Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Pinewood Derby Day


Race day today. Will and I put together his car at the last minute Wednesday night with a Sawz-All, a Dremel and some other tools. I had no scale and no experience, and a few days of internet research.

The car looked like a disaster, but don’t tell Will. He loved his car, although next year he wants it look like a hill, or even a shark. He knows it’s supposed to slope, not have a 90 degree angle just above the rear tires. I can tell I’m going to have to start this project much earlier next year.

The cut was too deep and not very straight. The primer went on fine, but the yellow paint still hasn’t dried. Three coats, and I can still see the primer. Next year we’re sticking with the primer. We may just go with natural pine and a couple of stickers. At least the pine wouldn’t show the graphite thumb prints the same way the yellow paint did. Finally we added a few stickers, stuck on the wheels that had been bathing in graphite, and off we went to the weigh-in Thursday.

Maximum weight is 5 oz. Our car’s weight, 3.34 oz. “But it has a low profile” which is what I kept saying. Of course, there’s a reason there’s a maximum weight limit. While aerodynamics are important, proper weight distribution will make your car a winner. While we did have all the weight in back, it was not enough.

We put it on the test track and the car flew. We were thrilled, even as I kept telling Will, “We’re not going to win Saturday. This is our first year, and some of these dads have been building these cars for a few years. This is a learning experience, and next year our car will be much better.”

It was a white lie, but I think it made him feel a little better about my prowess with power tools. He stopped suggesting I go to power tool school.

Still, our enthusiasm and our hopes were raised a little by the test experience. The car made it completely down the track and in good time. Come Saturday, who knows?

This morning we went to the school where the race was being held. The track was set up and the cars were all on display, including the Wigderson jalopy. Still, looking at the car with the others, it didn’t look that bad. It was like the tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. All it needed was a little love… and some paint, some ballast, a few less black thumbprints….

Finally it was time to go in the first heat. Each race was three cars, 1 point for third, 2 points for second, 3 points for first. Each car would race three times in first round.

In between rounds, the cub scouts auctioned off cakes. No, I didn’t donate a cake this year. I figured whatever I baked would end up tasting like graphite. But I brought a check and the determination I was going to run up the bidding early. I bought the first cake auctioned for $25, and it turns out I got off lightly. Heh.

But back to racing, and then it was Will’s turn. Will’s car flew, and so did the other kids’ cars. Will came in 2nd. I was thrilled. Will was okay, but he was having a blast goofing around with his friends. Will’s second race, another second place. Will was happy, I was happy, and I thought, “If we finish with no last places, that’s pretty cool.” Then Will’s third race and… he won! With that, Will’s car qualified for the semi-finals. Unfortunately, the semi-finals went the way I feared, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd.

Still, Will got a trophy. Okay, every kid did, but some trophies were bigger than others, and we got the little trophy. But we had a blast, and we can truthfully say we built the car together and had fun doing it.

Next year we’re making a shark.

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