Pinewood Derby Victory

Last year, at the District Pinewood Derby, we learned just how much difference a rough wooden track can make! On the first run down the track, we had an axle get pushed backwards as we hit a rough spot in the track, resulting in the car being out of alignment.

So this year, we were determined to improve performance. To guard against a similar mishap as last year, we prepared the car for a rough ride by reinforcing the front end with good ol’ automobile body and fender putty (Bondo).

A few days before the race, we started tuning the car. First, we did an initial test run to get a baseline. Ryan, my son, placed his car on the track, read the results from a window on my laptop, and entered the time into a spread sheet. He also spun the wheels and operated a stop watch. By working on his car, Ryan not only learned about wood working and painting, but he also learned about averages, statistics and the affect of different lubricants on surface friction. Most importantly, he learned how to have fun with technology. Some people say, “Oh, that Pinewood Derby is a dad’s thing”. Yes, I enjoy it, but Ryan has participated in every step of the process, and he enjoys it as well.

We were fine tuning his car right up until an hour before the race. After a short half-hour drive, we arrived at the race location, the Jim Falls Lions Club. We made sure we were about a half hour early so we would have time to adjust our maximum car weight to the limit of 5.00 oz. Ryan handed his car to a scout leader at the judge’s stand and was told it was 5.02 ounces. Perfect, I had my drill in hand, ready to drill some lead out. The judges scale had three significant figures and we had to get two of them to zero (5.00 oz). As other cub scouts arrived and weighed-in, my drill became more and more popular as other fathers discovered that their kid’s cars were overweight..

After a few announcements and an explanation of how the race would be judged, the racing began. There were 25 contestants and six lanes on the track. To make it as fair as possible, each boy’s car ran six races, one race on each lane of the track.

Ryan’s car won the first race against five other cars. They rotated all the cars to the next lane to the left, which bumped us off the track. We would not race again until all of the other 25 contestants had raced at least once. Then after about 10 races, a problem was discovered. They decided that there was corruption in the process, or the computer had a glitch; something had gone wrong enough that it justified a restart.

This time, we took second place out of the group of six cars. So now we were just hoping for a possible second or third place. Many races went by as we waited our turn to get back on the track. We noticed some very fast cars, a low-rider type red car, a pickup truck, and a yellow one had many first place wins in their six races. Finally we got a chance to race, and took first place five times in a row! In one heat, there was a tie for second place that required them to rerun the heat, but we took first again.

Then, they announced the top seven qualifiers. Ryan’s name was not called first or second. I was concerned for a minute (we have been overlooked before in the Pack race, and I had a feeling that it could happen again). But after the third or fourth name, they announced, “Ryan Wolff”.

In the first race of the finals Ryan’s car took first; we beat the guy who had at one time beaten us. Then, like before, we were booted off the track as they rotated lanes, but this time only for one race. We came back onto the track to win another first place, and continued to win every race thereafter.

They announced the third place winner and Ryan’s name was not called.

They announced the second place winner and Ryan’s name was not called.

They announced the first place winner and Ryan’s name WAS called. They gave him a plaque and a trophy.

So, now that Pinewood Derby season is over, what do we do in the off-season? I wish there was another level of racing for us.

Von Wolff

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 6, Issue 4

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – June 20, 2013

Blue Cobra – Randy & Dalton West

The blue Cobra that my son, Dalton, and I made was from a hobby kit. It was supposed to be easier so he could do most of the work. Wrong! Nothing lined up on the pre-cut wood frame. So it was back to the sandpaper. We had to sand the sides down so the plastic fenders would line up; they were a pain to glue on and to get where they looked right. After that, he did a nice paint job. The car ended up taking 2nd Place.

Heart Attack – Jeff & Mara Lilleskare

After winning 1st Place for speed last year, my daughter Mara wanted to try to win a style award. She liked the American flag theme of last year’s car, but wanted to incorporate hearts this year to make it appear more ‘girly’. She sketched out some ideas, and to help her out I bought a bunch of different heart cut-outs from a craft store. She just kept re-arranging them until she came up with a design she liked. When we were part way through with painting, she was so pleased with how it was turning out, that she decided not to add the additional blue heart decals and designs she had originally planned – thus was born the ‘Heart-Attack’.

We had a blast building it together, and she loved trying to incorporate the tips and tricks we found on Maximum Velocity – although she was very tired of axle polishing and sanding by the time we were done! She ended up winning 3rd for design, accomplishing her primary goal, and we were extremely surprised to also end up winning 3rd for speed. Overall a great year, and she was extremely proud to have the only car in recent memory to place in both categories.

Snake Trouble – Cory Jackson, Jr.

