Among the line of 22 pinewood derby cars, one stood out above the rest. It had a turret, complete with a cannon, on top of the normal body to make it look like a tank.
Bobby Turner, 9, had created the entry to honor his brother, Michael Gentry, who had recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan with the Army.
The turret was attached on a dowel so it could rotate when not racing, and it used a flag as a stop pin to hold it in place for racing.
“I don’t care if it is fast or not, I just wanted to win best design,” said Bobby. With the handpainted 254 on the side, he won the Best Design award at his Pack 254 derby earlier this year. But they weren’t judging designs in this competition: the Kannapolis District Pinewood Derby on March 14 at Franklin Heights Baptist Church in Kannapolis.
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This derby was all about speed, and the top three fastest cars in each age group and top three fastest overall advanced to the final derby.
Eight-year-old Nate Fisher, with Pack 47, placed third last year.
Dressed in a checkered flag neckerchief fastened with a matchbox race-car pull, he wanted first place. Each time he ran his car, Nate bent down low, at eye level, to check his car’s placement on the track. Then he carefully made adjustments before leaving the start gate.
On his first run, when his car crossed the finish line before the others, he pumped his fist and softly said, “Yes.” Nate’s fastest run was 2.44460 seconds, placing him among the top cars.
The March 14 event featured two incidents not often seen at Pinewood Derbys.
First, one heat had to be run a second time because a car had jumped the track and connected with another, slowing both down. Unlike NASCAR, the young racers shrugged it off and ran the cars again.
Second, in another heat, there was a tie between two cars – almost unheard of with the electronic timers measuring to the 1/100,000th of a second.
Derby scoring has changed with the technology over the years. With today’s electronic timers on metal tracks, the racers now run four heats against other racers, one time in each lane to try to get the fastest run for each lane.
After the 22 racers made all their runs, the computer combined the recorded times to determine who had the fastest car.
When his name was read for being the fastest overall, Nate said, “Really? Yes, yes,” as he came forward for his trophy.
Nate hopes this car will be the fastest in council, but he will have to wait until May 16 to find out.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.