Pinewood Derby: We didn’t win but we won!

My daughter and I completed her Pinewood Derby racer the day before the big race. Out slant-nose Porsche weighted in a 4.9-ish ounces, just shy of the desired limit. It had an original look and it adhered to all the rules, such as the fact that we had use the supplied wood, axles, and wheels.
There were three groups of cars, based on the ages of the Girl Scouts. In our class there were ten cars. To make a long story short, we finished fourth out of ten, which removed us from the finals. But there was also a design contest where we took second place overall and a trophy! Woohoo!

The race itself was a ton of fun. Being one of the few men there, I was voluntold to be one of the three judges, because that’s what men do, I guess. The track had six lanes and an electrical sensor contraption that told which the finishing order. In case that didn’t work, because a car went off track, for instance, there were a dozen parents taking videos with their phones. In all, there were more cameras on this track than on an average NFL game. A few times we had to review the video to make the right call. This was some serious stuff.
The one thing I was reminded of is not to under estimate your opponents, ever, even if your opponents are cute little Girl Scouts. Or perhaps especially if they are cute little Girl Scouts. Some of cars were truly impressive. There were a few “wedge” cars, basically cheat-y ringers, but interestingly they were not the fastest. The fastest was a NASCAR-looking racer followed by an under-weighted wedge.
I called upon my fellow judges to have a post-race inspection, just like Formula 1 and NASCAR. I wanted to see if the winning cars used trick axles or wheels. Perhaps some of them magically gained weight after the weight-in. But I was vetoed on that, something about the spirit of the race and most of the parents basically wanting to GTFO of there.

Most importantly, everyone seemed to have a really good time. Despite their ages, all the kids were totally focused on racing. I think the parents, as is typical these days, were even more engaged. And no, not everyone got a trophy – just the top three cars in each class, three overall winners, and three design winners.
Now my five year old son wants to build a pinewood derby racer…

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14 responses to “Pinewood Derby: We didn’t win but we won!”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    Congratulations from someone else who has been at the intersection of racing, Porsche, and blocks of wood!

    1. Tiller188 Avatar

      I’m hoping that the context in your case also involved a Pinewood Derby…otherwise, that particular intersection sounds like significantly less fun.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        No, it was at last year’s Lemons (or, as it was styled at the time, LeMons) race in Arizona. I didn’t drive the car until this year’s race but did assist with last year’s, um, improvements:

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    Congrats on the success of the project.
    Notice that the starting mechanism drops forward and down below the track. For next year’s car, consider a design with a beveled nose, longer on top than below. It will start the car rolling a smidgen sooner, but still be able to trip the finish line sensor normally.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Five hundred dollar Pinewood Derby car my a… Oh, wait, there are children present.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        I know dads who spent $500 on a pinewood car.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Admittedly this was mumble, mumble years ago but I’m pretty sure my father didn’t spend that much on my entire career as a Cub Scout.

    2. nanoop Avatar

      Now that I have seen the starting mechanism I recommend a dent in the nose, as if it had hit a lantern pole…

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Wouldn’t work. The finish line typically involves a light beam/reflector setup down track, pointing down from an electronic unit mounted above. The timers would not shut off until the notch had passed it.
        Additionally, the track typically contains a sloped section at the start, and a flat section downtrack. Starting the car higher up the sloped section gives it an advantage in potential energy. A notch would eliminate some of this gravitational advantage.

  3. Alff Avatar

    I’ve never been to one of these events where the post-race GTFO factor wasn’t overpowering. b Does your group have an open class? Our Cub pack did, which allowed everyone in the family to get in on the action but also made race day a 10 hour affair.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Nope. Just one race, once per year, with rules.

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Your five year old son wants to build a pinewood derby racer? Your middle-aged readers want to build a pinewood derby racer.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      He, like me, is old on the inside. I am middle aged, but sense an “off my lawn” attitude most of the time…

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        Hey! I can see this!
        *continues shoping for a quiet, fuel-efficient, comfortable, and reliable vehicle*