Playing with fire again

Watching the stuntmen and stuntwomen crash into walls set afire, slamming into walls of thick ice and rolling their cars over on purpose, one might suspect there's a certain level of insanity in this business.

Veteran stuntman Bob Hanna, who goes by the stage name Dusty Russell, says that's not quite accurate.

"None of us have death wishes," Hanna says, "but we do like a challenge."

There's plenty of room for both at Hanna's fifth-annual Daredevil Thrill Show, set for Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Port Angeles Speedway.

Hanna is bringing back all the old-time thrill show favorites - more than 20 are scheduled - from the Motorcycle Firewall that, true to the name, has cyclists riding through a wooden wall set ablaze, to the Domino Crash, where one car's driver tries to knock over not one fiery vehicle set on its back end (like a domino) but two, before escaping the scene unscathed.

Putting a thrill show like this together is complicated, and Hanna praised the Speedway staff for giving him and his stunt drivers the weekend to prepare rather than just one day, as in previous shows.

Hanna has fewer stuntmen this year, trimming the staff to seven in part to keep some order. He'll also have the stunt drivers all wearing the same red, long-sleeved shirts to be able to keep track of them and keep the show running smoothly.

Despite its sometimes harried and dangerous list of events, the thrill show traditionally packs the local speedway with fans.

This year, they'll get a similar treat as in 2008 with opening rock and roll music from Justus, formerly known as Chantilly Lace, and four skydivers from Kapowsin Air Sports who will bring the American flag from a 5,000-foot height. The event also features entertainment from Peaches the Clown and prize drawings before segueing into a long list of stunts.

The event features the All Form Welding Crash Roll Contest, where daredevils attempt to roll their vehicles for points toward a 4-foot tall trophy, courtesy of Peninsula Awards, plus bragging rights.

Hanna caps the evening with a quarter-mile track world record attempt, asking daredevil Tyler Moore to launch a car 120 feet in the Death-Defying Dive Bomber stunt.

The stunts are drawn from "old-time" thrill shows Hanna and colleagues used to put on in California and much of the West Coast. He started his career with famed stuntman Joey Chitwood and his daredevils in the 1950s, when Hanna was 15. Since then he has performed in more than 750 shows in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America.

He claims to have demolished more than 3,000 cars, jumped more than 12 miles through the air and, among other feats, been blown up with more than 1,000 pounds of dynamite. His resumé includes a 176-foot world record jump at the Atlanta 500 in 1973 and he even appeared as himself in a movie called "Steel Arena" (1973).

Since 2005, Hanna has brought one show a year to the speedway and has drawn crowds that filled the speedway grandstands.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

Daredevil Thrill Show

When: Saturday, Aug. 1 (gates open at 5:30 p.m.); rain date set for Friday, Aug. 7

Where: Port Angeles Speedway, 255678 Highway 101

Features: More than 20 stunts, including Slide for Life, Rollover Contest, Outlaw T-Bone, Ice Wall Crash

Cost: $15 for adults, children under age 11 are $5

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