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Soap Box Derby race week jam-packed with events

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

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.
Photo 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 — Race week for this year’s All-American Soap Box Derby will begin July 21 and run through July 27.

“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 each of the following divisions: Local Stock, Local Super Stock, Local Masters, Rally Stock, Rally Super Stock, Rally Masters and Ultimate Speed,” said Rachel Whinnery, communications manager for the International Soap Box Derby. “[The racers] will descend upon Derby Downs from all over the United States, as well as Canada, Japan and New Zealand.”

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.

To compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby, racers must qualify for the World Championships either through Local races or Rally races.

“Local races are a one-time race in cities across the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The winner — or winners depending on whether the race city runs Stock, Super Stock and/or Masters divisions — will compete in Akron against other Local champs in his/her division,” Whinnery explained. “Rally champs race throughout the United States and Canada, earning points along the way. Those who earn 180 or more points, and meet additional criteria, qualify for the championships. Rally champs represent the region they are from while Local champs represent their race city at the championships.”

Whinnery said this year’s race week will be “jam-packed with exciting events.”

“We’ve even added some new events for champs and their families,” she said. “There’s a Derby Downs 5K Run/Walk (at Derby Downs), Parade of Champions (in Downtown Akron), Opening Ceremonies (at Lock 3), Badge Trading and Heat & Lane Drawing (in the Akron Civic Theatre), a Rally Challenge (at Derby Downs), Rock the Rec (at The University of Akron), Family ‘Grub Crawl’ (in Downtown Akron restaurants), Parents Race (at Derby Downs) and a Topside Show (at Derby Downs).”

The first annual Derby Downs 5K Run/Walk will take place 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 July 21, 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 remains race day, which falls on July 27 this year.

“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.”

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 John’s, 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.

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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