Soap Box Derby returns to Williamsport

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The pandemic wiped out so many community events across our area.

Last year, organizers were forced to put the brakes on Williamsport Soap Box Derby. But Saturday the special event was back and better than ever.

Two by two, young drivers put their skills to the test as they raced soap box derby cars down Market Street in Williamsport. Steering straight and staying low increases their speed.

“Well, you have to sit back in your seat and get all the way down as far as you can so there is only a little bit of space between your eyes and the car,” Derby driver Alayna Rudloff said.

Electronic timing calls out the winner, traveling around 25 miles per hour at the finish line. At the top of the hill, parents wait anxiously for the results of each race.

“Well, she actually lost the first race, so she went immediately to the loser’s bracket and now she hasn’t lost since so we are very excited, and we hope it keeps going,” Paul Zenga of Williamsport said.

Last year the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event. Dozens of racers are now able to compete and re-new the tradition.

“But what we lost last year we are gaining right back because everyone is excited to be here, glad to be outside and glad to be a part of the sport,” race director Jim Campbell said.

The soap box racers are not only designed to look alike but race alike. There’s steering, brakes, and the drivers wear a helmet. In fact, the families themselves put the cars together.

“What we had to do was some maintenance, put the bodies on, change the brake pad, check the alignment of the vehicle, put the practice wheels on. And we took the car home for a couple of weeks and had some practice time,” Chad Rudloff of Picture Rocks said.

Prior to the finals families try to remain calm, knowing race day glory is waiting at the finish line.

“I’m not really nervous at all. I think he does a good job. The kids have a good time. I think he’s got it,” Erica Roan of Williamsport said.

Nine-year-old Deegan Bragg of Williamsport checked the steering and brakes on his racer prior to the finals. He had a plan to create more speed down the hill.

“I just look forward and not focus on the other player, just focus on the finish line,” Bragg said.

Deegan’s strategy paid off as he won the stock division championship. Local winners in the stock and super stock divisions advance to the All-American Soap Box Derby.

The international competition is set for next month in Akron, Ohio.

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