Pinewood Derby Memory – First Year Racing

I was eight years old when I participated in my first pinewood derby. My father carved a simple car with a pocket knife, I sanded it and installed the wheels. I remember not having any powdered graphite so all I could do for lubrication was to rub a pencil lead on the axle nails. I was so excited when race night came. I was even more excited when my car took first place. I received a small trophy that I remember clutching, not wanting to put it down. My father passed on just 4 short years later. The memories I have of him working on my car and the night at the races are some of the most treasured on my childhood. The trophy I won that night became one of my most prized possessions. Although I have moved many times and parted with many possessions, I still have my little blue and gold trophy.
Thirty years have passed now. Last year my own eight year old son, Jeffrey, found my pinewood trophy. He was in his first year of Cub Scouts. He loved my little trophy and wanted to try to win one of his own. I told him that winning wasn’t everything and that the real fun was in making and racing the car (but deep down, I remembered how excited I was when I had won when I was his age). So we decided we would work hard on his car for the upcoming race. We found a construction tip book and I got some friendly pointers from some of my friends who also had kids in scouts. Jeffery came up with a simple but sleek design. I cut the car with a jig saw and Jeffrey sanded it. We filed the burrs of the axles and smoothed the wheels. After lubricating the wheels and doing our best to make the car go straight, it was ready.
Race day came and I could see the excitement in my son’s eyes. His car ran six heats and won every one. He ended up third in his age group (based on total time) and 7th out of 75 scouts overall. Not bad for his first year. He received a medal for his third place finish (only the overall winner received a trophy). My son had fun, but he wanted to race again and have another chance to win a trophy. He decided to race his car in the district races to be held in 6 weeks time. In the mean time, we worked on his car, correcting an alignment problem with one of the front wheels. One of the wheels had come loose during the Pack race and now continually pulled the car to the side. We had to lift it off the track completely to make the car go straight.
There were several very fast cars at the district race. The track record was tied and then broken in the early heats. My son’s car performed well, winning every heat and tying the track record in the process – the wheel repair seemed to have worked. I knew his times were fast and we were on the edge of our seats when the winners from each age group were announced. My son won 1st Place for the Wolf age group. He was presented with a small blue and gold trophy much like mine. The smile on his face was priceless. After the awards were handed out for each age group, the top four cars in each age group were raced again to determine the overall winner. My son’s car won two of four heats and was just barely nosed out by less than an inch in the other two. But He won 1st Place overall in the district with the fasted combined four heat times. This time he won a bigger, all gold trophy. When he brought both trophies home to show his mother, I think he was the happiest kid on earth. I have since given him my trophy and all three are now proudly displayed in our home. We are now preparing for this year’s pinewood derby race. Whatever the result, the memories of my son’s first year racing are unforgettable, for both him and myself.
Chris & Jeffrey Corron
Greenville, South Carolina
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 11
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