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Martinsburg hosts annual Soap Box Derby

June 09, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Even after becoming a world champion All-American Soap Box Derby winner last year, Garrett Kysar didn't have any racing tips to share on Saturday at the 2007 ROCS Classic Norwalk Soap Box Derby.

"I don't even know how I won," said Kysar, the Masters Division winner in the race in Akron, Ohio.

Returning as a spectator this year, Kysar cheered on his sister, Alex Kysar, who at age 17 had one more opportunity to compete.

"I got fourth last year," Alex Kysar said before hunkering down in a car that appeared quite similar to her brother's in 2006 .

"We got the same number," she noted.

"I'm cheering on my sister this year," her brother said from his seat on a section of shaded limestone wall along the racetrack - South Queen Street between King and Stephen streets.

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Kysar's sister was one of 66 racers who entered Saturday's derby, according to director Dina Edwards.

Corey Gray, 13, who already bested his racing performance from last year when he was knocked out "by a girl," wiped down his firetruck red car sponsored by Westphal Host Co. No. 5 between each heat.

"Fingerprints slow you down," Gray said smiling as his father, Jerry Gray, acted as his son's pit boss.

Employed with the Martinsburg Fire Department, Gray said Westphal Hose Co. agreed to sponsor a car for the first time this year.

The lettering decals on the soap box car mimicked that of a 1940s model Chevrolet firetruck that the volunteer company based in the city's north end once operated, Jerry Gray said.

Saturday's competition was the first for Josh Myers, 13, who attributed much of his success to reach the semifinals to his "personal trainer" and stepfather, Jay Householder, and uncle, John Walker.

"This is awesome," Myers said.

When asked what he did to reach the final four in the Super Stock Division in a purple car with orange and yellow flames covering the hood, Myers said he spins his wheels and stays to the outside of the racing lane.

Martinsburg's first soap box derby was held in 1936 and continued through 1951, except for 1942 to 1945 due to World War II, according to organizers.

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, in a congratulatory letter published in the racing program, said the city's race was the area's first derby and became a popular tradition until was dropped, only to be revived in 2000.

"Once again, this is an event that brings our business community, parents and many of young people together as they prepare for this exciting event," Karos said.

"Every contestant is a winner, even though there can be only one champion," Karos concluded.

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