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Soap Box Derby to take off Saturday

June 11, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

In the old days, a kid's soapbox racing car was just that - a box on a board on four wheels, says Ron Butts, director of the Roach Energy/Shell Classic Norwalk Soap Box Derby that will begin after 8 a.m. opening ceremonies Saturday, June 14, at the square in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Vehicle design was up to each kid who was building a race car, but this is not your parents' soapbox derby.

Youngsters drive cars made from All-American Soap Box Derby kits. The Martinsburg race event is a spinoff of the Norwalk Antique Car Club, named for the Norwalk automobile, which was manufactured in the city from 1912 to 1922, Butts says. Since February, the club has held clinics to help racers build their cars.

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Fifty-seven racers - a mix of boys and girls - are entered in two divisions. The stock division, in which the car and driver can weigh no more than 200 pounds, is ideally for first-time racers, Butts says. Maximum weight in the super stock division is 230 pounds.

There will be no revving of engines at the starting line. The gravity-powered race cars will roll off ramps - two at a time - and head south on Queen Street.

There will be practice runs, and each racer will get at least two opportunities to race. Racers with the largest time differential will win.

The derby is delayed gratification for Butts. Although he wanted to, he couldn't compete in the race as a kid because his father was service manager for a local Chevrolet dealer, and General Motors was a derby sponsor.

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