Soap box competitors race down Broadway for spot in national competition

Sunday, June 10, 2012 | 8:17 p.m. CDT
Participants in the All-American Soap Box Derby raced Sunday. Some won, some lost and some crashed. Mayor Bob McDavid raced against Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill.

COLUMBIA ­­­— Patty Stone has seen her three children through their years of soap box racing and now helps her husband and son repair soap box cars in the pit crew.

Standing in the pit at Sunday's Mid-Missouri All-American Soap Box Derby, Stone said the strategy to soap box racing is simple: Keep the car straight and stay low.

Derby winners

After nearly nine hours of soap box racing, the winners were:

Stock division

First place: Charles Neville II

Second place: Timothy Smith

Super stock division

First place: "Highway" Hank Hildebrand

Second place: Thomas Ferguson

Master division

First place: Haden Singleton

Second place: Nathan Calcote-Holmes

Thirty-seven soap box racers put Stone's strategy to practice Sunday, racing down Broadway between Ninth Street and Providence Road for a spot in the nationwide soap box competition in Akron, Ohio. Competitors split into three divisions based on experience: stock, super stock and master. Two winners from each division were granted a spot in the national competition beginning July 28.

Sunday's competition began at 8:30 a.m. when the rules of the derby were announced. Racers' soap box cars are required to have a weight equivalent to their opponent's, determined by a scale. If one racer's car is lighter than the other, lead weights are added until both cars are even.

Preparation, however, took place long before Sunday. Janet Kieffer, who was at the derby supporting her son Tavie, 12, said it took 10 hours for Tavie and his grandfather to assemble the car.

For additional preparation at the race, competitors can visit the pit. The pit resides under a tent, sawhorses and tools at the ready in case of repairs needed throughout the day.

Patty Stone's fellow pit crew members, husband O.J. and son Otha, have been part of the competition's pit crew for six years, she said. The pits crew's primary job is to make minor repairs to cars, such as replacing axles and tuning up steering.

“Our goal is to keep the cars running so no kids have to drop out because their car won’t compete,” O.J. Stone said. “As long as they’re eligible to keep racing, we want them to keep racing.”

The Stones weren't always members of the pit crew. Patty and O.J.'s three children became involved as racers in 1999 after O.J. went to a home show and saw a soap box car. O.J. said he thought it looked fun and quickly started all three of his kids in competitions.

Otha raced from ages 8 to 15. He competed until he could no longer fit in the car, O.J. said.

Their youngest daughter, Krystal Stone, went to Akron twice: once in 2000 and once in 2002.

“It’s just a good time,” Patty Stone said. “It gives them a chance, the parents and the children, to work together on getting the car together.”

Janet Kieffer, whose son was participating in the race for the first time, said she was impressed with the camaraderie and sportsmanship among competitors.

“The kids are all great sports,” Kieffer said. “It’s a wonderful thing. They’re really supporting each other. They’re congratulating each other and thanking each other, saying good luck before they go down.”

Supervising editor is Dan Burley.

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