This was a fun car I made for the Dad’s Division at the pack meet. I had to use a variety of tools to make it, including a scroll saw, Dremel tool, router (for weights) etc. I used the Pro-Wheel Shaver on the wheels, and tungsten for weighting. No prizes for looks, but I did manage to whip the competition in speed!

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 6, Issue 4

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Pinewood Derby Memory – A Challenging Time

My son Wyatt is currently 10 years old. In 2003, when he was seven years old and in his first year as a Tiger Scout, we experienced our first pinewood derby race. We consulted friends and family to obtain some tips. We were fortunate in that he took 3rd place and was able to move on to the District race. We learned a lot of tips at the District race and we were hooked. The Internet enabled us to find your website and monthly newsletter.

In 2004 he took 1st place and was undefeated as he headed to District race. With the assistance of your newsletter and our experience we continued to refine ideas and methods for his car. We kept a simple wedge design and decided to emphasize axle preparation. The strategy for my son and I continued to pay off – 2005 found him again undefeated. Wyatt and I shared a lot of good memories. We enjoyed discussing and drawing out the initial design of his car. We developed a routine and timeline that would guide us from cutting out the car to the final weight placement. We were both looking forward to the 2006 race.

Shortly after the 2005 pack race I was notified that I was being called to active duty in the United States Army. My wife and I sat Wyatt and his two sisters down in March of 2005 and explained to them that I would be leaving on April 18, 2005 to report for active duty for a 1-1/2 year tour of duty in Iraq. Obviously the 2006 pinewood derby race was not the topic of discussion. But before I left, I made notes of the do’s and don’ts that Wyatt and I had learned over the past years. I wasn’t sure what 2006 would bring us, so I wanted to ensure that there were some detailed plans written down that others could follow. Your newsletter and various tips were an integral part of those plans.

In January of 2006 I was able to take my two week leave. My wife and I surprised our children and I arrived home January 1. My wife had already informed me that the local pack had distributed the pinewood derby kits. During my two week R & R my son and I discussed the pinewood derby race that was scheduled to be held in March. With all of the stress and strain that my service in Iraq was causing I did not want to put any added pressure on my son by somehow making him feel obligated to enter the race. Our discussions led to a drawing for the design of the car. Wyatt opted for a more streamlined car design. So he and I retired to the work shop and in a matter of a 1/2 hour we had the rough cut for his racer finished. I reviewed with him the various sanding techniques that he would be using to get the car body in race shape.

I then ’employed’ two of Wyatt’s uncles to assist Wyatt with the car preparation. Uncle Mark has two older boys who were in scouting. He and his boys had also had success in making winning cars. Wyatt’s Uncle Jayme, his Godfather, also agreed to help. When I returned to Iraq, Wyatt and I were both excited about the upcoming March race. Uncle Jayme and his wife have two girls, and thus he had never experienced the making of a pinewood derby race car. Jayme took the lead on working with Wyatt and together they finished the car.

Race day arrived on March 13. I anxiously awaited the results. Iraq is 9 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, thus it was not until the early morning hours that I learned of the success of Wyatt and his Godfather. Wyatt took 1st place and was undefeated!

As I send you this letter, my tour of duty is coming to an end in Iraq. Iraq remains a country with many challenges ahead of it. However, among all of the turmoil in Iraq, the 2006 pinewood derby race will always hold a special place in our family’s memories. It was a time of great challenges for my wife and children. But it was also a time when a boy was able to face some fears and work on his car without his Dad. It was also a time for a Godfather to enjoy his Godson, and to not only build a pinewood derby car but to build a relationship and memories that will last a lifetime.

James O’Neil
Major United States Army
Camp Liberty

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 6, Issue 3

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – June 6, 2013

Chopper – Scott Morris

This chopper car was built by Doug Kile. He carved the chopper from two Awana Grand Prix blocks glued together. The chopper didn’t run the track very well, as it kept falling over. But all the clubbers and parents thought the design was really cool!!! It just goes to show you, no design is impossible if you use your imagination.

Lego Fire Engine – Denise Kelly

My son Brendan was very interested in Legos in 2002. Since 9/11 had just occurred and was such an important event, he found a way to represent the time, depict some patriotism, and also to honor the firefighters. By the way, the car fit all the specs for our race and was fast enough to move on to district.

Big Tahuna – Linda & Alex Duncan

This is my son Alex’s car for this year’s Awana Grand Prix. Although he builds his Cub Scout cars each year for speed, he wanted to try an interesting design for the Awana race. He designed the car based on the sport fishing boat we charter in Hatteras, North Carolina every summer – the ‘Big Tahuna.’ It was the first time we used a Dremel rotary tool to shape the car, and it worked great for this design. His car won 1st Place for design in his division.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 6, Issue 3

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(C)2013, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies