Boy Scouts of America
By: Gary DeRoy
Some of you may know nothing about Pinewood Derby racing, and others will have fond memories of building, preparing and racing your cars when you were young. It's an excellent way for fathers and sons to spend some time together on a project that is usually interesting for the kids. The boys spend a lot of time talking about it in school before and after the event. Joe and I plan the project together starting with the initial car design. I don't let him use my band saw yet (or any other power tools), but there's lots he can do. Plus, he learns about potential energy, aerodynamics, physics, which tools to use to do the job, and the need to pay attention to each little detail in order to make a winner.
I'm listing the results of the races in descending order, starting with the most current year. The local races are usually held on the second Saturday in March and are comprised of all the Dens in his Pack; usually about 40 cars.
Joey did well at the district race. He came in 3rd, 11/1000's of a second behind 1st place, and that was after I dropped his car. I'm sure that didn't make it any faster. A different scale is used to measure the weight at each event. Joe's car was .02 ounces too heavy at this event so I had to lighten it. The only thing I could do was remove a 1/10th ounce section of weight. The workbench was full, so I made the change standing up and dropped his car about 3 feet to the hardwood floor.
|Joey's 2003 Pinewood Derby car. I thought it looked pretty good, but some people said it looked like a red frog.||The lighting was bad, so these pictures didn't come out very well. I wanted to show the difference in the shape from the district track to the local track which can be seen at the bottom of this page.|
The format of the race called for timed runs and the winner would have the lowest average time. Two tracks with two lanes each were set up. They were going to have each driver run twice on each lane, but the weather was bad and the event was taking longer than expected. Part way through the racing, they changed it so each driver would race once on each lane. Generally, the cars get a little slower on each run as the graphite wears off their axles. Joe had to take his 3rd run over because the track was reset before the computer operators could mark down the times. I wonder how much faster his initial run was.
|This district track has a steeper drop and longer flat than the local one. It's also longer overall. Joe actually designed his car to run on this track instead of the local one. I guess it paid off.||Joey and his mother waiting for the next round of racing.|
It was a long event and the grandstand seating wasn't comfortable. There were 165 registered drivers. Three of Joe's runs were come-from-behind wins. He'd come down the slope a little behind the other car and would pull away when he hit the flat. As the other car would lose momentum and slow down, it gave the illusion that Joey's car accelerated on the flat. It was fun to watch.
Joe received his local race trophy last night. Other boys who did well in our local race came in 40th and 74th in the district race. One again, there are no plans for a statewide race.
Here it is, March 8th, 2003 and it's time for another Pinewood Derby. We knew it was going to be hard to beat last year's entry and decided to stick with the same basics, but do everything a little better. I must say, the quality and speed of all the cars this year was much higher than before. Some of them were real lookers, too.
|Look at the detail on this one. The windows are actually etched in and even the wire wheels are painted. It wasn't the fastest car, but it could have taken "best in show".||Joe's car looked pretty good. It's a bit dirty in these pictures, but it was sleek and fast and it's design was a function of balance and aerodynamics.|
In past years, there were basically 2 parts to the race; a preliminary round and a final. The top drivers in the 1st round made it to the 2nd round. There, the drivers raced each other twice, once in each lane, and a winner was chosen on his number of wins. The reason for racing twice is that one lane is always a little faster than the other.
|Now there's concentration for you. Line it up good, Joe.||Joe gets off to a slow start on this run, but it'll be a come from behind win.|
This year things were done differently. There were three rounds; the preliminary where everyone raced, a 2nd round based on the top drivers from round one, and a final round based on the top drivers from round two. In the final round, the drivers raced each other once, not twice (once in each lane). As the race progressed, we could see that there was one car that would be his 'real' competition. Joey won all his races in the 1st round. In the 2nd round he finally came up against the 'other' car and was fortunate enough to beat it by a nose. It was close, but he remained undefeated through 2 rounds. In the final round he raced the car again, but this time he wasn't so lucky. He came out of the gate a little crooked and the other car won.
When we set up the track the night before the race, we knew that "Lane A" was faster than "Lane B". This was also clear during the race. Unfortunately, Joey was on "Lane B" each time he raced the other car. Because he was beat in the final round, Joe came in 2nd and the other car won, even though both cars had only lost one race the entire day. That's OK as far as it goes, but the cars lost to each other. It left a lot of us wanting to know which one was really faster. Another car also lost only one race in the final round, and Joe had to race him twice, once in each lane, to determine who came in 2nd and who came in 3rd. Joe won both heats.
"Official" Race Photo
This new race format leaves me a bit unsatisfied and with mixed feelings. I wouldn't want to change the results of the race. The winning driver is a very nice boy and he had a very fast car. He deserved to win. I also think, for many reasons, it's good that the same driver doesn't win the local race year after year. Joey said he's glad the other boy won (he's Joe's friend and classmate) because he deserved it and Joe had his turn last year. That's a great attitude and I wholly agree. Still, this is the Pinewood Derby Competition. The reason for racing the cars is to determine which one is faster, and that never happened.
I'd like to see the local rules changed back to the way they were in past years. It was fairer to all the drivers. If they can't do this, I hope that they'll consider having an 'unofficial' run-off race between cars with the same winning record. After a long morning of racing and watching each car win race after race, this would at least satisfy the spectators' curiosity, and really, it would only take two minutes.
The format of the race aside, it was a fantastic morning. Much of the competition was close. There were a lot of exciting photo finishes and come-from-behind wins. The Scouts were well behaved and I'm sure most of them had a great time. Joe and the other top 5 drivers will now go on to the District race in April.
This year Joey's Boy Scout Pinewood Derby local race was Saturday, March 9th (2002). He won all his heats in the 1st round again, plus all the heats in the final for a very decisive 1st Place. He was the only one that won all his heats. The other top finishers all lost at least 3. We've learned a lot about Pinewood Derby cars since last year.
Official race photo.
He was well mannered and reserved during the race. As he won more heats, he got lots of cheers. Once he quietly turned to me and gave me a quick 'two thumbs up' to let me know he was ok. That was it. Otherwise, he was very focused.
Joey's car in the 'Garage'.
Altogether there were 245 total heats run with a total of about 36 drivers in the 1st round and 13 in the 2nd. It was a long but exciting event. There were plenty of photo finishes and one tie that had to be re-run. Better than Nascar! Joe had a couple close runs in the 1st round where he came from behind to win, but won most of the heats in the 2nd round quite easily. I think by then his axles must have been polished pretty good by the graphite, or maybe his car was just more rugged than the others.
I was, needless to say, very proud of him and the way he handled himself. He learned a lot about design, kinetic energy and inertia, as well as the importance of doing a job to the best of his ability. I believe it was his attention to detail that gave him 1st place. Not bad for a 7 year old. He'll be racing in the District race in April.
Well, Joe did real well at the state races. It took all day as there were 200 drivers and many more heats run. Although the drivers raced against each other, they were also racing the clock this time. Once again Joey won every heat and came in 9th place overall. The times for the top 10 racers was close, within tenths of a second averaged over all the heats! A job well done, son. Now, let's work on a real smile.
Joey with his 1st and 9th place trophies.
Joe's first Derby race, Saturday, March 10th (2001). He won all his heats in the 1st round, but lost some in the final and ended up 8th overall. The first 5 places go to District races.
Photo's from 2001 race.
March 11, 2002
July 12, 2002
March 11, 2003
April 8, 2003