Father upset over damage to girl's car
Derby officials say they offered unlimited repair time or use of another vehicle.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Accidents don't happen very often at the Soap Box Derby.
But a Canfield man blames the local organization of the derby for an off-track incident that wrecked his daughter's soap box car at Saturday's running of the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby.
Dave Berndt said Monday that the Master's Division car driven by his daughter, Jamie, 15, slipped off a trailer carrying participants' cars from the bottom of the 700-foot course on Fifth Avenue back up to the pit area near the starting line.
The car ended up bouncing off the pavement in the pit area, a Youngstown State University parking lot, jumping a curb and rolling under a wire fence, damaging the car's axles.
Berndt, who is a Soap Box Derby board member, said his daughter and other drivers going back up in the vehicle said the volunteer driving the truck was driving too fast.
Jim Postlethwait, director of the local derby, disputed that assertion. He also said he offered the Berndts unlimited time to repair their car or, as an alternative, the use of another Derby vehicle.
He said Berndt declined the offer.
"He chose to load up and go home instead of repairing the car," Postlethwait said.
Berndt said it would have taken "eight to 10 hours" to repair the car, and he said that his daughter wouldn't have been able to race the offered car because of its dimensions.
Postlethwait explained that the cars are secured to the trailers by bungee cords and that the wheels sit on carpeted rails. Because of differing body styles of cars, some may sit on the trailers more securely than others, he said.
"Some may slide easily, and some not at all," Postlethwait said.
The bottom line was that Jamie Berndt was eliminated after winning by 0.08 seconds in the first phase of the "winner of winners" round, which would have advanced her to within a race of the championship finals.
The winner in the late rounds is determined by the cumulative margin of victory in two races.
Brooke Shaffer of Mineral Ridge, Jamie's opponent in the race, went on to win the championship in the division. Jamie finished in third place.
"My daughter was put out of the race through no fault of her own," Berndt said. "She's devastated. She could hardly talk about it [Sunday]." Berndt said that Jamie was planning to race her car, which he said cost about $3,000 to build, in the National Derby rally in Saginaw, Mich., in August.
"But it's worthless now," he said. "I can't understand why the derby doesn't have insurance that covers things like this."
Postlethwait said that the Soap Box Derby carries insurance, but only to cover injuries to drivers and other liability issues, such as damage to property along the race route.
"It's unfortunate, but it was just a freak accident," he said. "We tried to help in the way that we could."
Berndt says he wishes derby officials had communicated better in the aftermath of the incident.
"I'm not trying to ruin the derby here," he said. "I just would have liked it if someone had come over to see how Jamie was doing and to talk to me and to explain to everyone what had happened."