Pinewood derby races can be fun for everyone to watch, but they are even more fun for the Cub Scouts who race them.
Two young Marion Cub Scout members have been working on cars modeled after extreme speed racers to race Feb 9.
Tristen Dye’s car is modeled after a Formula One racecar, and Chance Shults’ is modeled after a 1970 Dodge Charger from “The Fast and the Furious.”
“It’s my favorite car,” Chance said. “It rules!”
The two are creating their cars with the help of their parents.
“At this age level, the main focus of the derby is on parent and kid interaction,” Patrick Dye, Tristen’s father, said. “I don’t let him use any tools by himself.”
Chance said he wants to build a car modeled after Speed Racer’s car in the future.
“I already built my favorite,” Tristen said. “It was a Mustang.”
Patrick Dye owns a classic Mustang, which he and Tristen made a model pinewood car of last year.
“The more you work with the cars the more you can do,” Patrick Dye said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to any of the cars and sometimes the more simple ones win.”
“Last year someone built a car that looked like a Hershey’s bar,” Chance said.
Tristen’s brother, Landon Dye, is constructing a car that looks like a shark.
As kids get older, the race becomes more about speed and the scout’s ability to construct their own car.
Pinewood derby cars must be built within a specific set of rules. Each Cub Scout is given a simple kit containing a block of pine for the cars body as well as wheels and axles.
Weights added to the front or back of cars to make them cruise faster down the track. Common weights are pennies, nuts or washers, or lead. However, a car cannot weigh more than 5 ounces.
“Theoretically, the weights help the car go faster further,” Patrick Dye said. “Everyone has different theories as to where to place them under the car, and it teaches the kids some simple physics.”
The cars are raced down an inclined track that levels off near the finish line. A block of foam or some other padded barrier stops the cars once the race is completed without breaking them.
“Last year my car went down the track and hit the end and kept spinning,” Chance said.
Wolf, tiger, and webelos scouts will all race together, about 20 cars total.
It is not about who wins or loses, Patrick Dye said, it is about the scouts having fun.
Chance said he has learned how to get the most speed out of his car, and how to draw them, even though he is not an artist. Tristen said his favorite part is building the cars with his dad.
There is even an open class where anyone can enter a car they built, including scouts’ parents.
“We hope to use classes like those to make the race a community event,” Patrick Dye said. “We’re trying to get more involvement and have talked about doing more derbies per year so people can build their own cars, race them, and have fun with the scouts.”
He hopes that doing more derbies and encouraging scout’s parents to be active participants in events and projects will help increase community involvement.
“It’s been great for my kids,” he said. “They have learned responsibility, discipline, teamwork, and other things they might not have learned as well if they weren’t a part of the scouts. Where I grew up the scouts had been disbanded, so I think it’s an important thing for parents and community to get behind and encourage to help grow. Kids learn real things from groups like these they can take with them the rest of their lives.”
When he and his family moved to Marion last year, they didn’t know there was an active troop in the city.
“We joined in September, the month we did a float in the parade,” he said. “It was apparently the first time the scouts had a float in some time.”
Since Tristen joined Cub Scouts, Patrick Dye has been an active parent in the scouting program. He figures if the parents don’t step in and support the troop, then eventually there might not be a troop to support.
“We have quite a few parents involved now, but it would be nice to get some more,” he said. “Hopefully more active people will translate into a more active troop and more kids who want to be a part of it.
“The scouts do great things not just for the kids, but for the community. The troop could be a real asset for the town.”
The public is invited to watch and participate in the pinewood derby race. Races begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at Marion VFW post.