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Pre-Race Events Add Excitement to Your Pinewood Derby Race

If you have ever been to a contemporary concert, there seems to always be a
'warm-up' act. Why is this done? To build audience excitement, and get the
attendees in the mood for the main event.

Similarly a pre-race event serves as a 'warm-up' act for your pinewood derby
event. The presence of such an event will generate excitement and encourage
people to arrive early. Larry Walser of Pack 436 in Rochester, Pennsylvania
points out that if you have trouble getting people to assist in setting up
the facilities for the pinewood derby race, holding a pre-race event can
also draw additional set-up help.

There are of course innumerable ideas for pre-race events, and I am sure
that you can come up with some great ideas. But to help stir the mental
process, below are several events that have been held at our local race, and
at the local races of our readers.


Special races are great because they involve members of your group. Here
are two popular ideas.

Hot Wheels Race - A Hot Wheels race is a great way to get the little tykes
involved. We held this event with great success for two years. Our method
was as follows. Each pre-school child was allowed to enter one Hot Wheels
car (could be Matchbox or any other manufacturer). The check-in was held
fifteen minutes before the Hot Wheels race, which allowed time to collect
the cars and the names of the kids. The race was a simple double
elimination with a prize for first. We gave a gift certificate to an ice
cream parlor as the prize.

To accommodate the cars, we purchased some Hot Wheels track and laid two
lanes between the center guide rails on the pinewood derby track. The cars
would have run right on the pinewood derby track, but we didn't want to take
the risk of marring the wood. Of course, the Hot Wheels track was much
shorter than the pinewood derby track, and since it did not reach to the
electronic finish line, we used two leaders as finish line judges.

Adult Race - Adult races are quite popular as a pre-race event. Several
readers mentioned that adult races are held at their local race. John
Hubler of Pack 165 in Round Rock, Texas says that they find an adult race is
a great tool to prepare the track workers for the main event. Larry Walser
of Pack 136 also mentioned that with an adult race, the parents had their
own project, so the kids did more work on their own cars!

We held an adult race last year. The rules were very open, even allowing
certain (safe) power assistance. The winning car for our adult race was
built by yours truly. It was propeller-driven and very fast. Pictures are
posted Here.


Demonstrations relating to racing are also popular pre-race events. Two
demonstrations we have used are listed below, but you might consider another
event such as an R/C car race in the parking lot (check with the local hobby
store for a local club that might stage the event).

Race Car - One year we invited a local stock car race team to bring a car to
our event. They showed the car and started the engine (in retrospect, this
was not the best idea as it was so loud that people inside the building had
to cover their ears!). But the kids and parents thought the car was cool
and they enjoyed talking to the team.

Lester Bowes of Marietta, Ohio used local dirt track drivers as starters for
their race. The drivers wore their race suits, and signed autographs during
down time. Some even brought pictures of their cars to sign.

Rocket Car - Several years ago we demonstrated the 'World's Fastest Pinewood
Derby Car.' The car used a pinewood derby block, but was equipped with a
rocket motor and rubber tires. The rocket car raced on a guide string in the
parking lot and was clearly the 'World's Fastest Pinewood Derby Car.'

This year we will (hopefully) be having a drag race between two rocket cars.
I have asked a member of the local Sheriff's department to bring a radar
gun, so hopefully we will find out how fast they go. Pictures of the
original rocket car and our new second rocket car are posted at

If you are interested in building and racing a rocket car, we offer both
kits and plans. See the Newsletter Special for discount pricing on the kit.


John Hubler told us that Pack 165 allows the older participants to vote for
'Best of Show' before the race. When registered, each car is entered in one
of four 'Best of Show' categories:

Best Craftsmanship (Original Kit, Paint and Decals only)
Most Patriotic (Original Kit, Paint and Decals only)
Best Car Design (Unlimited Accessories Allowed)
Best Non-Car Design (Unlimited Accessories Allowed)

Each entrant is then given three ballots with the four categories listed.
The entrant can fill out all three ballots, or share them with
relatives/friends. Awards are then presented after the ballots are tallied.


A final category for pre-race events is special guest speakers.
Possibilities include a local policeman, fireman, civic leader, etc. Maybe
you can even find a celebrity or a sports star. Encourage the speaker to
talk at the kids level, and discuss a topic of interest to them. A talk on
cars, racing, or another transportation-related topic would be even better.


Pre-race events are fun and a great way to generate interest. Hopefully one
or more of these ideas will work in your local race. If not, put on your
thinking cap and come up with another!

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 1, Issue 14

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