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Pinewood Derby Race

Pinewood derby racing has come all high-tech. The track ramp has six lanes starting with a gate wired to the finish line timers. The timers at the end show which lane came in first, second, third, etc. The officials enter all the racer names into a computer, and the system automatically arranges the scouts into random heats of six cars. Each car will race six times –- once on each lane of the track. I think our derby was 36 heats.

The computer screen was projected onto a huge display high up in the hall, where everyone could see the scout names and the results of each heat. It’s very nice. The high-tech tracking and results contrasted the wooden track like a marriage of 21st century science and 20th century folk art.

I was proud of Calfgrit8’s patience with the whole process. He waited calmly for his turns (although he talked happily with his friends while waiting), he paid attention enough to get up and get his car from the storage table when he was supposed to, and he followed directions perfectly to place his car on the starting line and then go sit at the end of the track.

In his first race, he came in 4th out of the six cars. In his second race, he came in 3rd. He seemed satisfied with these results, and I was happy the car wasn’t coming in last place. I crossed my fingers that maybe his car could come in one place better for at least one race. His third race, he was back in 4th place. Then 4th place again in his fourth race. Well, the car was consistent. Then it came in 5th place. Oh shoot. Then for the final heat, it came in 6th place.

I was a little disappointed that it came in last place for the last heat –- hate to end the derby with a last place finish. But I was happy to see that in none of the races was the car way behind. One or two of the cars sometimes pulled out way in the lead, but most of the other cars stayed in a bunch. Even when our car came in last place, it was a close run –- all the cars were neck and neck.

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners were those who had the best average time over all the races. I was surprised to see that the low, wedge-shaped, or narrow, rocket-like cars were not noticeably faster than the less aerodynamic designs. In fact, the 1st place winner of the races was a car that had barely been carved down from the original block. (Red arrows point to the overall winning car in the picture.)

I talked with the scout’s mom about it (they’re in our scout den), and that scout built his car completely all by himself. That was really great. I’m glad that car and kid won.


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