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On a roll

June 11, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

Jasmine Shade said she wasn't nervous when she climbed into her soap box derby car and looked at the long hill she soon would roll down.

"At first, it was really slow, then right after that, it got really fast," Jasmine said. "I thought I was going to die."

Jasmine, 10, of Martinsburg, was among 68 youngsters, ages 8 to 17, who raced in Saturday's ROCS Classic/Norwalk Soap Box Derby on South Queen Street.

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The starting line was at the intersection of King and Queen streets, with the finish line at Stephen Street.

The competitors raced in three classes. Those ages 8 to 13 raced in the stock class, and competitors ages 10 to 17 raced in the super stock and master classes, said Karen Martin, car coordinator for the event.

Stock cars are smaller, wedge-shaped at both ends and have the roomiest cockpit.

Super stock cars are larger to hold bigger competitors and have more of a classic race look.

Those in the master division look similar to super stock, but the drivers are squished down so low that only a narrow slit between the top of the cockpit and their helmets allows them to see where they are going. Their helmets become one with the car for better aerodynamics.

The winner in each class Saturday will go on to compete July 22 in the 69th All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio

The strategy for winning is simple, said Roy Bishop, 53, Shade's coach.

"Scoot down, keep it straight and hope luck is with you," Bishop said.

Bishop knows from experience. He has been coaching local racers for six years. Among his successes are two grandsons and a niece who were fast enough in the Martinsburg competition in recent years to go to Akron.

Local race officials acknowledge that the right lane on the course offers a definite speed advantage because of variations in the pavement.

As a result, drivers switched lanes and rolled down a second time. The one with the fastest time in both heats was declared the winner, race officials said.

The cars are built from kits, which cost about $600, said Jim Riner of Martinsburg. The paint job can add another $500 or $600, he said.

Most cars are sponsored by area businesses and organizations that pay for their construction in return for having the name of their firm or organization emblazoned on the sides of the cars.

Riner had two daughters in Saturday's race. Tierney Riner, 13, competed in the super stock division with car No. 5 sponsored by Rosedale Cemetery. Her sister, Taylor Riner, raced in the stock division.

Josh Tidwell, 13, of Martinsburg, was in his first soap box derby race Saturday. He was driving a Union Sales Dodge-sponsored car.

"They needed a driver," said his mother, Kelly Tidwell.

Josh said he learned how to drive the car by sitting in it and looking at everything.

"I was nervous at first, but once I was driving, I was kind of mellow," he said.

"I'm a mom, and I'm nervous," Kelly Tidwell said. "I see everything that could happen, a crash and things."

Tidwell stood at the finish line as her son's car careened down the hill, with a look of worry spreading across her face.

Josh lost the heat.




For more information on the All-American Soap Box Derby, go to www.aasbd.com

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