Valley driver breaks barrier at race
Boys from Michigan, New York and California won division championships at the competition in Akron.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AKRON -- After a groundbreaking showing in June's Greater Youngstown Area SoapBox Derby, at least one of the Mahoning Valley's four racing representatives broke a barrier at the 64th Annual All-American Soap Box Derby Saturday.
Jamie Berndt, 12, of Canfield, the first girl to win the Youngstown derby, became the first Youngstown racer to advance past the first round of the world championships since the 1930s. She made it to the second round of the stock car division before bowing out in a photo finish.
Jennifer Rodway, 12, of Boardman and Lindsay Kuebler, 14, of Berlin Center joined Berndt at Derby Downs by winning their divisions in Youngstown. They didn't make it past the first round, however.
Divisions are based on car design and the driver's age.
Brooke Shaffer, 11, of Mineral Ridge, represented the area in the rally championship but also lost in the first round. Rally racers qualify for the championship by gathering up points from races held around the country since last fall.
Opponents: The local girls were part of a record 394 contestants, male and female, from around the world.
Mick Flynn of Detroit won the Masters Division of the derby. James Rogers of Greece, N.Y., won the Super Stock Division title and Sean Eyerly of San Bernardino, Calif., won the Stock Division championship.
Bob Neapolitan, Youngstown derby director, said every race was close, resulting in 13 photo finishes and a few reruns. He also said area racers were the envy of Akron thanks to their police-escorted limo ride into town.
"You saw some jaws drop," he said.
Besides competing on race day, the girls attended aweeklong camp before Saturday's event. They met celebrities such as a NASA astronaut candidate and actor Dennis Haskins, who played the principal in the television sitcom "Saved by the Bell."
None of the racers could be reached to comment Saturday night.