Valley Soap Box Derby to roll in Cortland

By Jordan Cohen


Nearly 40 young racers are expected to compete in the Greater Youngstown Area Soapbox Derby eliminations June 18 on West Main Street.

Races will run from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This will be the first time the derby has taken place in Cortland.

Winners in three classifications—Stock, Super stock and Masters—will earn the right to compete in the All-American Soapbox Derby Championships in Akron July 23.

The Valley competition is open to boys and girls age 8 to 17 from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

Andy Bowell, Jr., president of the local derby chapter, said the race was in Mineral Ridge last year, but the derby board of directors, concerned about road construction at that site, decided to move the 2011 eliminations to Cortland.

“West Main Street was recently repaved; it’s a good-sized hill, and we’ll use 1,000 feet of it for the race,” Bowell said.

The three classifications have combined weight limits for the drivers and their homemade cars. Stock, which is the entry-level division, is limited to 200 pounds. Super stock permits a maximum weight of 230 pounds. Vehicles in the Masters division are limited to a maximum combined weight of 255 pounds. Drivers in this category can steer the car only by lying down.

“There’s a lot of physics involved in this, and the kids know they’ll get momentum with the higher weight,” Bowell said. He cited an example of a girl who weighed only 28 pounds, but added weights to the front and rear of her 60-pound racer, all of which is permitted as long as the category weight limit is not exceeded. The drivers sit on the weights, some of which are 10 to 15 pounds.

Derby rules require the child to be actively involved in building the car, but family help is encouraged.

“On race day, a family member is designated as a ‘pit pal’ and stays with the driver throughout the day helping to move the car, align it or correct weight problems,” Bowell said.

Bowell said the derby sells car kits for $450, but wheels are not included, and those generally cost around $100. Bowell said the derby group is seeking additional sponsors to help defray costs for families building the cars as well as for the race.

Sponsorship has always been a concern, according to Bowell. The derby disappeared from the Mahoning Valley for 28 years due to lack of sponsors until its rebirth in 2000.

Information and registration forms for this year’s competition are available online at

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