Pinewood Derby Memory – Second Chance

After flying all night March 23rd, I arrived at my home in Wisconsin at about 6 in the morning. After a short nap, I began setting up our test track. We were participating in the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby on Saturday and I only had two days to complete my work on these little 7 inch blocks of wood. Ryan (my 9 year old) had sanded his car to the shape he wanted, so now it was my turn. I promised to make it fast by helping him polish the axles and wheels. When Ryan got home from school, we began working on his car. The next day, I continued to work on Ryan’s car, then Joyce’s car, and then my car (for the parent’s race) the rest of the day Friday so I could have Saturday morning to go with our family to a church breakfast. It was hosted by a farmer from our church (Cedrick) who has his own Sugar Bush. A Sugar Bush is an area where maple syrup is produced.
After pancakes and sausage, (this experience would probably spoil any diet you were on. Myself, I could not stop eating pancakes! Something about the environment and all the sweet maple syrup boiling right there in front of me!!) we headed over to the town hall where the Cub Scouts were setting up for the pinewood derby race. I weighed each of our cars on their scale to qualify for the race. Only two of the three were a fraction of an ounce over the maximum weight of five ounces. I planned on being over, you don’t want to be underweight (at our race the judge does not have to tell you if you’re underweight, only if you’re overweight). I had purposely put extra lead weight underneath each car so I could easily drill out the extra lead. Then I offered to help with whatever needed to be done to get ready for the race. The leader’s wife asked me “Do you want to man the concession stand?” and I said, “No, but I will” and was immediately put behind the concession stand selling cookies, hot dogs, drinks and stuff, and test runs. If you wanted to do a test run on the track, you had to buy a raffle ticket for fifty cents. I was able to get a test run in on all three cars before taking over the concession stand. We did a Wolff Family Team race and it turned out just like it did at home on our test track.
When the race started, three cars ran at a time, and at the end points were totaled for each car. I think that is a nice way to do it; it keeps all the boys involved and excited right up to the end. Ryan won the first half-dozen races and then took a second. He then won another half-dozen races and took another second. From that point on, we knew he was not going to be in first place and were hoping for just a second or third. As the race progressed it seemed that cars which we previously beat were now beating us. I took a look at Ryan’s car and found that a piece of decoration (a special homemade decal), had unstuck itself from the side of the car and was rubbing up against the rear wheels. Ryan complained because when I removed the decal, it ripped paint off with it. I apologized and added “you already won the prize for “Fastest Looking Car”. The boys voted on “Best Looking”, “Most Awesome” and “Fastest Looking” and the Cub Scout Master broke-up the racing with announcements of the winners of those awards. But it was too late to fulfill the “Fastest Looking” title, we had already lost too many races. They announced the top three cars and my son Ryan was not in the top three.
Next was the parents’ race and I was first up against two other fathers. My car had button-like wheels (Outlaw Wheels), special axles and tungsten weights that I had purchased from Maximum Velocity. I was racing against a yellow car and a silver colored car. The silver car took off like a rocket leaving me a few feet behind. A few feet out of a 30 foot long track is a very significant win … I think my mouth dropped open. Then he (the owner of the silver car) took his car off the track to return it to the race table, but when he set it down on the table, it took off again! He had incorporated a windup spring into the car to propel it down the track.
Now you’re probably thinking, “That’s cheating”. But, back about the time when we started planning this race, the Cub Scout Master had said “There will be two rules for the adult race 1) It must be five ounces or less, and 2) It must fit on the track. So we all had a laugh. Even funnier was the fact that the Cub Scout Master (Bill) broke rule number two. He built his car too tall, so we had to remove the electronic timer, which formed a bridge over the track and judge the winners the old fashion way using eye balls. So in the end, I took second place and Joyce took fifth.
After the race was over, I was helping clean up when I decided to ask Bill what place my son Ryan took in the overall finishing positions. He looked it up in his computer and found that he had overlooked Ryan’s score. He said “Oh no, Ryan actually tied for third place. I should have had a run-off race”. I asked him if he could send our name to the District Executive as “Tied for Third”? He agreed to do that, and that just made my day. You see, I know I could have done some other things to Ryan’s car to make it faster, but I did not have the time. I could have tried some different things and run more tests. Now Ryan and I have a second chance.
Von Wolff
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 15
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