Tuesday, April 16, 2013

PINEWOOD DERBY MEMORY
Forget Pinewood Fever, 2005 was MADNESS!


For our family, racing is not a hobby, it's a passion. We are a deeply rooted NASCAR clan, so it's 'somewhat' understandable that the 2005 pinewood derby season actually started for us in late 2004. We searched on the Internet for speed tips and how Packs from around the U.S. operate their events. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we weren't the only ones that had sawdust in the carport that somehow got tracked through my wife's freshly mopped floors. We discovered a guy named Stan Pope and his comments on DerbyTalk and I thought to myself, "WOW, the emerald city for Pinewood Derby and Stan is OZ". We also discovered Maximum Velocity and again were amazed at the amount of tools and so forth available. It wasn’t long before the MADNESS started and we ordered one each of every tool Maximum Velocity had in stock.

We took the block of wood, axles, and wheels out of the box, and talked about what we had learned from the net, It was decided that the design was going to be a simple one; a wedge. As we trued the axles, rounded the wheels and bored out the void where the weights were to be installed we had a pretty good feeling about what we had learned. As we used each tool we discussed safe use, and the theory behind its use. As we built the machine we discussed the previous year's entries and made immediate comparisons where we neglected things before; most notably the lack of attention to the wheels and axles - prepping them for speed. After the paint and decals were applied we aligned the wheels using the Pope method and broke in the wheels using the graphite and a Dremel tool. Once we completed the racer we took our cars from past years and lined them up next to each other. All we could do is chuckle; our new Hot Rod was going to be tough to beat. This year's car was called 'Sunday Money'.

Sierra Vista Pack 408 approached me and asked if I would be interested in running the Derby for 2005 (after I shared with them how others were running successful shows, and ours could use a little tweaking). The four-lane wooden track the pack had had for years only had two lanes that would run without the cars leaving the track, and the two that were left were inconsistent. Sure we could have remodeled the current track, but I remembered seeing something on the net and that’s when the MADNESS level increased. I ordered and donated a brand new, 4 lane aluminum track from BestTrack and an electronic scoring tower. My wife is pretty handy with a sewing machine, so the crew went to the store picking out blue, gold, and checkered fabric for table cloths, etc. to create a very festive look. Once it was all set up, it was great to see the boy’s eyes when they saw the new stuff for the Pack. There was a new excitement as a points system was used, and each entry ran four times to determine the Den and Pack Champions. More racing in less time made it exciting for everyone.

'Sunday Money' not only looked fast but performed just like we had hoped - in the first heat, she pulled away on the flat part of the track. Based on what we had learned we knew it would get faster and, as the day went on she didn’t disappoint us. I noticed she was getting faster not just by the margin of victory but by how far she would stop on the braking section of the new track. Our car went on to win both the Den and Pack Championships that day, an undefeated record of 8-0. Next stop on the schedule was the District Finals. She placed first, bumping her record up to 11-0. Finally the Council Championship, where she received the first loss and finished second. 'Sunday Money' is now retired, but will always have its own place on the mantle with her career record of 14-1.

It amazes me how a seven inch-long, fifty cent piece of wood has generated so much excitement and intensity (and MADNESS) since the introduction of the Pinewood Derby in 1953 by Don Murphy.

Robert Butterfield

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 13

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