Derby days

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Cub Scout Pack 173 gears up for racing with annual pinewood derby event

By Jessica Groover
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Several miles from Lowe’s Motor Speedway, another type of race took place on Saturday. Cub Scout Pack 173 hosted its Pinewood Derby at Harrisburg Presbyterian Church.

The race started shortly before 10 a.m. Tommy Warlick, the Cubmaster for Pack 173, announced, “Who wants to go racing?” before the six rounds began.

More than 75 Cub Scouts participated in an event that drew about 100 onlookers. For the 13 races in each of the rounds, the boys grabbed their painted cars, set them at the mark at the top of a long, metal track and waited at the bottom to collect them.

The pack used a new computer scoring system this year that scored the time for each 5-ounce car, and showed the rankings and times immediately after every race. The placements were then projected on a screen for all to see.

The reason for having each car race six times was so it was fair, and that each car traveled in all six lanes once.

“Each of the six lanes has its own unique characteristics,” Warlick said.

After the six rounds, each car’s average time was calculated, and the top six cars raced for another six races in a final round.

While the race was a few hours long, the preparation for building the cars took even longer.

The Cubs received their Pinewood Derby kits at their holiday party in December. For some, the work on the car began immediately after.

Jeff Morris of Harrisburg said he and his son, 10-year-old Michael Morris, started working on their car five weeks ago. They spent about six hours working on the car, turning it from a block of wood into a shape that Michael designed. Then they waited for a warm weekend day to spray paint it.

Earlier this week, Tyler Warlick and Austin Krum were putting the final touches on their cars, adding stickers of their choice and getting ready for the weekend.

It was Austin’s first time in the race and Tyler’s second. Austin’s mother, Jelena Krum, who helped while his father was out of town, learned quickly how to prepare the car for the race.

“You’ll run into parents all over getting their supplies,” Krum said. “I was in the hobby store, and the dads there asked, ‘Do you need help?’”

She learned many tips from her neighbor, a NASCAR engineer. One of the tricks was to put baby powder on the car to increase its speed.

With the Pinewood Derby taking place near a major speedway, there were several parents who work in the racing industry and were able to help design the cars and even acquire racing tickets for the winner.

“The NASCAR influence is definitely a big thing,” Warlick said. “I think we took our competitiveness to a higher level because of that.”

Jay Wiles, an engine builder for Hendrick Motorsports, had a son in Cub Scouts who crossed over into Boy Scouts, but he still helps with the Pinewood Derby.

“It’s one of the most exciting events for Cub Scouts,” Wiles said. “We try to help them as much as we can, because it can be a little intimidating for some of the parents.”

Wiles helps smooth out the imperfections in the cars’ wheels and makes sure everyone follows the rules at the race. He, like many current and former Cub Scout parents, has as much fun being there as the children.

Not only can it be fun, but Warlick pointed out that it’s a good bonding experience for parents and their sons.

“For a lot of these guys, it’s the first opportunity to work in the shop with their father,” Warlick said.

Warlick was proud of his son, Tyler, and the rest of the Cub Scouts not only for their hard work, but also their good sportsmanship. By the end of the Pinewood Derby, most of the Cubs stood side-by-side to watch and cheer, “Let’s go everybody!”

Bradford Godkin and Dominic Weihs each won three of the six races in the final round.

In the end, Godkin won. 

“I won by two thousandths of a second,” said Godkin, who placed 27th in his first try last year. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Godkin took home a large trophy and tickets to the Coca-Cola 600 in May. His parents were just as happy.

“Usually you say you’re going to go to Disney World,” said Paul Godkin, Bradford’s father. “We’re going to the races.”

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.


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