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Martinsburg youth compete in Akron derby

July 23, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Martinsburg youth compete in Akron derby



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Kyle Spiker of Martinsburg won his first-round race at Saturday's All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, but lost in the second round.

Thomas Teter of Martinsburg was eliminated in the first round.

But just having two Martinsburg entrants in the national championship tournament was meaningful for Ron Butts. He and Martin Frye revived the local qualifying race this year after a 49-year hiatus.

"It was emotional," Butts said Sunday afternoon. Butts and Frye and their families went to Akron for the weeklong festivities, along with Spiker's and Teter's families.

"It was most rewarding for me and for Martinsburg," Butts added.

Kyle, 13, said he had great fun meeting kids from across the United States. He shared a room with a boy from Germany.

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He said his goal was to "just go out and have a good time," which he did.

Kyle said he particularly likes the derby because he has asthma and doesn't play any physical sports.

In soap box derby races, non-motorized cars glide down sloped declining courses. Only gravity fuels a car.

The last Martinsburg race was in 1951. After Trammel Hollis, who owned Trammel Hollis Chevrolet on Winchester Avenue, the area sponsor, died in 1952, the local race folded.

National Soap Box Derby week began last Monday, when about 360 entrants from the United States, Germany and the Philippines - champions of their local races - met for opening ceremonies at the University of Akron.

The young champions, all between 9 and 16 years old, rode with police escorts. Boys received welcoming kisses from young girls, and vice versa. Each competitor was introduced on-stage and threw trinkets and buttons from his or her hometown into the crowd.

"They pretty much put them up on a pedestal for a week," said Kyle's father, Kevin.

The racers stayed together all week at a camp called Derbytown, where they rode horses, shot bows and arrows, canoed and did other activities.

Cars were inspected on Tuesday. About half of the cars - including Kyle's and Thomas's - passed right away; the rest needed repairs.

On Wednesday, drivers tested their cars.

The next day, NASCAR drivers Dale Jarrett, Joe Nemecheck and Ward Burton answered questions and rode some derby cars.

Thomas competed in the stock division, in which the racer and car can weigh a maximum of 200 pounds. The limit for the super stock division, which included Kyle, is 230 pounds.

The track at the national race, which is sponsored by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, was lengthened slightly this year, to 989 feet, 4 inches, according to the Soap Box Derby's Web site.

The course for last month's race in Martinsburg was 630 feet along South Queen Street. Butts said the minimum allowable length is 600 feet.

The Martinsburg race had two competitors per heat, and each entrant was guaranteed at least two races.

There were three racers per heat in Akron, and the first loss meant elimination.

Kyle won his first heat Saturday by beating Emery Lincoln, who represented Houlton, Me., and Krystal Baker, who represented Brewer, Me.

In the next race, Kyle lost to Logan Quesenbery, who represented Waynesboro Suburban, Va.

Kyle is ineligible to be in the super stock category next year because he won his local race, but may participate in the master's or rally competitions.

Thomas' first-round heat was won by Tennil Reed, who represented Kingman, Ariz.

Kyle was sponsored by Frye Orchards. Kyle is a cousin of Martin Frye's wife.

Thomas was sponsored by Catch and Release Taxidermy, his father's company.

Rachel Curran, representing Akron, was the stock division champion. Derek Etherington, representing Anderson, Ind., won the super stock division.

The master's division title was captured by Cody Butler, representing Indianapolis, Ind.

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