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Pike soap boxers ready for

national derby on Saturday

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

July 19, 2000 10 PM

Pike County is making itself known at the All-American Soap Box Derby 2000 in Akron, Ohio this week.

Both the Dragsten stock box car and the Social Cafe super stock car were presented in perfect racing condition at the inspection giving VIP status to the drivers of the cars, Ellen Dragsten and Austin Bennett.

Nancy Brooks, director of the Troy Soap Box Derby Association, is in Akron with the drivers and their parents. Brooks said the receiving VIP status is an honor and is an especially high honor for first-time racers.

"They are really making a big deal out of our first-time racers being awarded VIP status," she said. "We are excited about the status for our drivers because of the recognition and it also it puts them first in everything that is planned during the week at Derby Town."

Brooks said many of the cars required changes and adjustments and some of the drivers had a difficult time making the needed changes and adjustments in the allotted time.

VIP drivers were given 45 minutes to get their cars ready to race and Ellen and Austin used that time to polish their cars and check the wheel alignment with a special tool made available to them, Brooks said.

The All-American Soap Box Derby participants were treated like celebrities with a police escort to Derby Town where they received a royal welcome Monday.

"Ellen and Austin are having a good time in Derby Town," Brooks said. "There are a lot of activities planned for them – swimming, horseback riding and sporting events. A picnic lunch is planned for Thursday and that is going to be one of the big group activities of the week. NASCAR has come on board with Goodyear as a major sponsor of the All-American Soap Box Derby and NASCAR driver Bobby Allison will make an appearance at the picnic.Two official racing cars will be on display and the children will be able to sit in them and see how it feels to be behind the wheel of a real race car."

Brooks said everyone is kept hopping during Derby week but everything is pointing toward Saturday when 362 registered raceRs make the run for the checkered flag.

There are four divisions of the Derby. In Ellen’s division, the stock car, there are 125 cars and, in Austin’s super stock division, there are 110 cars registered.

"Only two foreign countries, the Phillipines and Germany, have cars entered," Brooks said. "Canada’s and Japan’s cars got held up in customs and they didn’t make the registration deadline."

Brooks said the Troy contingent has gotten a look at the All-American Soap Box Derby track and it’s very similar in slope and distance to the Troy track.

"The track has a brand new surface and it’s a wide, sloping hill and I believe our drivers have as good a chance as anyone," she said. "Some of the drivers here qualified with speeds of 11 mph so they’re not used to a hill that can produce speeds of 32 mph or more.

Our drivers’ top speeds were about 32 so we know they can handle that speed. We’re all having a good time, but we’re anxious to get the race underway."

Austin will race first in heat 132 and Ellen will race later in heat 295. Brooks said the times have not been determined. However, the Derby is scheduled to get underway immediately after the opening ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The final race should be over by 4:30 p.m.

The awards ceremony will be held Saturday night with more than $50,000 in scholarships up for grabs along with other awards, trophies and prizes.

No matter the outcome of the Derby, it’s been a "Good Year," for Ellen Dragsten and Austin Bennett. They’ve had their 15 minutes of fame and more at the All American Soap Box Derby 2000 in Akron, Ohio.