Racer sweeps Soap Box Derby

CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle Alex Collings, rear, races Kyra Bussen Saturday at the Clovis Rotary Club’s sixth annual Soap Box Derby.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

Each under 6 feet long, each weighing 230 pounds, car and driver pairs could be seen rolling down Sycamore Street Saturday morning and afternoon.

At the end of the day, it was the camouflage car that got to the end of the closed-off street first, and its driver was rewarded with a trophy almost as tough to carry as his car.

Alex Collings, an 11-year-old Clovis boy, won all of his races at Saturday’s Soap Box Derby to claim first place in his second year of competition.

Alex, who used the same camouflage-colored racer last year when he placed fifth, credited his victory to new equipment and some cleaning.

“I changed my wheels out,” Alex said. “I put a little lighter fluid on them to help clean the dirt out.”

The faster wheels helped him as he raced off of a slope onto a stretch of about 800 feet. Alex and 13 other racers went two at a time down the street, which was blocked off.

The road is set aside about three months in advance. Derby organizer Larry Erwin said it’s pretty much a formality at a March Clovis City Commission meeting.

“We tell them to do the same resolution and change the date,” Erwin said.

The end of the racing area is adjacent to Dickenson Field, where a youth baseball game was going on. The baseball and the Soap Box cars are the same as when Erwin was a kid.

“It was one of the few things we had to do,” Erwin said. “You could play Little League or race Soap Box Derby, or do both.”

Alex said he prefers Derbies over baseball because he likes cars and the competition of racing.

The skill of the driver is an important element of the race. The cars are made from identical kits and a heavier driver isn’t at any advantage — weights are added so each car-and-driver pair weigh exactly 230 pounds.

Alex will race July 21 in Akron, Ohio, at the All-American Rally Championships.

He said it was “pretty cool” to win and receive a trophy more than half his height — he was measured on-site at 59 inches, and his trophy was 35 inches tall.

His older brother, Eric, won the Clovis Derby in 2005, and his younger brother, Andrew, might race next year. If Andrew competes, he’d have to build a new car because winning cars aren’t eligible for future Derbies.

Top finishers at Saturday’s Clovis Soap Box Derby:
1. Alex Collings
2. Kyra Bussen
3. Taylor Chavez