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Planning for Soap Box Derby starts

The weather forecast may be for cooler temperatures and possible snow for the weekend, but enthusiasm for the annual Soap Box Derby is beginning to heat up with an information meeting and registration scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Community Arts Center. The derby is scheduled for June 13 this year.

“We give them information on how the Soap Box Derby works,” said Wes McCracken, assistant race director of the local derby group. “They can register their child to participate in the Soap Box Derby at this meeting.”

Those planning to register should also bring a copy of the driver’s birth certificate, which will be placed on file. McCracken stressed that it is important that racers bring a copy and not the original birth certificate because there will be no way to make a copy at the meeting this week. Drivers should also be accompanied by a parent or guardian. He noted that this could be a parent, grandparent, uncle or guardian. Lycoming County children age 7 to 20 are eligible to race.

There is $20 registration fee, which McCracken said is refundable at the end of the day on race day, provided that the car is returned in good condition.

On May 9, the group holds a construction clinic. At that time the registrants go to the warehouse where the cars are stored.

“That’s when the crew chief or car handler will come to our location where we store the cars. We have all the cars on stands and they will make the repairs. They will take the cars home and bring them back on Impound Day, June 6,” he said.

“We will re-inspect the cars (at that time) and make sure it doesn’t need any more repairs so it’s safe for race day. We will weigh the car and driver so they all weigh the same. We have two classes. We have a Stock Class which is 200 pounds car and driver, and Super Stock which is 240 car and driver,” McCracken said.

He noted that the local organization follows the procedures and rules established by the All-American Soap Box Derby Association.

McCracken said that there are 32 drivers in each class. He noted that there is also a Master Class, which is comprised of elite drivers, which have already been chosen.

Each car has a sponsor, which is in place, so that drivers don’t have to find their own.

“Really, it’s putting the car together, which we help them with and practicing. There isn’t a whole lot to do until race day for the drivers and crew chiefs,” McCracken said.

In order to practice for that race day run down the hill on Market Street, the drivers often go to a vacant parking lot at a store or a church, but because of liability McCracken said the derby group cannot suggest practice locations.

Although he never personally raced in a Soap Box Derby, McCracken who is a veteran drag racer, sees it as an opportunity for kids who may not be athletically minded to shine.

“Not every kid has natural athletic ability,” he said, adding that if a kid does have athletic ability and wants to drive a Soap Box Derby car, they should.

“But, a kid that doesn’t have the athletic ability of another child has the same chance of winning. It’s a very level playing field,” he said.

“We strive to make the cars all equal and then it’s up to the driver to get the car going straight down the hill,” he added.

Getting the car as aerodynamic as possible is the key to winning, he said.

“It doesn’t take athletic ability to necessarily do that,” he said.

The history of Soap Box Derby in the city began in 1941. During the years of the second World War, 1942-1945, there were no races held, but from 1946 to 1954, the event resurfaced. During that time, several local racers advanced to the “All American Race” which is held in Akron, Ohio, the home of the Soap Box Derby International organization. In 2010, the Soap Box Derby returned to the city, when a group of volunteers decided to bring back the event.

A typical race day finds 60-plus volunteers manning the event, McCracken said.

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