Soap Box Derby set to become a tradition in Troy

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 30, 2001

Sports Columnist

Saturday morning at 8 a.m. on Elm Street is the big race. It’s the Soap Box Derby!

Yes, Troy is the only city in the state of Alabama that has a certified Soap Box Derby and the winners of the stock and super stock divisions move on to the national championship to be held in Akron, Ohio in July.

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The Troy Soap Box Derby is the brainchild of Mrs. Nancy Brooks of Troy. Nancy, an employee of Sanders Lead Company and very active with the Boy Scouts, got the idea for the Troy Soap Box Derby a few years back when she was helping her son Stephen with a Cub Scout project. She started gathering information about the Soap Box Derby and found out that the only cities near Troy that participated were Columbus, Georgia and Moss Point, Mississippi.

She started talking with fellow employees at Sanders and found some people that were interested in helping her bring the races to Troy. She received excellent support from Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford and the city council who made the commitment to pay the $1,600 national registration fee. Now Nancy and her group were off and running.

Troy became a certified Soap Box Derby city and was given approval by the national office to have their first race last summer.

Nancy and her board of directors then started looking for the best place in Troy to have the race. It had to be on a hill and it had to be in an area that could easily be blocked off and traffic controlled. The track itself had to be a minimum of 800 foot and have a 300 foot stopping area.

The place they chose was Elm Street in front of the Charles Henderson Middle School. The starting line is at the area where Academy Street comes into Elm Street and the finish line is an area just below where Elm Street intersects with Gibbs Street.

Last year’s race was a huge success, being that it was Troy’s first ever Soap Box Derby. They had 18 participants, ranging from ages 9-15 in the stock and super stock division. The total

weight of the car and drive determines whether or not the individual will race in the stock or super stock division. The super stock car is a little larger.

Each car that races in Troy, or anywhere else in the world under the requirements of the National Soap Box Derby, has to be made from the same kit. So cars racing in Cleveland, Ohio or Baltimore, Maryland have the same dimensions and are made out of the same material as these here in Troy.

Mrs. Brooks and the soap box board of directors are expecting 24 kids to participate in this year’s races; 12 in the stock and 12 in the super stock.

A little added treat to this year’s races will be more sponsors, more concessions and more vendors.

In all there will be 98 total races. There will be two races in each heat with the losers moving into the consolation brackets and the winners advancing to the winner’s brackets. Each individual will race four times. Last year’s winners were Ellen Dragsten in the stock division and Austin Bennett in the super stock.They both competed at the National Championships in Akron last summer.

I remember as a young boy we use to dream of racing in a Soap Box Derby. We use to watch it on TV when we were youngsters. We even had our own derby – at least the big boys did. The starting point was right in front of Sherrill and "Ba Ba" Crowe’s house on Fairview Street. It was a great track.

Sherrill, "Ba Ba", Jimmy Williams, William Davis, Jackie Hartzog, Jimmy Greene, Billy Qualls, Joel Amos and Kenny Davis always had a car in the race. They used old wagon wheels and steered it with a rope that was tied to both sides of the axle. They used a piece of wood nailed to the side of their wooden car as a brake. Boy, did they have fun!

Us little guys made our cars using roller skate wheels. They weren’t as fast and they didn’t need to be. We had fun driving them just the same.

We thought we were something!

Now, some 45 years later, Troy’s an official Soap Box Derby city with a big certified race coming up this weekend.

It should be a lot of fun!

Bring your lawn chair and come out and support this great event that could be something special in years to come for our city.

Races start at 8 a.m. and finish up around 2 p.m.

Yes, Nancy Brooks had a dream and it has come true; a Soap Box Derby in Troy, Alabama. She was looking for something kids could do if they didn’t play baseball. She found it in the Soap Box Derby.