Pinewood Derby Memory – Late Start

Our son started his Cub Scouting career late, so he didn’t do his first pinewood derby until he was a Bear. Remembering the one pathetic race I participated in when I was a Cub, I did lots of research into the ‘tricks of the trade’. I learned about matching the wheels, sanding and polishing, axle positioning, weight distribution, etc. I also looked for car designs and templates, printed these, and let my son choose his car.
We spent the next month putting all of these lessons learned into effect. There was much cutting, sanding, polishing, sanding, polishing, and then more sanding. We got down to a week before the big race, and it was time to paint. With our son being a big Harry Potter fan, he wanted a ‘Snitch’ car, so we painted the car a metallic gold. Mom then got in on the act and hand-painted wings on the side, a lightning bolt on the nose, and the ‘HP’ logo on the rear end of the top. A trip to the Post Office revealed I was still light on weight, so I added one flat piece of weight to the end, painted it with the gold, and we were set.
Our son is highly competitive, so we spent the morning of the race talking with him about being a good sport regardless of the results. His best friend was the two-time defending Pack Champion, so we thought we’d have a hard time placing, and wanted our boy to be emotionally prepared. Turns out we were wasting our breath.
The first heat our son was in, he got himself positioned right at the end of the track. As the cars left the starting gate, it was clear we’d done something right. His car had a two car-length lead coming out of the curve, and extended it on the flat. He was absolutely ecstatic as his car won his first ever race. On his second heat, with his friend in an adjacent lane, he ‘took the flag’ by two car-lengths. He faced a real challenge in the third heat, coming off the curve half a car-length behind. However, he shot past all the cars on the flat to win by a full length. End result – Den and Pack Champion, with a big trophy to prove it!!! I’m glad I had the DVD camera to capture all of the excitement.
The District race was held a month later. In the Bear rank preliminaries, our son took third out of 45 participants, qualifying for the District finals. There was a significant break between our rank qualifying and the finals, so I took the car and we went to lunch. It was at this point I probably made a mistake. During the lunch break I added more graphite to the wheels and axles. While I spun them in, I’m still wondering if it was a mistake. In the finals, we never came close. We ended up finishing ninth out of 15 in the finals. Disappointing for our son, but not bad for a first-ever racer.
John Nelson
Sterling, VA
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 4
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