Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity
How Has Pinewood Derby Racing Changed?
5. How has the Internet affected the event?
Overwhelmingly, the Internet was viewed as a positive for pinewood derby
John Shreffler - The Internet serves not only as a market to offer or buy
equipment, but as a place to share and learn about experiences,
recommendations, and recognition. Ten years ago there were only a few sites
dealing with Pinewood Derby. Today, there are thousands.
Bill Launius - The Internet is positive in that it has made the ability to
gain the knowledge of building fast cars accessible to all.
Michael Lastufka - I think it demystifies pinewood racing, especially for
the beginner who has never seen a track with a lane guide or timer. It makes
equipping for the race more accessible to those on a lower budget.
Coordinators can find plans for do-it-yourself tracks and timers, and if you
have some programming knowledge, source code can be found or requested from
individuals through forums. On the forums there is usually someone who can
answer your question or get you pointed in the right direction. No one has
to go into planning, running or participating in the event blindly anymore.
a. Specifically, is E-bay a positive or negative effect? Why?
There were mixed thoughts on this one. Selling parts on e-bay was viewed
favorably. However, everyone took a shot that those selling completed cars,
specifically the "guaranteed district champion" cars.
Darin McGrew - eBay cars, and the "learn to BUY a winner" approach to the
derby corrupts the ‘learn to BUILD a winner’ ideal. On the other hand, some
folks have set up legitimate businesses on eBay selling derby supplies that
might be hard to get in less urban areas.
Randy Lisano - eBay has been positive in that you can get some bargains on
supplies and race equipment, but the negative aspect is those that buy fast
cars and pass them off as their own.
b. Specifically, are on-line speed stores (such as Maximum Velocity)
positive or negative?
The response was mostly positive, with some concerns about what is being
Cory Young - I view these as both positive and negative. Positive insofar
as they allow the purchase of weights, decals, tools, and anything to help a
boy build a better car from scratch, speed shops are great. Negative insofar
as they allow the purchase of pre-built or pre-worked cars or components,
they go against my ‘from scratch’ philosophy.
Darin McGrew - I think they're positive when they sell tools and basic
supplies. I'm less convinced when they start selling professionally machined
components. I'd rather see the kids learning how to do things themselves.
John Shreffler - These are a positive thing. No matter how much lip service
is paid to the togetherness, fun, learning, and the like, it is a race.
Everyone is tuned in to the speed. Fast cars are no accident. You can
learn a lot from these sites.
Bill Launius - On-line speed shops are very positive in that they understand
what people are looking for and what works. It is something that is hard to
find in a traditional retail store.
c. Specifically, are on-line forums (such as the DerbyTalk, Pinewood
Performance, and PinePro forums) positive or negative? Why?
The respondents were very positive on forums, but with the caveats noted
Cory Young - To the extent that forums are a great place for sharing all
kinds of information about the pinewood derby they are positive. But to the
extent that most of the discussion centers around how to go faster and win
trophies, one wonders: do these folks take what they learn and share it with
their organizations? I know that some do; I bet that many don't.
Darin McGrew - Overall, I think they're positive. For a newcomer, I'm sure
it's like drinking from a fire hose. Most father-son teams would probably
benefit more from one of the many good ‘how to’ guides than from wading into
the ocean of information. But for people running derbies, and using them as
a tool for ministering to kids, they're great.
Randy Lisano - I'm biased, but I do believe that these online forums are a
great way to share information so racers can build better cars and race
coordinators can put on better races. There have been many great
discussions on about every facet of building a car and those forums that are
searchable make them great research tools.
6. How has the advent of new products such as the Pro-Tool line affected the
event (positive or negative)?
Generally positive responses were received, with most appreciating the
relatively low cost for the resulting high precision.
Cory Young - A tool such as the Pro-Body Tool is more affordable and more
easily shared than, say, a drill press. Over time, tools such as these will
not only improve car quality but also level the playing field.
Darin McGrew - I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, specialized tools
like this are more accessible to people who can't afford more expensive,
more generalized tools, and whose only real woodshop activity during the
year is the derby. On the other hand, learning to use drill presses and
other shop tools is a more useful general skill.
Bill Launius - I am of course biased, but I believe that the Pro-Tool line
is very positive in that it has not only increased the speed of the cars and
eased the building process, but it has brought precision and accuracy to
those that do not have access to lathes and mills.
Michael Lastufka - As a ‘pinewood engineer’, I rely on some of these tools
to increase the consistency of our trial cars to obtain mathematically
significant results. Many race scheduling methods favor fast, consistent
cars over the car that achieves the fastest race time only once in the race.
7. How has the basic "spirit of the event" changed (if it has)? Is this
change positive or negative?
The general feeling was that the basic ‘spirit of the event’ has not really
Cory Young - The spirit of the event is the same as it was years ago. The
basic competitive tendencies of people do not change that much over time.
Darin McGrew - It depends on the derby. It depends on the people running the
derby, and the people participating in the derby. The competition in some
derbies gets pretty cutthroat, but ours stays pretty low-key, and keeps the
emphasis on the kids doing the work and having a good time.
John Shreffler - The spirit has not really changed. The high tech aspects
have made things edgier and flashier, perhaps, but the core event, the
intention, the direction, and the emotions are always there.....an American
Icon, up there with Mom and Apple Pie.
Bill Launius - I believe that the spirit of ‘Doing your Best’ and ‘Working
with your children’ is as strong if not stronger than ever. This is what
makes this a GREAT yearly event for families.
Cory Young - Former Webmaster of "Pack 146 Pinewood Derby"
Darin McGrew - Webmaster of "Shape N Race Derby" at:
John Shreffler - Proprietor of "The Judge" at: http://www.newdirections.ws
Billy Launius – Manufacturer of the Pro-Tool line of pinewood derby
Don Murphy - Founder of the pinewood derby.
Randy Lisano - Author of "Grand Prix Race Manager", etc. at:
Michael Lastufka - Webmaster and pinewood derby 'scientist' at:
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 4, Issue 12
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