Unlike the racers of yesteryear who built cars from soap boxes and buggy wheels, today's competitors build cars from official kits.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
MINERAL RIDGE -- Ready, set, race!
More than 50 soap box rally racers from as far away as New England converged on Seaborn Street hill Saturday morning waiting their turns to compete for points that could send them to the big race in Akron this summer.
An additional 60 or 70 racers were expected today.
"Rally racers travel the circuit, racing every weekend if they want," said Jim Postlethwait, director of the Youngstown-area race. Racers can earn points at each of the events.
At the end of the season, those with the most points advance to the World Rally Race in Akron, held in conjunction with the All-American Soap Box Derby in July.
Some of the 8-to-16-year-old racers aren't collecting rally points, Postlethwait added, but enter to practice for local races that could qualify them for the All-American Soap Box Derby.
One winner in each division at local qualifying races goes to the All-American each year.
This year, the qualifying race in Youngstown, open to residents of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, will be June 15 and 16.
The qualifying race in New Castle, Pa., open to residents of Mercer, Lawrence, Beaver and Butler counties, will be May 25.
The All-American Soap Box Derby is open to boys and girls ages 9 to 16 as of Aug. 1, 2002.
Although the competition has been open to girls since 1971, Joe O'Neill, assistant director for the Youngstown race, estimates only 30 percent of competitors are girls.
A 13-year-old Boardman girl is ranked among the top three racers in the nation, Postlethwait noted.
Last year, all four winners representing the Youngstown area were girls, O'Neill said.
According to regulations
Unlike the racers of yesteryear, who assembled their cars from soap boxes and buggy wheels, today's competitors are required to build their stock, super-stock, and super-modified-stock cars from official kits.
Building the cars from kits helps speed inspections, ensures the vehicles are safe and opens the competition to those with limited time, O'Neill said. "It takes four to six hours to assemble a car from a kit. In the old days, it took between 100 and 200 hours to build a car."
Because the cars can be expensive -- kits start at around $350 -- 99 percent of racers have corporate sponsors who underwrite the cost of the cars, and sometimes, the cost of traveling to races, Patty Postlethwait said. She and her husband have three children participating in the races.
Their daughter, Brooke Schaffer, 12, has been racing three years; Robbie Postlethwait, 81/2, has been racing two years; and McKenzie Schaffer, 8, is racing for the first time. Their children are among the few who do not have sponsors.
As a result, Jim Postlethwait said, the family has spent between $1,200 and $1,500 on cars. They also bought a used motor home that they use to travel to races outside the area.
"Racing becomes an addiction," he said. "There are a lot of families with two or three cars."
"It's a great family activity," his wife added.
Last year, 82 children from the tri-county area participated in soap box races.
For more information about the All-American Soap Box Derby, call (330) 733-8723.