Yellow Fever

updated 09/11/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/11/2000 01:00AM

The stock cars have had their moment. Now it is time for the school buses. The ungainly behemoths lurch around Orlando Speedworld's track like drunken elephants. They bump and crash; things fall apart. After 20 laps there's a winner, or at least a survivor: the all-pink Heart of Love. The sold-out crowd of 6,000 cheers. "I was awed," says fan Henry Minot, 68. "Everyone around us was thrilled to death."

For Bucky Buckman, 70, who organizes the races twice a year at the 3/8-mile track nine miles from Orlando, too much is never, however, quite enough. Still to come that evening: 20 cars and a red pickup truck towing 21 beat-up camper-trailers at high speed. "The rules is, there is no rules," says Buckman. "When the green flag drops, it's 'Katie, bar the door!' " The end result? Imagine a large bomb going off in a junkyard.

Buckman, who grew up in Alabama, was working as a bus mechanic for the local school district when he met track owner Robert Hart in 1995, and the pair decided to spice up the demolition derby concept. His philosophy, he says, is simple: "If it's got wheels, we'll race it." He admits to just one failure: the time he used real school bus drivers.

It was a debacle—no damage was done.

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