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Racer shares her derby car with friend



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two teenagers became friends after they met while racing.

By KATIE LIBECCO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

When Jenny Rodway heard that Jamie Berndt's soap box derby car was destroyed, she let the former competitor and friend use her car to win a national championship race.

Jamie is the 2005 National Derby Rally Champion, winning the Scottie Pro class.

Her car was badly damaged in the Youngstown All-American Soap Box Derby, when it slipped from a trailer carrying cars to the top of the course on Fifth Avenue. After the car bounced off pavement in the pit area, hit a curb and rolled under a fence, its axles were left unusable.

Jamie's father, Dave Berndt, said that the car cost about $3,000.

Jenny is a junior at Boardman High School, and Jamie is a sophomore at Canfield High School. They met racing and have been friends since the Youngstown All-American Soap Box Derby returned to the area after a 20-year hiatus in 1999.

Both girls have several championship wins in their derby racing careers.

Jamie was the first girl to win the Youngstown All-American Soap Box Derby five years ago when she placed first in the Suburban Stock division.

She also placed second in the Stock Rally division at the 68th All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron.

NDR Championships

Similar to the All-American Soap Box Derby, the 2005 National Derby Rally championships were held in Muncie, Ind., the second week of August.

In 2004, Jenny won the NDR Scottie Pro division national championships in her Outlaw II Car.

This year, Jamie won the same division in Jenny's Outlaw I car. She was also named Rookie of the Year by NDR for her championship title in her first year of competing with the organization.

There were no other Mahoning Valley competitors among the 200 competitors at the Muncie championships.

Although not competing, Jenny and her father, Jim, went to the NDR Championships to cheer Jamie on. While she was there, Jenny accepted an invitation from NDR to present Jamie with her championship trophy and pass on the title.

There's about nine months of working every day in a car," Jenny said.

Both cars are sponsored by Derrick Fitzgerald, owner of Zero Error in Sharon, Pa., a company that sells soap box derby, quarter midget, midget and junior dragster car products.

"It's all about picking out where to go without making any mistakes and not steering more than you have to," Jenny said.

Steering wheel differences

When Jamie first drove the Outlaw I car, she said that she had trouble driving it. After the girls discussed the problems, Jenny noticed that the steering was different from what Jamie was used to.

The steering wheel in Jenny's Outlaw I car was a Tiller steering wheel, which is triangle-shaped. Jamie said that her cars always had a bow-tie steering wheel.

"It was hard to use the Tiller steering wheel after I had got used to using what I had," Jamie said. "But Jenny really helped me learn how to drive the car."

Jamie said she'll definitely be competing next year, but in the Masters division.

"The main difference is that in Masters, the car is built so you are laying down, and [in] the other classes, you are sitting hunched over," Jamie said.

It will be the last year that Jamie is eligible to compete in the soap box derby races.

Jenny did not compete this year and is still undecided about next year, she said.




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