How Has Pinewood Derby Racing Changed? – Part 2

5. How has the Internet affected the event?

Overwhelmingly, the Internet was viewed as a positive for pinewood derby racing.

John Shreffler – The Internet serves not only as a market to offer or buy equipment, but as a place to share and learn about experiences, recommendations, and recognition. Ten years ago there were only a few sites dealing with Pinewood Derby. Today, there are thousands.

Bill Launius – The Internet is positive in that it has made the ability to gain the knowledge of building fast cars accessible to all.

Michael Lastufka – I think it demystifies pinewood racing, especially for the beginner who has never seen a track with a lane guide or timer. It makes equipping for the race more accessible to those on a lower budget. Coordinators can find plans for do-it-yourself tracks and timers, and if you have some programming knowledge, source code can be found or requested from individuals through forums. On the forums there is usually someone who can answer your question or get you pointed in the right direction. No one has to go into planning, running or participating in the event blindly anymore.

a. Specifically, is E-bay a positive or negative effect? Why?

There were mixed thoughts on this one. Selling parts on e-bay was viewed favorably. However, everyone took a shot that those selling completed cars, specifically the “guaranteed district champion” cars.

Darin McGrew – eBay cars, and the “learn to BUY a winner” approach to the derby corrupts the ‘learn to BUILD a winner’ ideal. On the other hand, some folks have set up legitimate businesses on eBay selling derby supplies that might be hard to get in less urban areas.

Randy Lisano – eBay has been positive in that you can get some bargains on supplies and race equipment, but the negative aspect is those that buy fast cars and pass them off as their own.

b. Specifically, are on-line speed stores (such as Maximum Velocity) positive or negative?

The response was mostly positive, with some concerns about what is being sold.

Cory Young – I view these as both positive and negative. Positive insofar as they allow the purchase of weights, decals, tools, and anything to help a boy build a better car from scratch, speed shops are great. Negative insofar as they allow the purchase of pre-built or pre-worked cars or components, they go against my ‘from scratch’ philosophy.

Darin McGrew – I think they’re positive when they sell tools and basic supplies. I’m less convinced when they start selling professionally machined components. I’d rather see the kids learning how to do things themselves.

John Shreffler – These are a positive thing. No matter how much lip service is paid to the togetherness, fun, learning, and the like, it is a race. Everyone is tuned in to the speed. Fast cars are no accident. You can learn a lot from these sites.

Bill Launius – On-line speed shops are very positive in that they understand what people are looking for and what works. It is something that is hard to find in a traditional retail store.

c. Specifically, are on-line forums (such as the DerbyTalk, Pinewood Performance, and PinePro forums) positive or negative? Why?

The respondents were very positive on forums, but with the caveats noted below.

Cory Young – To the extent that forums are a great place for sharing all kinds of information about the pinewood derby they are positive. But to the extent that most of the discussion centers around how to go faster and win trophies, one wonders: do these folks take what they learn and share it with their organizations? I know that some do; I bet that many don’t.

Darin McGrew – Overall, I think they’re positive. For a newcomer, I’m sure it’s like drinking from a fire hose. Most father-son teams would probably benefit more from one of the many good ‘how to’ guides than from wading into the ocean of information. But for people running derbies, and using them as a tool for ministering to kids, they’re great.

Randy Lisano – I’m biased, but I do believe that these online forums are a great way to share information so racers can build better cars and race coordinators can put on better races. There have been many great discussions on about every facet of building a car and those forums that are searchable make them great research tools.

6. How has the advent of new products such as the Pro-Tool line affected the event (positive or negative)?

Generally positive responses were received, with most appreciating the relatively low cost for the resulting high precision.

Cory Young – A tool such as the Pro-Body Tool is more affordable and more easily shared than, say, a drill press. Over time, tools such as these will not only improve car quality but also level the playing field.

Darin McGrew – I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, specialized tools like this are more accessible to people who can’t afford more expensive,more generalized tools, and whose only real woodshop activity during the year is the derby. On the other hand, learning to use drill presses and other shop tools is a more useful general skill.

Bill Launius – I am of course biased, but I believe that the Pro-Tool line is very positive in that it has not only increased the speed of the cars and eased the building process, but it has brought precision and accuracy to those that do not have access to lathes and mills.

Michael Lastufka – As a ‘pinewood engineer’, I rely on some of these tools to increase the consistency of our trial cars to obtain mathematically significant results. Many race scheduling methods favor fast, consistent cars over the car that achieves the fastest race time only once in the race.

7. How has the basic “spirit of the event” changed (if it has)? Is this change positive or negative?

The general feeling was that the basic ‘spirit of the event’ has not really changed.

Cory Young – The spirit of the event is the same as it was years ago. The basic competitive tendencies of people do not change that much over time.

Darin McGrew – It depends on the derby. It depends on the people running the derby, and the people participating in the derby. The competition in some derbies gets pretty cutthroat, but ours stays pretty low-key, and keeps the emphasis on the kids doing the work and having a good time.

John Shreffler – The spirit has not really changed. The high tech aspects have made things edgier and flashier, perhaps, but the core event, the intention, the direction, and the emotions are always there… American Icon, up there with Mom and Apple Pie.

Bill Launius – I believe that the spirit of ‘Doing your Best’ and ‘Working with your children’ is as strong if not stronger than ever. This is what makes this a GREAT yearly event for families.

Cory Young – Former Webmaster of “Pack 146 Pinewood Derby”
Darin McGrew – Webmaster of “Shape N Race Derby” at:
John Shreffler – Proprietor of “The Judge” at:
Billy Launius – Manufacturer of the Pro-Tool line of pinewood derby products:
Don Murphy – Founder of the pinewood derby.
Randy Lisano – Author of “Grand Prix Race Manager”, etc. at:
Michael Lastufka – Webmaster and pinewood derby ‘scientist’ at:
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 4, Issue 12
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