Tom Smart, Deseret News
In a political showdown for the ages, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams will take on Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in the Dog Days of Summer Demolition Derby this weekend during the Salt Lake County Fair.

SOUTH JORDAN — To hear Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams tell it, driving in a demolition derby is in Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox's DNA.

But that didn't dissuade McAdams from challenging Cox to compete against him in the Dog Days of Summer Demolition Derby on Saturday night, a concluding event of the Salt Lake County Fair.

What Cox didn't know when McAdams talked him into driving in the derby was that the mayor had a warmup event under his belt.

"I had a practice session in Riverton, and it’s on to the main event," McAdams said in an interview Monday.

McAdams placed a respectable fifth in the Riverton Demolition Derby, winning his heat to advance to the next round.

"He took a couple of head-ons, but I was very impressed with what the mayor did. It’s good to see a politician with a little spunk," said Jim "Gumby" Simko, of Stirrin' Dirt Racing, which is running the event.

Cox hasn't driven in a demolition derby before, "but it’s the one thing that Fairview is kind of famous for," he said. "For the last 30 years of my life, I’ve been attending demolition derbies regularly."

Growing up on a farm, Cox has driven just about every sort of truck, ATV and heavy equipment.

"That part doesn't worry me at all," he said.

"I figure it will probably come naturally to me so he probably needs all the practice he can get," Cox said of McAdams' showing in the Riverton derby.

Don't count McAdams out, Simko said.

"He’s actually a pretty good driver. He’s probably more technical than a lot of derby drivers. A lot of them don’t have brains. They just go out there and try to kill everybody," he said.

McAdams said he believes he and Cox will be the target of other drivers so he plans, initially at least, to watch Cox's back, hoping he will return the favor.

"If I see the right opportunity, I'll give him a little bump," McAdams said.

"Nice," Cox responded.

"The good news is, the derby crowd, at least where I’m from, tends to be a little more Republican. I’m glad about that," Cox added.

Although they come from different sides of the political aisle, McAdams and Cox look a lot alike on paper. Each is 39 years old, married, has four children, and as Cox puts it, "We're both recovering attorneys."

While the two enjoy a friendly rivalry, each holds the other in high esteem, they said.

While winning the derby would mean bragging rights for the eventual victor, the real winners will be two charities: The Road Home, picked by Cox, and Sol Scholarship Foundation, which provides assistance to people or family member dealing with addiction, selected by McAdams.

For the next few days at least, expect more smack talking on Cox's and McAdams' respective Facebook pages and Twitter feeds as derby day approaches.

As for the men's spouses, McAdams said his wife, Julie, gave up discouraging him from doing "stupid things a long time ago."

When Cox told his wife, Abby, "What could go wrong?" She proceeded to tick off a list of possibilities, he said.

"We’re hoping none of that happens, and we all end up with smiles on our faces," Cox said.

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The Salt Lake County Fair at the Equestrian Park and Event Center, 2100 W. 11400 South, gets underway Wednesday.