Racers of all stripes compete in soapbox derby

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Rockell Horton, back, and Chloe Cowman race down Sycamore Street during the semi-finals of Saturday’s Kiwanis Club Soapbox Derby.

Liliana Castillo

Taylor Chavez said she’s going to race in the Clovis Rotary Club Soapbox Derby until she wins or turns 18, whichever comes first.

After seven years of racing, Chavez has come close to winning, with three third places and one second place. She’s never taken home the golden trophy but missing it again this year didn’t discourage her.

“You try to find the tricks in each lane,” the 15-year-old said. “No driver and car can do the same as another driver and car. I know I tried my hardest.”

Riding fiberglass cars, derby racers worked their way through a double-elimination bracket. The racers coast down Sycamore Street, coming off a wooden ramp near Yucca Middle School and finishing at the intersection of 14th Street. Each car-plus-driver weighs 230 pounds, with weights added to reach the requirement so driver size isn’t an advantage.

Chavez got a boost of moral about a third of the way down the Sycamore Street track during each race when her 16-person fan club erupted in cheers as she passed their tent. Her fan club consisted of her parents and her mom’s side of the family.

“It’s like a tailgate party,” Taylor’s mom Tracy Chavez said.

Taylor took second place last year by two-hundredths of a second.

“She’s definitely interested in it,” her father Vincent Chavez said.

In the event’s 10th year, four girls were racing it out for the win going into the finals.

Organizer Larry Erwin said 13 drivers raced Saturday and he’s hoping for 20 next year.

Taking first place this year was 11-year-old Chloe Cowman. This was her second year racing and she only won one heat last year.

“She does it for fun,” her father Jimmy Cowman said. “This is her day in the sun.”

The Cowman’s said they enjoy the derby.

“This is just good family fun. We’re out here and my mom and dad were here. Her sister came and cheered her on before she had to go to work,” Jimmy Cowman said.

Chloe said she wasn’t expecting to win but she was happy she did.

Anyone interested in racing next year but doesn’t have a car can contact Erwin at 769-1882.