Derby Day begins for Soap Boxers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2000

Features Editor

July 15, 2000 11 PM

For the first time ever, Troy and Pike County will be represented in the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio July 16-22.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Troy Soap Box Champions Austin Bennett and Ellen Dragsten will leave tomorrow for Derby Town and a chance to come home an All-American Soap Box Derby Champion.

The two champions and their families will spend a week in Akron and participate in the many activities that are planned for both the drivers and their parents. Most of the activities are centered around the campus of Akron University. The drivers will participate in Derby Town activities including swimming, horseback riding and team sports competitions. They will also have the opportunity to meet many celebrities at autograph sessions.

Nancy Brooks, director of the Troy Soap Box Derby Association, will join the drivers and their families in Akron.

"This is a opportunity for me to see how the All-American Soap Box Derby is run and to get ideas for our future derbies," she said. "We felt like our first derby was very successful but we know there are areas in which we can improve. And, we want to grow bigger and better each year. This is will be a good learning experience for all of us who go."

And they are going with high hopes.

Brooks said the top speeds reached by the Troy champions were between 30 and 32 mph.

"The director of the All-American Derby said our speeds were in line with the other fastest cars and that our drivers have a good chance of finishing in the top," she said. "Of course, they’ll have to have an outstanding run and keep their cars straight on the track to do that."

However, the Troy champions have an advantage over many of the nearly 400 participants in the All-American Soap Box Derby.

"Our track was about the same length as theirs – 800 feet – and that’s a plus for our drivers," Brooks said. "Some drivers come off races where the track wasn’t as long and the speeds weren’t as good and they just can’t handle it. I believe we have as good a chance as anybody."

Austin will race in the super stock division, and Ellen will race in the stock division. Brooks said the drivers are excited about the trip and anxious to race. Their attitudes should get them off to a good start.

"They won’t be intimidated by the long track or the speeds," she said. "They will be ready."

The All-American Soap Box Derby will be run differently from the local race which was a double elimination race with a driver having to win two races in each two-car heat.

"In Akron, three three cars will race at a time and you get one trip down the track," Brooks said. "It’s win or lose in that one trip."

College scholarships and cash prizes are awarded to the top finishers and Brooks said the top 10 in each division will receive some type of recognition.

Derby Day, July 22, will kickoff with a pancake breakfast and a parade followed by the opening ceremony at 11:00 a.m. The starting gun will sound at 11:30 and the All-American Soap Box Derby 2000 will be underway.

The race will end around 4:30 and the awards ceremony will be held Saturday night.

"All of us are looking forward to the trip and I

know we’ll have a good time," Brooks said. "We hope to be make this trip many times with our champions in the future."

Roger and Virginia Dragsten, and son Andrew, and Jeffery and Vernita Bennett, all of Troy will enjoy the Akron experience with their children.

The Soap Box Derby is a youth racing program for boys and girls ages 9 through 16.

The first All American Soap Box Derby race was held in Dayton in 1934 and was moved to Akron the next year. Each year since, except during WWII, youngsters from all over the United States and several foreign countries have build racers to represent their city.

The Troy Soap Box Derby Association directors believe this even can impact the youth involved to make more confident and self-reliant young adults for the future.

Pike Countians are encouraged follow televised pieces about the Derby on national news programs.