Drivers were ramped up to launch their cars at Saturday’s 2023 Greater Chicago Soap Box Derby local race in Naperville.
“Children who win this race will be qualified for the world championships in Akron, Ohio, in July. The children will be paired up in a bracket system for a double-elimination race. They will go down in lane one, the blue lane, and then again in the red lane and the overall time, the differential at the end of the track, the overall grade or differential will advance on in the bracket,” said Leslee Butler, treasurer of the Greater Chicago Soap Box Derby.
More than 31 contenders ranging from the ages of seven to 21 took to the track on Frontenac Road for the competition.
Variety of soap box cars to fit different-sized racers
Soap box derby cars come in different types, with the height, weight, and age of the driver determining which they will use.
“So the stock car is our smallest car. It is rounded at the front, tapered towards the back for some small aerodynamics. The next level up is the super stack and it looks more like a torpedo. It has a bubble kind of on the front and then tapers to the back. And the masters of vision is a lay down, very sleek-looking car. And each driver has a very small amount of vision. And that’s why it’s called the masters. And we have them be the oldest division to start it,” said Butler
“I’m excited to be able to race with my friends going down the hill in my new master’s car. I just went into this division. So going down this hill in a new car is always fun,” said race participant Logan Sennholtz-Linder.
Learning STEM skills as they race
The kids break up into different divisions to race, picking up a bit of an education along the way.
“They will come down and learn about STEM, learn about gravity. They have steering and brake capabilities on each car,” said Butler. “I enjoy it for my child because he’s already learning the road.” said Butler.
And in the process, racers are also forming new friendships.
“I’m doing it for a while. So I just enjoy going down and hanging out with friends and meeting new people,” said race participant Logan Smith.
Soap box community bonds racers
And Smith will have the chance to make even more friends as he, along with Lucy Zwicky and Jayden Pinkston, qualified on Saturday to move on to the next round in Akron. But even those who don’t advance see the experience itself as a win.
“It’s great for the family, we absolutely love the people we love with. The children are learning. And you could meet someone from anywhere in the world and create a pen pal or a lifelong friend,” said Butler.
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