Pining for a Derby Track

by Steve Smith
Every year when derby season comes around, scout packs that don’t own a Pinewood Derby track think, “Should we buy or keep borrowing?” After years of borrowing a derby track or begging to use a track after another pack used theirs, we decided it was time to buy our own. So, we assembled a three person committee of parents. Our first decision was that no pack money would be used to purchase equipment or to run upcoming derbies. The initial equipment purchase would come from donations, and future derbies would be self sufficient from food sales. Now we needed to raise the money to make the big purchase.
After using various wood tracks we knew we wanted something different. There were always problems with wood tracks in matching up the sections and having lanes clearly faster than others. One year the track was so rough that wheels were cracking and parts were popping off.
After talking to the packs that had plastic and aluminum tracks, it became apparent; the best tracks were made of aluminum, and also carried the largest price tag.
We shopped the Internet to see what was available, and settled on the BestTrack brand. We added a Smart Line timer, encased with aluminum by BestTrack. With our goals on paper, it was time to come up with a fundraising plan.
We decided to ask pack parents to take a corporate donation request letter to their employer and see what those companies would do. We also developed a tier system of donation levels, Green Flag Level was $100, White Flag level was $200, and the Checkered Flag level was $500.
Each level came with a different recognition for the sponsors. The green level received a certificate of donation, the white level received a framed certificate and their company logo on the race banner, while the checkered level received the banner recognition along with a trophy display by BestTrack (a special certificate attached to a small section of aluminum track) and a custom built derby car with their company logo.
The pack parents asked for some incentives for themselves, as several wanted to pitch in a few dollars. We came up with a $50 and a $100 level. All donors received a framed certificate, and the larger donors had their name engraved on a brass plate attached to the track side. Some parents gave $25, and they too received a certificate.
Our plan was to raise funds for one month and then see where we were at. Overall, it took two months to reach our goal of $3,500.
With our money in hand, we placed an order from BestTrack for a six lane, forty foot track with a two foot stopping section, and their six lane timer with race management software. We also purchased an electromagnetic starting gate system. In addition, we bought an SKB storage case (3R2817-10B-CW) from CSN Stores. It’s deep enough for two levels, one for the timer and the other for all the cords. It comes with cubed foam so it looks custom inside, and protects the investment for a long time. To protect the track, one of the pack’s dads built a storage box at no charge.
This month we will hold the grand unveiling when we give the pinewood derby kits to the kids. The track will be all set up and there will be several race cars ready to show off the track and timer.
One of our sponsors was a hobby store, and we have since developed a great relationship. In the spring we will have a race at their store, open to all kids that buy their kit and pay a small entry fee. We will get the fee plus all the proceeds from food and drink sales. The store will get the kit sales, and sales of accessories and supplies needed to build the car. We plan on having a “Best of Show” trophy to encourage more paint, decal, and sandpaper sales. It sounds like a win-win to us.
One of our goals is to reach out to a local hospital with children to do a day of racing, one for those walking or in wheel chairs and one for those that are bed ridden. We will have the scouts build six identically prepared cars (but with different colors) for the kids to race. Ribbons would be awarded to everyone that participates.
I encourage everyone to reach out to their local “Mom and Pop” hobby store and do something similar. Maybe that’s why I like doing business with Maximum Velocity; it’s a Mom and Pop business, and you can talk to the owners any time. In fact, Randy, the owner of Maximum Velocity, gave us several tips to make our fundraising endeavor successful.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 6

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