• 61°

Derby ends successfully

and STACY GRANING

Jake Bohanan took the hill, and the win, in stride on Saturday.

"I ride golf carts all the time," said the newly crowned champion in the Super Stock division of the Troy Soap Box Derby.

Of course, comparisons between motorized golf carts and the engine-less, gravity powered Soap Box Derby cars were short-lived.

"It has wheels," Bohanan joked about the Troy Bank & Trust Co.-sponsored Super Stock car. "And you don’t have to push a pedal to make it go, but you’ve got to push a pedal to make it stop."

Stopping is important, considering racers reach speeds of up to 35 mph as they careen down the Elm Street hill.

Bohanan mastered the stopping, and the critical steering, in his first derby. "I really didn’t know what to expect," he said. "I didn’t think I’d win."

But he did. And now

Bohanan will join Masters Division champ Austin Bennett and Stock Division champ Andrew Bentley in representing Alabama in the The All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, later this year.

"I can’t wait," Bentley said. "This was my first Soap Box race, and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t think I would win, but I hoped I would."

Bennett, a repeat winner who has competed in Akron, is looking forward to his return. "I didn’t win up there, but we had a lot of fun," he said. "They had a lot for us to do, and it will be fun to go back again."

Organizers said the third annual Troy race was a "big success."

"The weather was great," said Nancy Brooks. "We couldn’t have asked for a better day for our race."

Even though races started later than the 9 a.m. scheduled start, the champions were crowned before 3 p.m.

"We increased the number of entries from 24 to 30 this year," Brooks said. "I was very pleased with that and with the interest and enthusiasm of our sponsors, drivers, their families and all of those who came out to support these young people."

And, Brooks said, proof of the race’s success lies in its growth. "This year in addition to our local sponsors, we had cars from Sylacauga and from Mississippi and Louisiana," she said. "We had a man from Tennessee who wanted to bring three cars, but it was too late for him to get in."

The Masters Division, with six entries, is an example of that growth. "Last year I had a master’s Division car, but there weren’t enough cars for a division," Bennett said. "I’m glad we have a Master’s Division this year because the cars go real fast and they are fun to drive. You almost have to lay down to drive it, and that makes it harder but more fun."

Brooks said organizers hope to expand with more sponsors next year. And, in the future, they’d like to see Troy gain more prominence in the Soap Box Derby circuit. "On top of our wish list for the Troy Soap Box Derby is a hill of our own," she said. "If we had a hill, we could have races once a month and get involved in the rally division. That would be great for our kids because they could race more often and earn rally points.

"It would be good for Troy and Pike County because it would bring in a lot of people."