Soapbox Derby Races a Success with Young Racers
Downhill drives in homemade vehicles draw 35 kid competitors to Johnson Drive.
When handling a soapbox derby racer, the key to winning lies in the wheels.
"(You) can win by a thousandth of a second,'' said Charlie Miller, of Keyport.
On Sunday, the annual New Brunswick Soap Box Derby was held for kids all over the state. It is the qualifying event that sends winning racers to the national races in July.
Miller's two daughters, Meredith, 15, and Julianne, 12, are both soap box derby racing champions for the state of New Jersey, and Meredith is this year's "Rally Champ," an achievement that will send her all the way to the national derby races.
"Experience" is another advantage to have, said Meredith.
"The lower you get in the car, the less wind resistance,'' she said. "The lower you are, the faster you go.''
The Miller sisters were two of 35 racers between the ages of 8 through 17 competing Sunday.
Races were held in three divisions--stock, super stock and masters. Racers paired up two at a time to race down two lanes on the street, winning and losing by fractions of a second in some cases.
Families tinkered with racers bearing names like "Cherry Bomb," "Deathmobile" and "Miracle in Any Lane," which were raced down the incline of Johnson Drive, next to the Johnson and Johnson headquarters, the event's primary sponsor, along with Turtle & Hughes. New Brunswick Recreation hosts the event, which was paired with a classic car show held in the parking lot of the Johnson and Johnson building by Hollywood Night Cruisers.
"You never see a kid racing (a soapbox derby racer) without a smile on their face,'' said Mike Blackwell, recreation department director.
For the second go around, lanes were switched and wheels were taken off cars and put on other cars, to remove any possible advantages, Miller said.
When it was all said and done, three winners were announced:
- Stock Champ: Noah Ratliff of New Brunswick, sponsored by Turtle & Hughes.
- New Brunswick Super Stock Champ: Nina Marie Amadeo of Middletown, sponsored byRace to Cure Autism.
- New Brunswick Masters Champ: Patrick Flynn of Warren, sponsored by Turtle & Hughes.
Tony Santullo, of Berkeley Heights, supported his daughters, Lauren, 16 and Kristen, 12, as they competed in separate divisions.
Santullo said the cars are built from a kit, which costs between $500-$600. Several racers were sponsored by local businesses and organizations, and boasted the names on their racers.
Santullo, a derby racer in his youth, said his father used to oversee races in northern New Jersey. Now his daughters do it, and they've also gone as far as the Akron finals.
"It's really a great family thing,'' he said. "It's about friendly competition."
When asked what her favorite part of the process was, Meredith Miller said the best part was the final product.
"The fun part is definitely going down the hill,'' she said.