennial Park in Lynden on Monday, Sept. 2.

In its 11th year, the rollicking family-friendly event fielded 10 teams for the main event.

The Lynden Pioneer Museum hosted the derby, which is a four-person round-robin relay - each team has one driver and three people who take turns pushing - covering 812 feet of track that included straight-aways, the Tunnel of Doom and curves designed to separate wheels from karts, or at least to mangle them.

The course was about 40 feet longer this year, Luginbill said.

Wheels broke, karts spun out, muscles tired, and crashes just averted during the hours of racing on Labor Day.

"Oh! The fire department skids out - almost into the opposing track!" Troy Luginbill, co-founder of the race and museum director, yelled during one of the heats.

In the end, Wiersma Construction rolled into first place with 25-year-old Andy Gray at the wheel.

The Lynden resident did more than drive.

He motivated the guys pushing the kart. "I'm losing my voice, screaming 'Go, go, go!' "

"If you get two good teams paired up against each other, it's a pretty big adrenaline rush," Gray added, during a break between heats. "It's a blast."

Lynden firefighters raced for the first time this year, and fielded two teams.

Among them was Steve Whalen, team captain for Lynden Firefighters Association and one of the pushers.

He drove once, but went back to pushing after the kart spun out once, twice, thrice while he was at the wheel.

"It's a good community occasion," the 63-year-old Whalen said of firefighters' decision to race. "Let's get out there and have some fun."

But Whalen wants other firefighters to step up to the fun, as he challenged them - especially Bellingham and North Whatcom crews - to race next year.

"We are throwing down the gauntlet," he said.

While Luginbill called this year's the best race yet, he's already thinking of the next Lynde 500.

"As much fun as we had this year," he said, "we are very much looking forward to next year."

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Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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