By Collin Brooks
While some things may have gone off-track at the Johnson City Kiwanis’ Club inaugural Soap Box Derby, the intended smiles were blossoming around the stretch of race track temporarily placed at the Borla Exhaust complex in Johnson City.
Seven participants took time racing down the 150-foot downhill track that was carved into the complex for the day, taking part in the first Soap Box Derby in over four decades in Johnson City.
And while there was no “official” winner — a breakdown in the timing system was too much to overcome — the glee on the participants and crews faces let Race Director Alan LeClair know the day had been a success.
“I think all-in-all, everything went very well,” he said. “All the safety devices that we put out worked, the only hiccup was the timing system. But everybody was very cooperative and understanding.
“The kids really enjoyed themselves. Even though the timing system didn’t work, they just loved going down the hill and that is why we all came out here.”
The oldest competitor in the field,16-year old Ben Jones, was all smiles after his latest run down the track. He won the most races in the Super Stock series and was awarded a trophy, while Aiden Jones was awarded a trophy for winning the most races in the Stock Series. Due to a smaller field of competitors, the group was not sanctioned by the International Soap Box Derby Foundation, but they awarded trophies based on who won the most races.
But not knowing his time didn’t detour Ben Jones, who was days past getting his drivers license. Even with his newfound freedom, he said that he still had a fun time racing down the hill against his competitors.
“I just enjoy the thrill of going fast,” Jones told the News & Neighbor. “It’s just all gravity and the competition kind of draws you.”
Jones took several weekends with his father and grandfather to complete his slick, maroon painted derby car. He said constructing the vehicle, and spending the time with his family were also great joys.
“Building was part of enjoying it too,” Jones said. “It took us several weekends to build it with my dad and my grandfather and I. I did most of the internal mechanisms and then my dad helped by painting the car and doing the final touches.”
The only girl in the field, 13-year old Jordyn Townsend said her interest in the Soap Box Derby was sparked because she wanted to know what it would feel like coasting down the hill in your own creation.
“I just wanted to try it out and see how it would feel,” she said.
Townsend’s time on the track was cut short by a steering complication, but she said that she is already looking forward to next year’s event.
That was the same motto for LeClair, who said that meetings will be held in the next few months to start preparing for next year’s event in May.
“Hopefully we will have a lot more participants and it can be a sanctioned race,” he said. “Because in a sanctioned race, the winner of each division will get to go to Akron, Ohio for the National Championships.”