Soap Box Derby – The Thrill of It All

Soap Box Derby – The Thrill of It All

For years, sports fanatics have debated which is the most exciting spectator sport. Some argue nothing beats football for sheer intensity and physicality. Others point to the gladiator-like combat of hockey. And some people prefer badminton, but then, some people are idiots. For me, it’s female mud wrestling. I really don’t think I should have to explain this.

But recently I came upon one more contender for your consideration: Soap Box Derby racing. Before you scoff, hear me out. A few weeks ago, I attended the 11th Annual Stanwood-Camano Island Soap Box Derby – the only such event in the entire state of Washington. When I heard the race was coming to town, I immediately submitted my application as a last-minute entry. Alas, I just missed the competition age limit (by 550 months – oh, so close).

First a bit of background. The Soap Box Derby is a racing program for kids ages 7 through 17, which has been run throughout the United States since 1934. The National Championship Finals are held each July at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. Racers compete in ultra-lightweight unpowered vehicles which they have built themselves, traversing a gentle incline over the space of roughly 1,000 feet, relying on their driving skills and gravity to reach the finish line first.

Having neglected to educate myself on the rich history and subtle nuances of this sport, I had no idea what to expect. I apparently arrived too late to catch the live pre-event concert by the Beach Boys. But what I did see was a colorful parade of home-built cars – 72 in all – each one sponsored by a different local business, like Camano Hardware, the Kiwanis Club, and Rothschild Estates’ White Swan Polo Club.

The competitors took great pride in their vehicles, having sawed, sanded, glued and painted them with only a little help from mom or dad. The Rothschild Estates entry, however, drew a few murmurs as the it appears the family’s footman clearly played a hand in its construction. Continue reading “Soap Box Derby – The Thrill of It All” »

A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races

I was not sure what to expect when a buddy of mine invited me to join him for drag racing. Contrary to my assumptions, there were very few men sprinting in high heels, makeup and wigs. No, it turns out that drag racing is a completely different genre of entertainment. If you’re not familiar with this sport, let me cover the basics.

The average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish the sentence, “the average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish this sentence.” The fastest dragsters hurtle down a 1,000-foot track in under four seconds. When I told my wife this, her response was, “That’s barely enough time to make it to the first turn.” During one heat I sneezed, causing me to completely miss the race.

My wife does not understand drag racing at all – in the same way that I usually don’t understand my wife. You see, this sport is all about three things: insanely fast cars, thunderously loud engines that could burst your ear drums, and sexy young women in hot pants and knee-high kinky boots, hanging around the starting line, pretending to serve a purpose.

When we sat down for the first heat, I almost had a heart attack at the explosion of noise. Imagine the heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, with their speakers cranked up to 11. Now multiple that by 11 gazillion and you have a rough approximation of how loud these engines are.

Typically, two racers are pitted against each other in a sprint. Sadly, I did not witness a single car veer off the track into the wall. The closest any car came to disaster was when one dragster’s engine caught fire, causing him to lose the race. My buddy informed me that replacing the engine would cost upwards of $250,000. Given that the average income for a drag racer is $75,000 – well, you do the math.

Continue reading “A Day at the Races” »