By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Father, kids bond while destroying cars, derby-style
Karlie Mathews competes in the demolition derby at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. Karlie got into the motorsport after helping her dad, Greg Mathews, prepare his derby cars for years. - photo by 209 file photo

CERES - Summer has often been considered to be the perfect time of the year for family bonding. No school means more time to take vacations, visit theme parks, or even just stay at home and barbeque with loved ones. For Greg Mathews, however, summer bonding with the family takes on a different form—the destruction derby.

For residents of the Valley, seeing a family bond over a modified car meant to inflict damage on others is common place. What makes the Mathews family unique is that Greg shares his favorite pastime not with sons, but with his three daughters.

So much for gender roles.

“My dad started in the mid 60s and my brothers and I have been doing it off and on since 1976. Then we started having our kids do it around eight years ago,” Greg said. “It’s kind of a unique thing to have girls doing it.”

Daughters Karlie (28), Kaitlyn (23), and Kinsey (21) have all gotten their chance to tear up the track at the Food Maxx Arena at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, but their introduction to the world of destruction derby began well before any of them could legally drive a car. While Greg spent his time welding metal and reinforcing his many cars, his daughters would put the finishing touches by applying the lettering and various sponsorship logos.

It was family bonding at its finest.

“Going and finding the cars, buying them, and then building them is the biggest part of the bonding experience,” Greg said.

“I loved being able to hang with my dad and build the cars,” Karlie said. “It’s really cool to have that bonding time that’s really different than what most families do.”

But soon the time in the garage wasn’t enough for the girls. After teaching Karlie how to drive at the age of 12 in one of his derby cars, Greg was met with a pleasant surprise when his eldest daughter caught the bug to compete.

“We would all go and watch him compete and then when I turned 21 I started racing,” Karlie said. “I actually wanted to do it earlier. I was always interested in it, but my mom wouldn’t let me do it. So when I turned 21 I said ‘mom, I’m going to do it’ and she couldn’t really say anything about it.”

Kaitlyn and Kinsey followed in their older sister’s footsteps and soon the destruction derby boasted a clan of Mathews. This year will be different, however. Karlie now lives in Hawaii where she teaches pre-school and Kaitlyn is in the process of getting married, leaving Kinsey to act as the sole female representative of the Mathews family.

“I miss it; it kills me not to do it,” Karlie said.

Even though they might not all be competing, the destruction derby will forever be a common bond for Greg, his daughters, and the rest of the Mathews extended family.


209 staff reporter