Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity
Lisano Enterprises Company Profile By Randy Lisano
Our involvement in pinewood derby racing began back in 1999, with our church's first Awana Grand Prix. Our daughter Amanda was a 3rd grader, at the time. A friend of ours was heading up the race and he enlisted a gentleman from the church, who was a contractor, to build a four lane race track from the Awana plans. I decided to help out where I could. That started what would become an addiction and eventually a full time business.
Well, I had not been fortunate enough as a kid to be involved in Cub Scouts, so I was not familiar with pinewood derby type racing at all. So, I decided to do some research. Surfing the web, I was surprised about the amount of information and tips that were available. I dove in and tried to learn about building the cars and how the race was run. I collected a lot of information from a variety of web sites and tried to digest it all.
Amanda didn't want some simple car design, of course. She wanted a dolphin! "Oh brother," I thought. No easy feat when you only have a jig saw at your disposal to cut out the car. Trying to securely hold the block while cutting it was a challenge. Well, we managed to get the body cut out and used some balsa for the fins. My wife Shelly helped with the paint job. We put the wheels on as straight as we could and raised one of the front wheels. We made sure to involve Amanda as much as she could at that age. The car turned out rather nice for a first build. It ended up winning 3rd Place for speed too.
In preparing to help out for the race, I decided that I wanted to build a timing system. After reading about trying to eyeball judge a race, I figured that we really needed one. It was a simple parallel port sensor system, where the computer actually did the timing using a small software program written in Basic, running on DOS. The night before the race, I was working until 3am on it and just couldn't get it working. So, come race day we ended up eyeball judging after all. Well, right after the race, I was able to quickly determine the problem and fix it. Having had a bit of sleep, I'm sure helped. Oh well, we had it ready for the next year's race. By this point, I was totally hooked on this race, so I decided to coordinate the next race.
Car Inspection Gauge Parts
The timing system was ready to go for the next race, but I really did not like the simple Excel spreadsheet that we used and having to use separate timing software. I started looking around for some race management software. I didn't really like the free or commercial software that was available at the time, as it didn't really run the race as our church preferred, so I decided that I would write some myself. That was the birth of our GrandPrix Race Manager software. Our next race went really well and the software was a hit. Version 1 was made available as shareware for a couple of years and received lots of good feedback and suggestions for improvement. People at our church recommended that I start selling the software, so I rewrote it to be more of a commercial grade software package. Our company, Lisano Enterprises, was born and we started selling the software. That was back in 2002.
Our business grew rapidly, as word of our software spread and timer manufacturers started packaging it along with their timers. We added our other software packages to help enhance the race experience and branched into some non-software products, like our Car Inspection Go/No-Go Gauges, to help run the race. By 2005, with a lot of help from my wife, I started working this business as a full-time venture. Each year we improve our software and strive to provide quality service and support.
I have also been active in the pinewood derby community by providing free information and resources to help build the cars and run the races. Actually, before our GrandPrix Race Manager software was launched commercially, I created the GrandPrix Race Central website(1) to be a central repository of information and resources to make a race coordinator's job easier. In June of 2003, I launched the Derby Talk website.(2) It is a forum to discuss all aspects of building the cars and running the races. It has grown to over 2,100 members and 58,000 individual message posts. The sharing of information has led to the running of many successful races and has helped many racers to be much more competitive at local and higher level races.
What started out as helping at our church's first Awana Grand Prix turned into a hobby (addiction) and into a business. I have been quite blessed to be able to turn a hobby into a fun job. With this hobby, our three kids have been able to participate in many Awana and Cub Scout races over the years. Each kid has quite a collection of cars and trophies. Not all of their cars won in speed or design, but each year they did more of the construction and we enjoyed the time working together. Though my daughter is off on her own now and my boys are out of scouts, I continue to stay active by donating my time to run races for local Awana clubs that do not have their own track setup.
Randy Lisano Owner, Lisano Enterprises
Randy and Shelly Lisano
Lisano Enterprises offers a variety of software and supplies for pinewood derby race management. They are located in Highlands Ranch, Colorado; and can be found on the web at: www.grandprix-software-central.com