No experience needed

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Daulton Hatley, 13, helps tidy up the soap box car he won in at the ninth annual Clovis Soap Box Derby. Hatley never raced in a soap box derby before this year and will be competing in the international All-American Soap Box Derby on July 25 in Akron, Ohio.

Liliana Castillo

Daulton Hatley was just as surprised as everyone else when he won the ninth annual Clovis Soap Box Derby on June 19.

Hatley, 13, never participated in a derby race until this year. A racer dropped out at the last minute and Hatley was asked to take his place.

“I said sure,” Hatley said.

Hatley and his mother, Karri Hatley, said they didn’t know much about the sport. They were drawing from their experience when Daulton’s father participated in the pinewood derby as a Boy Scout.

Hatley said Larry Erwin, event director, and another rider, Tara DeWitt, gave him tips.

“It was new,” Hatley said. “I wasn’t sure about some stuff.”

The day before the race, Hatley sat in and raced a soap box derby car for the first time during practice.

Karri Hatley said she hung out at the finish line and her husband stayed at the starting line and talked strategy with racers and passed the advice on to Daulton.

“Between races the racers would go grease their tires and stuff,” Daulton Hatley said. “I’d just get in the car with my dad.”

Karri Hatley said they didn’t know what else to do.

Throughout the races, Hatley said he wasn’t sure how well he was doing until he was told he was in first place right before eliminations began.

“I didn’t race for like an hour and a half,” he said. “So I figured since everyone else was getting eliminated I was doing pretty good.”

Hatley is now headed to the international competition called the All-American Soap Box Derby on July 24 in Akron, Ohio. He said he’s excited.

Karri Hatley said summer is the busiest time for her husband’s carpet cleaning business and she teaches so the family hasn’t been able to go on an extended summer vacation.

“We’re excited,” Karri Hatley said.

Daulton Hatley said he didn’t have a secret to winning.

“Tara said to get as low as possible to get aerodynamic,” he said.

The family will be in Akron, Ohio, for a week prior to the race and are looking forward to amusement parks and visiting the Professional Football Hall of Fame.