Lake Norman & Mooresville

Soap box derby racers go to world championship

Eyes peek over candy-colored soap box derby car shells as competitors prepare to race downhill.

Racers from the Huntersville Soap Box Derby chapter will compete in the 73rd All-American Soap Box Derby world championship in Akron, Ohio, on July 19.

The Huntersville chapter has about 20 active racers and 50 members from 8 to 17 years old, said Ken Myers, Huntersville Soap Box Derby chapter director.

For siblings Zoe and Calvin Blubaugh, this will be their fourth year traveling to the world championship.

Zoe, 14 and Calvin, 12, of Cornelius, have been racing in the Huntersville chapter for four years.

To prepare for the world championship race, "I've started stretching for aerodynamics in the car," said Zoe. "My goals are to have fun and win in Akron."

The siblings' love of the sport came after their dad showed them pictures of himself racing soap box cars as a kid, said Zoe and Calvin.

"(Soap box racing) enables the kids to work more as individuals, it's not a team-based sport. I can see their determination (in a race)," said Charlie Blubaugh, their father. "(Zoe and Calvin) typically argue, but when it comes to racing, they want to work together and help each other out."

Together, Zoe and Calvin have raced in every division and have owned a total of five soap box cars, said Calvin.

The three divisions in soap box racing include masters, super stock and stock. One difference between divisions is the weight limit of cars, said Myers.

Currently, Zoe races a yellow and pink super stock car, and Calvin races a blue masters car accented with yellow flames. Each car can reach speeds of about 30 mph, said their father.

To compete in the world championship, racers can compete in the local program and the rally program. For rally races, participants travel across the nation to earn at least 180 points to advance to Ohio.

The racer receives points for their four best finishes and one point for participation for each race entered.

A racer must enter 20 races and have four first place wins to accumulate 180 points, said Myers.

This year, Zoe qualified for the world championship race with 182 points. Calvin raced in the N.C. Local Championship Soap Box Derby Race in Huntersville on June 26 and won the master's division championship, sending him on to the world race in Ohio.

For the Blubaughs, they are most looking forward to seeing friends they have made in previous years in Ohio, said the siblings.

"Everyone (in soap box racing) is really nice. No one is ever mean to you, and your whole family is involved. It's not a spectator's sport," said Calvin.

Aside from soap box racing, Zoe plays soccer and hopes to one day have a job related to NASCAR, she said. Calvin skateboards and plays lacrosse. He hopes to open a sporting goods store when he grows up, he said.

For those interested in racing, "It's a good program. Other sports like football, baseball and basketball, there's always a possession of the ball," said Myers. "In soap box derby there's no one possession. There's no adversarial atmosphere compared to team sports, and it makes it unique."

Racers can rent a car from the Huntersville Soap Box Derby for $40 a race weekend. It does not matter how long a car is kept; the cost depends on how many races the car enters. If a racer does not enter a car in a race, there is no charge for renting.

Racers can also purchase a used kit from the chapter for $250, or a new kit from Ohio for $500, said Myers.