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SOAP BOX DERBY Local winners prepare for national race



Published: Sat, July 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The three local winners' soap box race cars will be shipped to Akron on Sunday.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Nicole Romeo wants to be a professional race car driver.

Or a firefighter.

Or a police officer.

Thus far, it appears the 11-year-old Boardman girl is on track to make it big driving race cars. She won the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby, metro stock division, and will head to Akron later this month to compete in the national race.

She also races a junior dragster at Quaker City Drag Strip in Salem -- her favorite activity. Her average speed is 52 mph, and she races almost every weekend.

The middle daughter of Pat and Rochelle Romeo, Nicole got interested in racing after listening to her uncle talk about racing in the soap box derby when he was a kid.

She started racing two years ago, but until this year, didn't make the final rounds. Practicing in the parking lot of St. Christine Church in Youngstown and participating in several rally races apparently paid off, her dad said.

Even so, Nicole never expected to win. She didn't even realize she was in the running for first place during the championship race, her dad continued.

"We didn't tell her because we didn't want her to get nervous," Nicole's mother added. "She thought she was in third or fourth place."

Because local derby officials confiscate winning cars after the derby, so that no adjustments can be made to them, Nicole can't practice for the All American Soap Box Derby, which will be at Derby Downs in Akron on July 27.

Nevertheless, she has a good feeling about the race. Her birthday is July 21. She leaves July 22 for Soap Box Derby camp, a weeklong event open to all of this year's champions and she's continuing to race her dragster.

Nicole, a seventh-grader at Boardman Center Middle School, is also active in Girl Scouts, gymnastics and dance, studies French and piano and serves as an altar girl at St. Catherine Church, Lake Milton.

Father-son activity

Ryan Rambo, winner of the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby, suburban division, wants to be a carpenter when he grows up. He's already promised to build new kitchen cabinets for his mother. His dad makes deliveries for Baird Brothers Saw Mill Inc., Canfield -- Ryan's largest sponsor for the derby.

This is the second year Ryan, the son of Bill and Nona Rambo of Mineral Ridge, has competed in the derby. He got involved after his mother saw a display of Soap Box race cars at a mall and thought it would be a good father-son activity.

"Last year, I didn't do very good," the 11-year-old Mineral Ridge Middle School sixth-grader said. But this year, he adhered to his dad's advice.

"He told me to let the car drift and get down low," Ryan said.

Following dad's advice put Ryan in the winners' circle, even though, his mom said, "this is only the fourth race he ever raced in."

Ryan isn't sure how well he'll fare at the national race in Akron, but he is optimistic. "My dad said everyone has a chance of winning," he said.

"The most important thing is that he has fun," Ryan's mom noted.

Ryan is also a NASCAR fan. His favorite driver is Jeff Gordon.

Driver's permit

Last year, Jeff Davis missed winning the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby, super stock division, by .001 second. This year, the 15-year-old sophomore at Fitch High School promised himself he'd get his driver's permit if he won the soap box race.

He did.

If he wins the national race in Akron, many of his friends are expecting him to get a car.

"That's what everybody else is saying -- we're not," said Donna Davis, Jeff's mom. Whether he'll get a car isn't certain. If he does, Jeff said he has no idea what kind he'll get.

He's not even sure he'll participate in the Soap Box Derby, masters division, next year. If he does, he and his dad, Jeff Davis, will need to build a lie-down car.

Drivers of masters cars lie down inside the vehicles to improve aerodynamics.

Jeff has been racing two years and is also active in wrestling, baseball and band.

The three local winners' soap box cars will be shipped to Akron on Sunday.

The All American Soap Box Derby festivities begin at 9:30 a.m. July 27. For more information, call (330) 733-8723 or log onto www.aasbd.org.




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