Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity
SPEED TIP Adding Brakes to Your Car By Peter Holzemer
You can't win no matter how fast your car is if it gets damaged at the stop section of the track. Our district track is a forty foot wood track with a three foot raised stop section terminated by a foam rubber stop bar across the end of the track. Unfortunately, the fastest cars slide through the stop section hitting the foam stop bar relatively hard. These fast cars either flip over the bar onto the hard floor, or hit the foam so hard that they bounce backwards through the stop section onto the track. Sometimes, the bounced cars collide with other slower moving cars, causing damage to all involved.
In our second year of racing, my son's car was the fastest in the first heat. His car slid through the stop section, hit the stop bar, and flipped onto the floor, bending a rear axle. Not realizing that the axle was bent we kept on racing and winning, only to have the car slow down in the finals. My son was fortunate enough to place third overall, but the other top cars were not so fortunate. Those cars also received damage from the foam stop bar, but ended up losing their top spots. After that experience, we decided a change was needed - brakes for the car.
The brake system is very simple, just two small strips of 80 grit black drywall sandpaper glued to the bottom of the car in front of and behind the rear axle. This sandpaper causes the car to slow down quickly when it reaches the raised stop section. The deceleration is enough to keep the cars from bouncing on the stop bar. Now, we add brakes to all our pack cars going to the district race. At this past year's event, none of our pack cars had a crash.