The champions of this year's Williamsport Soap Box Derby will each receive a trophy dedicated to the only national champion to come out of a Billtown race.
While every participant receives a trophy, the super stock car winner and the stock car winner receive one that is more than 3 feet tall - the Darwin Cooper Trophy, said Jim Campbell, derby director.
"This is our first year issuing the Cooper Cup to champions," he said. "It's in memory of him. It was a successful moment for Williamsport at large. It's still big news."
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN Jr./Sun-Gazette
City Councilman Don Noviello, assistant race director, displays the trophy named in honor of 1951 national champion Darwin Cooper, a Danville native who drove the Sun-Gazette soap box car home to victory.
Cooper, a Danville native, raced in 1951 in a black car bearing the name "Sun-Gazette Co." and number 137. He won the race and went on to win the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. He was 15 at the time.
He returned to the area for last year's race, which offered him an opportunity to speak to a new generation of racers and see his car again before he died in the fall.
"He was very personable and very comfortable around the kids," Don Noviello, assistant race director, said. "It felt particularly good to have him here before his passing."
Campbell described Cooper as humble, friendly, caring and an all-around good person. He was willing to talk to the racers not only about soap box derby, but anything else they wanted to talk about.
Cooper's death was unexpected, but Campbell said he was glad the Danville champion could be there 60 years after he won.
The winning car has been on display at the Pennsylvania College of Technology for the past semester, Noviello said. Racers put their cars together with some help at the college in its construction masonry building.
Cooper gave the students tips on how to improve their times while speeding down Market Street, which he said had not changed much since he rolled down it.
By having a national champion, it shows the new racers they have a chance to win.
"It's a good aspiration for the kids," Campbell said.
The soap box derby race benefits the children in several ways. It is a positive experience for them as it helps them bond with the parent or guardian who mentors them. It gets them off the computer and into the sunshine. It also gives them responsibility because they have to care for their cars, Campbell said.
Noviello also has noticed the sportsmanship among racers. Last year, he said he did not see anyone crying or getting angry about losing the race.
During one of the races, there was a crash. The moment the winner crossed the finish line, he jumped out of his car and ran to check on the person who crashed, Noviello said.
Throughout the years Williamsport participated in a soap box derby, about 10 local racers placed during the national competition, he said.
"We have a good legacy," Noviello said. "We're proud of it."
Almost 60 children and youths, aged 7 to 17, will race on June 16. The event starts at 9 a.m. and continues through the day until the champions are named.
The Williamsport Soap Box Derby was hosted in Williamsport from 1940 to 1954, except for during World War II. It returned in 2010.
Primary sponsors for the event are the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the city of Williamsport, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Backyard Broadcasting and the Kiwani's Club.