COFFIN OR CANOE: THE 4TH ANNUAL COFFIN RACES

BY SARA BUTTON

 The "Evil Knievil" coffin. Image provided by John Green. 

The "Evil Knievil" coffin. Image provided by John Green. 


On Saturday morning Hickory St. will see on the upwards of 60 different casket-clad racing machines hoping to take the title in one of two categories: speed and fan favorite. In honor of the 4th annual Coffin Races, we chatted with local coffin racing legend John Green about this year’s upcoming event.


 Joey Hawkins with the starter pistol at last year's coffin races. 

Joey Hawkins with the starter pistol at last year's coffin races. 

Having participated in the Coffin Races since their first year in 2012, Green built and retired the Un-Lucky Louzer coffin during the first annual races, sponsored and driven by Lou Delaney himself. You can see this iconic piece of Denton history hanging on the patio at Lucky Lou’s. “It was cool, but it was not fast,” Green shared. As much as we love Lou’s, the name of the coffin really seemed fitting -- and we think they’ll agree.

Green’s backyard could currently be considered a miniature coffin graveyard. Just beyond the Evil Knievil coffin and a few other coffins spread about, is a huge workshop owned by Green’s father, Bud. In fact, Bud Green’s beast of a shop has been known to help out many coffin racers in the past (and likely future). The Green’s are nice guys.

The Evil Knievil coffin is racing for its 3rd year in a row, with John Green driving and Eric Eisenmann as the designated pusher. If you haven’t seen Green in full getup yet, you are really in for a treat. He is head to toe Evel Knievel in every red, white, and bulging blue way possible.   

Apparently the coffins don’t take as much build time as one may think. Green says he spent less than 20 hours of total work time - 4 of which were spent detail painting the coffin exterior. This year he upgraded his wheels, due to the new tire regulation -- or lack thereof. In case you did not know, this year there is no regulation on tire size. In years past, tires had to be 6” or less. I hope to see spinners, monster truck coffins, white walls, and all the rims. I’m pretty sure if you play Ridin Spinners inside a coffin with actual spinners on it, you’re guaranteed to win. This isn’t official, but trust us - you’ll be winning. Bonus points if you ghost ride your coffin.

Bonus points if you ghost ride your coffin.

Throughout the years of coffin races, we’ve learned a few things. One of the most important things may be that there are many different kinds of coffins out there for racing. There are short coffins, long coffins, odd-shaped coffins, coffin-shaped coffins, painted coffins, wooden coffins, low-rider coffins, and coffins with side cars.

 Image courtesy of Camille Green. 

Image courtesy of Camille Green. 

 Image provided by Hayley Kasper-Pryseski. 

Image provided by Hayley Kasper-Pryseski. 

 

So, what exactly does it take to win? John Green says it's not really about the car - those are mostly for aesthetic appeal. It’s all about the pushers. The most grand insider's secret is that you need the biggest, gnarliest, strongest pusher out there. Green says that is what gave the Seniors in Motion team the upper-hand advantage, as they just 3-peated in 2014.

The pusher rules are simple. One pusher per coffin, per heat. Don’t forget to break hand contact at the starting line. It’s easy (note: we’ve never done this before). BREAK HAND CONTACT AT THE STARTING LINE. Your toes can go over the line just so long as you break hand contact at the starting line. Got it? Cool.

The most grand insider’s secret is that you need the biggest, gnarliest, strongest pusher out there.

As far as pre-race rituals, Green’s team likes to stick to a beer and a shot of whiskey. Sounds like a great ritual to us. That ritual got the Evil Knievil car into the Top 6 last year, along with: Pan Ector, Seniors in Motion, Geeks on Wheels, Little Guys, and Mulberry St Cantina. The fan favorite coffin for last year was the Oz-some Flyer by Mike Gast, sponsored by Access Bank. Who will is be this year?

With the unpleasant forecast this weekend, the Coffin Race people want you to direct your attention to the Day of the Dead Festival facebook page for all weather related updates. Please note, the Denton Day of the Dead Festival is a rain or shine event. As of right now, the races are on and we cannot wait! Come watch the Evil Knievil car who will be racing at 1pm, in the 11th race.