Got the back-to-school blues? Perk up by watching school buses go head-to-head in a demolition derby at Riverhead Raceway.

“Kids get a kick out of seeing school buses they ride every day get destroyed,” says raceway co-owner Tom Gatz. “They find it neat to watch them get smashed up.”

On demo night, eight to 10 school buses line up around the quarter-mile track with the vehicles’ noses facing the retaining wall. The crowd counts down from 10 and then announcer Bob Finan shouts, “Let’s wreck some buses!”

Bus drivers go at each other at speeds of up to 20 miles an hour — often driving in reverse to protect their engines. As in a traditional demolition derby, the winner is the last one running.

“The strategy for a competitor is to take out somebody’s radiator — it will overheat, and the motor will cease,” says Finan. “Another strategy is to hit the bus repeatedly in suspension areas, making the bus immobile.”

For safety purposes, the buses are stripped of glass and metal. Two things are taboo: a hit near the driver’s area and driving around not hitting anybody.

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Bus drivers wear gear like fire suits, heavy overalls, helmets and goggles. The winner takes home a trophy and a performance fee.

“It’s like the battle of the bus gladiators,” says general manager John Ellwood. “It’s competitive, but they also know they are putting on a show.”

Co-owner Eddie Partridge buys the old buses online through Craigslist or from Gershow Recycling of Medford. The vehicles are fixed up and used for the demolition before they are scrapped.

“The guys paint them up and have a lot of fun doing it,” says Partridge. “They use different colors and put their names on them. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.”