Race-ready in Driver

Published 12:26 am Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reading this week about a troop of Boy Scouts in Driver that helped a group of Girl Scouts prepare for a Powderpuff Derby reminded me that the good-old fashioned Pinewood Derby might not just be about competition, but it’s still a great night at the races.

For the uninitiated, the Boy Scouts’ annual Pinewood Derby pits five-ounce wooden cars against one another on an inclined track. The Scouts design their vehicles on paper, have them cut from a block of wood by adult leaders, add wheels and then decorate them to taste. On the big day, they pit their cars against one another for the glory of being the champion.

I was never a Boy Scout, and in my day that was the only way to compete in such an event. But I’ve helped organize similar events for my church’s AWANA program, where it’s called the Grand Prix. And I’ve come to conclude that it’s truly something to behold.

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I had no idea what I was in for when I first volunteered to help. I figured it would be a simple matter of helping a few kids weigh their garishly painted vehicles, making a few adjustments here and there to get them below the weight limits and spending the rest of the time in front of the microphone, calling out winners and making sure that the children with the slow cars didn’t go away in tears.

Little did I realize that my church’s AWANA leaders — many of whom are major NASCAR fans and some of whom have garages full of advanced woodworking and metal-shaping tools — liked to get their own car kits, spend a couple of weeks honing them to perfection in utter secrecy and then bring their creations to the Grand Prix to race against each other.

There’s nothing quite like watching the face of a middle-aged man (not me, mind you) as his daughter’s frilly four-wheeler leaves his Dale Earnhardt-themed racer in the dust. The kids love that kind of drama.

It’s good to see Driver’s Girl Scouts getting ready to launch their own derby. Last weekend, the girls held a derby clinic, where they chose chassis designs for their cars and had them cut, sanded and drilled by the Boy Scouts and their leaders. Prior to the Feb. 24 event, they will paint and decorate the vehicles.

Judging from my own experience, I predict that the girls’ cars will be more creatively decorated than the boys’ usually are. There will be plenty of pink and purple paint in evidence, along with some flowers and maybe even a butterfly or two for those with an especially artistic bent.

But don’t let the girly paint jobs fool you into challenging these young ladies to a race. You might just walk away with your head in your hands.