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Demolition derby is what drives Donaldson at Riverhead Raceway

During a full size school bus demolition derby at Riverhead Raceway a few years ago, a British film crew asked to ride shotgun with "Slim" Jim Donaldson, an eight-year derby veteran.

Moments before hitting the track, one of the gentlemen in the crew asked Donaldson if the bus would be wrecked.

"Hopefully not tonight," Donaldson said, "but definitely by the end of the season."

Recalling the story - and the man's ensuing stomach gurgling - over the phone on Thursday, Donaldson said: "If he didn't have his toilet paper ready, he was pretty close."

Yes, it takes a special breed to relish slamming 13-ton school buses into each other. Donaldson, a 43-year old from Coram who also races Figure Eights, is one of those Dukes of Hazzard (for further proof, the show's theme song "Good Ol' Boys" plays when you call his cell phone).

"Basically, you try to kill everyone else's bus without killing yours," Donaldson said of his intricate derby philosophy. "It makes a bigger bang than a - lot more carnage."

Though the process seems simple, the preparation is grueling. The buses, which are usually donated after accumulating too many miles and deemed unsafe for children, are stripped of all their windows and lights as a safety precaution, and are fitted for more secure seat belts.

Every season there are generally two school bus Figure Eight races and two demolition derbies at Riverhead. So Donaldson, a technician by trade, is often given the near impossible task of reviving school buses on life support so their season can continue.

He'll gladly take on the job for a few moments of aggressive driving.

"It's a little venting. Actually, it's a lot of venting," he said of his passion for the derbies. "I feel a lot better after wrecking something. It's controlled violence."

And to the fans, it's unadulterated fun - as long as they're not riding shotgun.


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