Hard work, effort make for successful soap box derby

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte Clovis High School Football center Juan Lopez said lifting the cars onto the 6-foot high ramp was similar to the workouts he does three times a week.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Now Brian Chambers and Earl Stewart know how the weight guesser at a carnival feels.

The Clovis building contractors were tasked with lifting and pushing the race cars up an elevated ramp to the starting point of Saturday’s Clovis Rotary Club Soap Box Derby on Sycamore Street.

The two would size up the young drivers to brace themselves for how heavy the cars would be.

A Soap Box Derby car can weigh up to 230 pounds with the driver included. Therefore, a car’s weight varies depending on the weight of the driver. The heavier the driver, the lighter the car, the less strain.

Stewart groaned when he saw 10-year-old Holly Duval waiting for her car to go up the ramp. Her car weighed about 180 pounds, Stewart said.

“Her car’s a monster,” he said.

“It’s very much a workout, but it’s all fun for the kids so it’s well worth it,” Stewart said.

Sixteen drivers between 10 and 14 years old raced down the 900-foot stretch of road on Sycamore Street between Yucca Junior High School and 14th Street.

The winner of the derby qualified for the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships next month in Akron, Ohio.

About 50 spectators sat along the road to watch the race.

Aside from pushing the cars up the 6-foot high, and 10-foot long ramp, Chambers, Stewart and other crew members mounted the cars on milk crates and switched out wheels.

Soap box cars race against each other twice. The second time around, the wheels are switched to make the contest as fair as possible, according to Rick Collings, whose son Andrew competed in the race.

Saturday was Stewart’s first derby. He said the frenzy behind the scene took him by surprise.

“There’s a lot of chaos, but a lot of fun,” he said.

Clovis High School football player Juan Lopez and Michael Prestage also helped push the cars to the starting line. The two said they work out three days a week and Saturday’s event was just another workout.

“The hardest part is pushing it up the ramp because it’s slanted,” Lopez said.

Winners:

First place— Quinten Womack, 13

Second place — Valon Smith, 11

Third place — Gerald Fritz, 12