The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Courtesy photo.

NH Soap Box Derby Spring Rally Weekend

When: Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 1122 Route 106 North, Loudon
Cost: Free and open to the public. Check in at the main entrance security office for an admission wristband. 

And they’re off!
Soap box derby takes over NH Motor Speedway

By Angie Sykeny

 Soap box derby is often seen as an icon of years past, reminiscent of The Little Rascals or a Norman Rockwell painting, but in the Granite State the sport is alive and well. 

On Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., more than 30 racers ages 7 through 20 will compete in the New Hampshire Soap Box Derby Annual Spring Rally Weekend, held at the south entrance roadway of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. 
The rally is one of three major events hosted by New Hampshire Soap Box Derby each year and gives participants a chance to qualify to race in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship held every July in in Akron, Ohio. 
“A lot of the kids have been racing around each other for a number of years, so it’s exciting to see the competition between them,” said Chris Mikus, NHSBD Southern New Hampshire rep. “There’s a good core group of families in New Hampshire that do this. There’s even a kind of East-West rivalry going on between families who have been at this for two or three generations.” 
In a soapbox race, two competitors ride their self-built gravity-powered cars side by side down a softly sloped track or street. The standard rally race has a course of 700 feet and lasts under 30 seconds. To ensure fairness, the competitors race two times, switching lanes and swapping wheels for the second round. The winner is determined by the overall time difference between the drivers as they cross the finish line in both rounds, and it’s not uncommon for a race to be won by milliseconds. For accuracy, an electronic timing device at the finish line records the drivers’ times. 
One purpose of the spring rally is to generate interest for the NHSBD Annual Local Championship race happening Sunday, June 5, on Broadway in Dover. 
“It’s an opportunity to see what it’s all about and what the race is like,” Mikus said. “People can meet with members, ask questions and learn how to order a car and get involved for the June race, which is the primary way to qualify to go to Ohio.”  
There are three race divisions: the Stock division is open to racers ages 7 through 13 and up to 5’3” tall and 125 pounds. Super Stock is for racers ages 9 through 18 and up to 6’0” and 150 pounds. The Masters division is designed for racers ages 10 through 20 up to 6’0” tall and 160 pounds. 
The rally is scored tournament style with one double and one single elimination race on each day. Rally racing allows competitors to practice and improve their skills while earning points to qualify for the championship. Trophies will also be awarded in categories like best sportsmanship, best constructed car, rookie of the year and more. 
Competitors build their own cars according to the style and specifications set for their divisions. The cars are ordered online through the official Soap Box Derby website and come as kits with sanctioned parts. It takes about 4 to 8 hours to put one together, depending on the kind of car. 
How well a racer performs is equally dependent on their strategy in building the car and their skill in handling the car during the race. 
Mikus, who is also a father of soap box derby racers, said the sport isn’t just fun, but also a way for kids to learn about STEM concepts and good sportsmanship. 
“When I practice with my boys, I teach them about the physics of the car, about the potential energy and kinetic energy of going down a hill, how to reduce friction and wind resistance, so there’s a lot of science and math that goes into it,” he said. “It’s a great activity for families to do together.”  

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