Here in Owensboro, kids and young adults ages 7-20 have been racing since the Owensboro Lions Club began sponsoring a local competition in 2001. In 2011, a permanent track was built at Ben Hawes State Park through a partnership with the City of Owensboro, the Owensboro Lions Club, the Daviess County Fiscal Court, and other private donors.
This Saturday and Sunday, Owensboro will hold its first rally race of the new season. Chris and Sandy Settles helped start the rally racing after the permanent track was built at Ben Hawes. Because of their daughter, Kelsey Pruden’s 2015 win at the world competition, the Owensboro race gained more exposure and has caught the attention of racers from all over the country.
In July 2018, 17-year old Hannah Salmon of Owensboro placed second at the world competition this past year, just barely missing the world championship title.
“This weekend people will travel from all over to Owensboro because they’ve seen that there’s such success that goes on here,” said Pruden’s sister, Lauren Neltner, former soap box derby racer. An estimated 33 kids from places like Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, West Virginia, and Florida will compete this weekend.
Rally races, or races that allow competitors to obtain points to qualify for the national competition, began in 2012 in Owensboro. Racers can compete in as many rally races as they would like over the course of the season.
This weekend, racers can compete in any of the four races offered through the double and single elimination events. The first place winner of each race earns 40 points, the maximum amount awarded at a race. Each place after that earns five points less than the previous place (i.e. second place earns 35 points).
At the end of the season, each competitor keeps his or her highest points from the top four races and adds one point per race attended for their total score. Any competitor earning higher than 180 points is invited to participate in the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio.
(See www.soapboxderby.org for more information)
“Kids from all over the world qualify and travel to Akron for a week of festivities and racing,” said Lisa Salmon, Rally Race Administrator for Owensboro (and proud “derby mom”).
Kids are also able to qualify for the world championship race by winning a local race, which is a one-day race held in an officially sanctioned race city.
No prior knowledge or experience is necessary to participate in soap box derby competitions. However, if a potential competitor does not have a car, the Owensboro Soap Box Derby can provide a temporary loaner car.
“The Owensboro Lions Club owns several cars that can be used by those who want to try it out without having to make that initial investment,” said Race Director for the Owensboro track, Josh Meyer.
For those who have made the commitment and are ready to put in the time and work, kids and their parents are encouraged to construct their own cars using materials from the All-American Soap Box Derby.
“Soap Box Derby is a sport like no other, in that you meet wonderful people from all over the country, and they become your ‘Derby Family,’” said Salmon. “The racers form lifelong friendships with each other.”