Pinewood Derby Memory – The Spongy Car

We had our pinewood derby a few weeks ago. My kids and I built three cars, two for the open class (Michelle, 10 years and Johnny, 4 years) and one for my 6 year-old son (Alex) who is in scouts. It was the night before the weigh-in and everything was going great. We rated the wheels and placed the best set on Alex’s car, and the worst on Johnny’s. We then polished, aligned, lubricated, etc. The cars were looking great.
Then disaster struck. The only way that I can describe it is that the wheel slots on Alex’s car melted apart. When Alex had painted his car, he put on so much primer and paint that the car had a spongy feel (it still is that way!). The wheels fell off and the axle slots were ruined. This was about 5 hours before the official weigh-in and we did not have time to build another car. So, using epoxy, we glued the wheels on as straight as we could. We then went to the weigh-in and were set for the race.
On race day, I was the judge that monitored the cars and kept them from being modified before the race (I also was the one who carried them to the starting line). When putting out the cars, I noticed that the wheels on Alex’s car were very much mis-aligned. It must have been bounced around after check-in. But since all of the cars were registered, there was nothing we could do. Alex was very disappointed to find out that his car placed almost dead-last. The wheels were so out of alignment that while the car was fast for the first few feet, it did not have the staying power to finish the race. It would run in first place for the first few feet and then lose out in the end. The one bright spot in the otherwise sad day for Alex was that he won the prize for the sportiest looking car.
Then came the open division. Michelle’s car finished 9th or 10th, and took first in the unique design category. Johnny’s car (which had the worst wheels and the least attention to alignment), finished 5th. His car did not lose a race until the final two races.
It just goes to show that you can never really predict what will happen when you race in the pinewood derby.
Brian Stanek
Indianapolis, IN
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 9
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