Pinewood Derby Times Volume 14, Issue 3

– Feature Article – Pinewood Derby Awards

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Q&A

Feature Article

Pinewood Derby Awards
By Randy Davis

Should every child entering a pinewood derby race get an award? Or should only the top cars for design and speed be given a trophy? How about a compromise? The answer to these questions will likely vary from person to person, and depends a lot on your philosophy of raising children.

I am not a child psychologist, so I can’t argue the theory that underlies awarding children. But I am a parent that cares about my children. Before they leave our home, I want to give them a solid understanding of how they should behave and what they should expect to encounter in the world.

I do not believe that every child should be equally rewarded, that is, no winners and no losers. This is certainly not the way the world operates, and teaching a child this perspective will not prepare them for reality. In my opinion children need to understand that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, and greater effort leads to greater opportunities for winning. Learning how to deal with losing (and winning) builds character and maturity. So I believe that trophies for the fastest cars and best designs are certainly appropriate.

Non-Trophy Awards
But on the other hand, I think providing a larger variety of awards can be a great encouragement for kids. These can be certificates for: “Best Paint Job”, “Car Most Likely Built By a Kid”, “Silliest”, “Funniest”, “Most Aerodynamic”, etc. If you are interested in providing these types of certificates, many free downloads are available on the web. Just search for “pinewood derby certificates”.

Be careful with these type of awards. If you decide that every participant will get one, then it will be a big challenge to make sure that the number of certificates match the number of entrants, and that the awards are given out appropriately. Again, I don’t believe it is necessary for every entrant to receive an award of this type. But that leads to…

Participation Awards
Providing all entrants with a ribbon (or alternate) for participating is certainly appropriate. I am still amazed how much my kids like those ribbons. Even when they won a trophy, they would drape the participation ribbon over the trophy.

Participation awards can be more elaborate. Stan Pope has provided a neat idea for providing a mounting plaque for every car. The plaque has the date of the race and group name/number. See:

Certainly other participation awards such as pins, patches, etc. can also be used. In recent years we have gotten away from ribbons and have been giving each participant a “Hot Wheels” car. My wife watches the ads and picks them up for less than $1.00 each. These are a bit more expensive than ribbons or patches, but the kids really like them (a lot of trading goes on after the race).

I realize this article is a bit short, but of course my experience is limited to the races sponsored by our organization. So, I would like to get your input on this topic. If your group has a method of providing awards that works well or is unique in some way, please send me a description. I will try to include your comments in a future newsletter. You can send your comments to


A little boy was upset with his parents’ financial situation, so he decided to write God a letter:

Dear God,

My mommy and daddy need $500 for bills, and I don’t know who else to ask. Could you please help?


The letter was received by the local post office and put in the “dead letters” pile. The clerk, being curious of the letter addressed to God, opened it to see what it said. As you can imagine, he was touched by the letter and decided to help. He asked all his fellow workers to chip in a few dollars to help a family in need. When all the money was collected, it came to $300. The clerk sent a money order in an official Post Office envelope with the return address simply: God.

Several weeks later the same clerk found another letter addressed to God in the same writing. The letter said:

Dear God,

Thank you for the $300, but next time don’t use the Post Office. They have a $200 service charge.


Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Speed Racer – Nick Fish

This Bear pinewood derby car was built by Nick Fish and his Dad. We love Speed Racer, so we did our interpretation of Speed’s Mach 5. It won the den and took first place in the pack without losing a race. District competition was a lot tougher with a 5th place finish. The car is a modified Wing design using a 3.5 oz. tungsten canopy, tungsten putty for the final weight adjustment, raised front wheel, polished/grooved axles, aero underbody, and custom graphics.

The Reaper – Jason Otis

My pack’s Pinewood Derby Bandit/Open Class is pretty competitive every year, to the point where we had to create a class just for the parents. I got tired of coming in second, so I put this thing together a couple of years ago.

The main body is from an original BSA Pinewood Derby Kit, and the fan shroud was carved from three pieces of glued-together 2 X 4s.

Specs & Info:

  • Propulsion: 55mm 8-Blade 60K RPM ducted fan (19oz thrust)
  • Power: 3-Cell 11.1 Li-Po Battery)
  • Best Track Times: 32-Foot Track-1.111 sec, 38-Foot track: 1.267 sec)


A collection of questions from a reader:

If I know that we have a straight, smooth, metal track; is rail- riding still important?

Even if the track is smooth and straight, it will not be perfectly level and the car will in all likelihood, contact the guide rail. So, rail-riding is still important.

Would you still raise a wheel on such a track?

Yes, this is always a benefit.

Do you typically raise a wheel on cars with axle slots?

Yes, if allowed by the rules, I raise a wheel even on slotted bodies. This can easily be done by using the raised hole on the Pro- Body Tool. The drill bit will essentially deepen the slot on one side.

Does the weight have to be off-center to accommodate that (raised wheel)?

I played around with off-centering the weight, but did not find any advantage to that. Nevertheless, many people do off-center the weight when running with a raised wheel.