Some 84 drivers took part in the race, which took place on Youngstown's North Side.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Although morning rain delayed the start of the Greater Youngstown SoapBox Derby, the sun came out early enough for 40 drivers to advance to today's races.
Some 84 drivers and hundreds of family, friends and volunteers converged on Fifth Avenue, near Youngstown State University, on Saturday for the race.
All afternoon, drivers zipped down the street in their multicolored cars, clocked at speeds as high as 29 mph by a Youngstown police officer.
The race goes like this: Cars are loaded side by side into the starting gate, each vehicle held by boards that collapse simultaneously at the pull of a single lever.
A race official says, "Drivers ready?" The lever is pulled and they're off.
Speedy descent: It only takes about 22 seconds to get down the hill. Winners are determined by a computer-controlled eye at the finish line.
The races usually went without a hitch. Every so often, however, a driver careened into a hay bale or knocked over one of the orange safety cones used to mark the race course's boundaries.
Bump in the road: A steering cable came loose on Alec Neapolitan's car. Alec, 9, of Boardman, lost control of his car, knocking over some cones and weaving into the lane of competitor Brad Schneider.
"I didn't know I hit [the cones]," said Alec, who was a little shaken.
Both racers regained their composure, the cars were readied and they raced again. Brad won the rematch.
Brad's grandparents seemed more worried than he did.
"My heart's racing 50 miles per hour," said his grandmother Peggy Schneider. "Just so he didn't get hurt and none of these kids get hurt."
Each racer faces each opponent twice, once in the left racing lane and once in the right. The times are added and the faster of the two advances to the winners' bracket for the next race.
Divisions: The drivers race in divisions based on two factors: The sophistication of the car's design and geography. The Superstock division has more sophisticated vehicles than the Metro Stock and Suburban Stock divisions. The latter two divisions boast identical vehicles, but the racers come from different regions. Metro is for Mahoning County residents, and Suburban for Trumbull and Columbiana racers. Age and gender do not figure in the match-ups.
Advancing to today's finals will be eight drivers in the Superstock Division, and 16 in each of the other two. The champions in all three divisions go to Akron for the world finals July 28.
Mark D'Apolito, 13, of Boardman, who made it into Sunday's Superstock finals in this, his first year of racing, said his strategy Saturday was to "watch out for manholes and stay low in the car."
This is the second year the race has been run after a 28-year break.
Bob Neapolitan, director of the event, said: "This year, we're experienced. Last year we were rookies. I think we're doing well. ... I'm already looking forward to next year."
Late start: The races were scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. but rain delayed the start.
Volunteers -- some armed with torches and blowing machines -- had to dry sections of the course. Derby officials were concerned puddles would affect the drivers' ability to brake.
"They wouldn't be able to stop," said Joe O'Neill Jr., assistant derby director.
Saturday's heats weren't finished until shortly after 9 p.m.