Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity
How I got Involved With the Pinewood Derby
My eldest son created a great design for his first pinewood derby. Of course, I didn't realize until derby day that the weights on the bottom of the car had to be inset for the car to clear the track's guide rail. Thank goodness for the Craftsman rotary tool!!
The car ran great!! He ended up winning his den heats and moving into the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, he was twice pitted against one of his den-mates whom he had already beaten two times before. But in the semi's, the other car beat my son's! My son's car ended up in 5th place overall - the other boy's car took 3rd place. We couldn't figure out how the other boy's car had beaten our son's car both times in the semi-finals.
UNTIL ... we reviewed the videotape (Mom was out of town, so we had videotaped all of my son's races). It turned out that the adult running the starting line was different for the den heats than for the semi's and finals. The track had a starting gate that was dropped manually. The adult running the den heats dropped the gate QUICKLY, but the leader running the semi's S L O W L Y lowered the gate. The other boy's car had a wedge-shaped nose that was beveled from underneath. The slow gate allowed his nose to move about an inch ahead of the other cars before they started moving. That inch was all that was needed!!
Oftentimes the easiest way to resolve an issue is to just volunteer. So the next year I became the race chairman. The starting gate was changed to SNAP open with rubber bands and lane/car rotations were standardized so that a car wouldn't race against the same cars any more than necessary.