Fans cheered with arms flung into the air or sat with hands clapped to their faces as cars whizzed past at 160 mph.
The day was one of victory and disappointment — though both were taken in stride — and the trophy at the end was just a bonus after the thrill of the race and the months of preparation.
The Scouts and families of Pack 190 take their Pinewood Derby seriously, though not too seriously.
Even siblings and parents get a chance to participate, sending their own cars down the track — and getting a chance to race family members head-to-head afterward.
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Chase Austin won first place in his Webelo 1 den Feb. 7. His Blue Blaze reached 161 mph on the track, and after his second win he was sitting on the edge of his seat with a smile that bordered on disbelief.
He only had a single word to describe how he felt: “Excited.”
“I’ve got third place in my den before, and then that’s it,” he said.
Watching brother and sister Corbin and Wylah Brahaum during the race, their shared excitement was obvious: cheering for each other’s cars and congratulating each other after races.
The two were at Webb and Sons Auto Restoration the week before, working with their dad, Jason, on their cars.
Brahaum said his children get more into building fast cars than into the style aspect. The two enjoy getting to pick their choice of paint; but going into their second year of racing, it all comes down to speed.
“Well, they have an award for the best design as well, but they’re more after winning,” Brahaum said with a laugh.
That’s not the case for Fen Smith, who ran a car this year named “The Supernatural,” styled after a 1967 Chevy Impala, used in a favorite TV show.
“Last year he did kind of a generic car, and then the year before he did something from ‘Dr. Who’; he made a Tardis,” said his dad, Russ Smith, referring to the time-traveling ship from the BBC show.
Fen has held onto his cars from previous years, keeping them on a shelf in his bedroom.
“He’s got every one that he’s ever used in the last four years,” Smith said. “Every year he’s done something different.”
Smith said this was the second year they had come to the Webbs’ shop to work on their car, though it is the fifth year Fen — a Webelo 2 — has had a car in the race.
“They really help the kids, and the paint jobs they do — it’s just awesome,“ Smith said.
Lending a paint gun
For the Webbs, it’s all about helping out and sharing a tradition that goes back to their own childhoods.
In the front office sits a display of Pinewood Derby cars family members have built over the years, going back to the 1980s, when father Larry Webb began making cars with his sons.
“I like it when we see all the parents with their kids, and just working with them,” said Brian Webb, the oldest of the Webb brothers. “When I was a little kid, and Dad would do these things and he had the shop, I took a lot of that stuff for granted.”
Webb said they began inviting the Cub Scouts out to the shop to work on their cars around five years ago when his oldest son, Billie, was in first or second grade.
“I really enjoy having the kids see what the shop’s like here … because, you know, the paint system, the mixing system, nobody does that in school anymore,” he said. “So I just enjoy sharing that with the community and giving the kids help.”
Learning without knowing it
Working with the tools and building something of which they can be proud communicates more to the boys than they might recognize at the time.
“They don’t know they’re learning because it’s fun,” Smith said. “He’s learning how to sand, how to paint, how to primer, how a band saw runs — and to me, that’s important.”
Smith said that over the years he has gradually let Fen take over more of the work.
“Other than some things that are too dangerous for him to do, I try to make him do as much as possible,” he said. “The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts is all about learning skills.”
Pack 190 Cubmaster Shane Combest said the hands-on aspect of preparations for the derby is central to much of what the pack does.
“We try not to stay in the classroom,” Combest said. “We try to get out and do things and teach kids how to do things.”
But working with tools responsibly isn’t the only thing the boys and their siblings learn from the Pinewood Derby.
“It’s great because it gets the boys and their family together to build the car,” Combest said.
Combest said family participation is a big part of all of the pack’s activities.
“We encourage families to show up, not just the boys, but their sisters and brothers,” he said.
“It gets the families together to have fun,” he said. “If you can do that, then the kids will stick with Scouting and get their Eagles; and if you get an Eagle rank, as a Boy Scout, there’s so much stuff that can happen for you in life.”
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