Keeping the family in the winner’s circle
They’re keeping it in the family at the Inter-State Fair demo derby.
In the second heat for the compact cars, Corey Chandler won the event. His older sister Jessica Skillman won second, and her husband, Levi Skillman, won third place.
Chandler and the Skillmans are from Burlington, Kan., and all three, plus Chandler’s fiancée, Haley Cochran, have been doing demo derbies since they were teenagers.
And for the Skillmans, it’s how they met. Jessica grew up in Falls City, Neb., but after her parents divorced, moved to Kansas with her dad.
It was at a demo derby in Burlington ten years ago where she met Levi, and they married in 2011.
For them, demo derby is a way of life. As soon as the work day is over, they are in the shop, working on their cars. “We spend more time in the shop than we do in our own house,” Levi said. They might be in the shop for anywhere from three to six hours in the evening, past midnight, if there’s a car to prepare for a demo.
It brings the couple closer together, Jessica said, and they love it. “I don’t know what we’d do without it. It’s how we met, and our lives literally revolve around it.”
It’s a man-dominated field, but Jessica does her own automotive work, welding, using the torch, whatever it takes. At a derby, most of the guys can handle it when she beats them. Those who can’t, don’t say much, Levi said. “They can’t complain when she beats them on the track in front of everybody.”
They’ve traveled all over the nation, doing demo derbies, and it brings a rush like no other, Jessica said. “There’s nothing like it. Roller coasters, sky diving, there’s nothing else like it. It’s like you get in forty car crashes in fifteen minutes.” For Levi, it’s a way to relax. “When I’m in the driver’s seat, I’m not worried about anything but driving.”
They are grateful for Levi’s parents, Mike and Jo Skillman, who babysit their two-year-old daughter, Emma, when the pair goes to a demo derby. Emma loves derbies, and Jessica predicts it won’t be long and she’ll be with her parents at events.
This is the second year the couple has competed at the Inter-State Fair in Coffeyville; last year, Jessica won first and Levi got second.
Carter Automotive Warehouse was sponsor of the demo derby. The compact race included 33 cars. There were nine pro-mod cars, and in the weekend warrior category, nineteen vehicles were entered.