By Jordan Cohen
Samantha Lochrane’s very first run at the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby Saturday did not turn out the way she wanted, and the 10-year old from Boardman was heartbroken.
“I had trouble with my brake,” she said after a race volunteer helped stop the homemade stock racer before it struck the cones at the end of the West Main Street track where the derby has run the past three years.
Volunteers had to console her, but the good news for Samantha was that it was only a trial run, which all first-time racers get before the actual competitions begin. She was awarded a second trial run, which went smoothly.
“I’m ready,” she said, smiling as she gave a thumbs-up.
Brooke Kaschak of McDonald, the local derby director, said 37 riders, age 7 to 17, raced in the three divisions — stock, super-stock and masters — with the winner of each division earning the right to compete in the national All American Soap Box Derby in Akron on July 27. Electronic timers flashed times at the finish line of the 1,000-foot track. Some of the winning margins in the double-elimination derby were less than one second.
Lia Brammer of Poland, racing in super-stock, does not have to worry about winning her division to compete in Akron. An “old pro” at 13, she has earned enough points from rally racing in several states to qualify for the national competition.
“You need 180 points, and I’ve already got 183, but it would be nice to win here,” said Lia, who has already experienced the “thrill of victory” in Cortland. She won the stock division in 2011.
Kaschak said the families spend an average of $300 to purchase kits to build their cars. Some of the more colorful ones carried particularly poignant messages. One red, white and blue racer was dedicated to “the memory of 2,976 fallen heroes of Sept. 11, 2001.”
Ten-year old Jordyn Scott of Garrettsville had a Snoopy cartoon poster in memory of her grandfather, who was an active dirt track racer. Jordyn ended up finishing in third place in the Super Stock Division.
“I think about him when I ride,” she said.
Dennis Tomory of Boardman, one of the volunteers, said he raced in the derby in 1965 and has stayed active ever since. He noted that the number of drivers has declined in the past few years.
“Kids have so many other things they can do these days, but the great thing about the derby is it passes from one generation to the next,” he said.
Director Kaschak, 23, also a former derby competitor, agrees the derby’s tradition is what keeps bringing people back and is worth the effort the drivers and families put into it.
“I want to see the derby run for my kids,” she said.