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Local racers aiming for Soap Box Derby titles

7/18/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

Sisters from Green excited to compete in derby together

Shown from left at Derby Downs July 14 with their cars are: Christian Viering (Stock), of Fairlawn; Emily Harmon (Super Stock), of Silver Lake; Haley Aull (Masters), of Green; Megan Gongaware (Super Stock), of Massillon; and Alexis Sklack (Stock), of Green.
Photos courtesy of 
LynnAnn Sklack
Sisters Ashley, at left, and Alexis Sklack, of Green, said they are looking forward to competing in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby July 27. Ashley will compete in the Rally race and Alexis will race for the Stock championship title.
Photos courtesy of 
LynnAnn Sklack
Racers are shown lining up at last year’s All-American Soap Box Derby. The race this year will take place July 27.
Photo: Lew Stamp
SOUTH AKRON — More than 450 racers will compete during the 76th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby — which will take place July 27 — including several local competitors.

Among those taking part in the event are a number of Summit County racers, including: Alexis Sklack (Stock), Ashley Sklack (Rally) and Haley Aull (Masters), of Green; Christian Viering (Stock), of Fairlawn; Freddy Atchison (Rally) and Trinity Kubick (Rally), of Cuyahoga Falls; Emily Harmon (Super Stock), of Silver Lake; Cheyenne Wilt (Rally) and Aaron Rathbun (Rally), of Springfield; and Maria Fahey (Rally), of New Franklin.

Sisters Alexis and Ashley Sklack said they will be cheering each other on while also competing to see who has a better finish.

Alexis, who will turn 13 on race day, first competed in the event in 2011.

“Two years ago, I didn’t know quite as much as I do this year, and now I know how it all works,” she said. “I’m going as a Local champ, which I’ve been trying five years to get, so this is even more exciting.”

Ashley, who recently turned 17, said she is “really excited” to get a chance to take part in the All-American.

“It’s going to be fun. For several years, I’ve been volunteering and stuff, so I have a basic general idea of what goes on during the week. But it will be really cool to participate in it,” she said. “This will be my first and only year because I age out after this. I really didn’t get started in this until it was almost too late.”

Alexis said taking part in the race in the same year as her sister makes the event even more enjoyable.

“It makes it a lot more fun because it will be two sisters competing. It won’t be for the same title, but I can watch her and cheer her on from the top of the hill,” she said. “But I’m probably looking to do better than her.”

According to Rachel Whinnery, communications manager for the International Soap Box Derby, this year’s race week, which runs July 21-27, will be “jam-packed with exciting events.”

The first annual Derby Downs 5K Run/Walk will get things started July 21 at 9 a.m.

“The course begins and ends at the world famous Derby Downs track,” Whinnery said.

More information about the Derby Downs 5K Run/Walk can be found at www.aasbd.org by clicking on the link in the lower right corner.

Following the run/walk, Whinnery said, the Derby Downs track will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for rides in Soap Box Derby cars.

“On Monday [July 22], a Parade of Champions will occur at noon in Downtown Akron on [South] Main Street,” she said. “Then Opening Ceremonies begin at 12:30 p.m. at Lock 3. We’ll introduce the champs and have food and games available.”

Another new event this year, Whinnery said, is the Rally Challenge, which is for Rally racers only.

“Those participating will race in all three lanes in each heat, swapping wheels from a wheel bank each phase of the heat,” she said. “The racer with the best elapsed time for all three phases will advance.”

Also new this year, Whinnery noted, are Rock the Rec, where champions will have exclusive use of The University of Akron’s Student Recreation & Wellness Center; and the “Grub Crawl,” where families will have “a fun-filled evening” at local restaurants and eateries in Downtown Akron.

The main event at the All-American Soap Box Derby, however, remains race day, July 27. To compete in the derby, racers must qualify for the World Championships either through Local races or Rally races.

“The 76th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby will begin with more than 450 champs racing for the title of World Champion. In the end, only one will earn that title in the each of the following divisions: Local Stock, Local Super Stock, Local Masters, Rally Stock, Rally Super Stock, Rally Masters and Ultimate Speed,” Whinnery said. “[The racers] will descend upon Derby Downs from all over the United States, as well as Canada, Japan and New Zealand.”

According to Whinnery, 10,000 people are expected to attend this year’s All-American Soap Box Derby. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at the gate on race day.

“Food vendors, including Swenson’s and Papa Johns, will be in the area near run-out,” she said. “Activities, such as a Pit Crew Challenge and inflatables, will be behind the grandstands.”

The race day schedule is as follows (times later in the day are approximate):

  • 8 a.m.: The opening ceremonies, which includes a Parade of Champions and Past World Champions, bands, celebrities, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and the singing of the national anthem;
  • 8:30 a.m.: The first heat of the All-American Soap Box Derby;
  • 3 p.m.: A parade of the top nine finalists in all divisions;
  • 3:30 p.m.: The final heats and the world championship corporate race; and
  • 7 p.m.: An awards ceremony at The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall.

“Race day kicks off with a parade, the singing of the national anthem and a celebrity race. Then, racers compete in three-lane, single elimination races,” Whinnery said. “The racer with the fastest time of the three racers will advance to the next round. When the top nine racers in each division are decided, they are paraded up the track to run their final heats to determine who the world champs will be.”

For more information about race week, including an updated schedule, go to the derby’s website at www.aasbd.org. To watch the race live on the race week website, go to www.aaraceweek.com.

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