Fifty-two racers with colorful cars competed hot and heavy on Mount Airy’s South Franklin Road Saturday morning.
Residents there might not have noticed it, with none of the deafening sounds associated with racing and the cars weighing only about 5 ounces each while being powered by gravity rather than high-performance engines.
Yet despite the fact they were small and relatively noiseless — in a venue not involving a one-mile oval, but a 40-foot track in the Mount Airy Christian Church gymnasium — competition was huge at the annual Pinewood Derby.
Cub Scouts from across Surry County and their parents filled the gym, continuing a 60-year tradition launched when a California Cubmaster devised the activity because his son was too small to compete in Soap Box Derby races.
The intent is having kids, with the help of their dads, construct miniature race cars from kits containing a block of pine wood, plastic wheels and tiny metal axles. They can paint them in colors of their choosing and add other personal touches as well.
The Best of Show Award, as determined by judges, was won by Nathan Lattimore, while Cubs Choice honors (voted on by the other scouts) went to Colby Stowers. Each youth received a participation trophy.
Cars of various designs could be seen during Saturday’s competition, but one of the most unique was a winning racer of Benjamin Hiatt of Pack 596 in Mount Airy. He captured the Tiger competition involving younger scouts, with older ones vying in the Cub division.
Benjamin and his father, Patrick Hiatt, crafted their car to resemble a cell phone complete with numbers, which Benjamin appropriately named “Speed Dial.”
“This is like so awesome!” he exclaimed while clutching the large trophy received for winning the Tiger segment. Saturday marked Benjamin’s first time competing in the Pinewood Derby and he could barely contain his excitement afterward.
Meanwhile in another area of the church, Zane Hardy held the trophy he won in the Cub (older) division as the day’s top overall finisher.
Each Cub’s car was raced several times, which involved releasing cars from a starting point and having them glide down a ramp toward the finish line on the other side of the gym, where official times were shown on a screen.
Zane, 9, a member of Mount Airy’s Pack 553, had an average overall time of 18.5010 seconds — not good enough for Daytona, but fast enough for his car to win Saturday at Mount Airy Christian Church. The victory was attributed to “lots of hard work” on the part of the scout and his dad, Stan Hardy.
Indeed, the father-son aspect of the Pinewood Derby made everyone a winner regardless of where they finished in Saturday’s event, participants agreed.
“I enjoy being with my son,” Kenny Largen of White Plains said of Hunter, 8, a member of Pack 553.
“This is our third year,” Largen said. It took him and Hunter four or five days to prepare this year’s car. “We worked on it pretty hard,” he added.
The experience has allowed the elder Largen to teach his son about machinery such as saws, “and the principle of friction, which he’s learning in school now.” That’s because “lots of sanding” is involved in the process.
And while Hunter finished 24th overall Saturday, the father-and-son team received valuable data about the importance of aerodynamics in racing. “Thin is the way to win,” Kenny Largen joked.
Regardless of scientific principles, his son had a simple response to that of other Cub Scouts when asked what he liked most about Saturday’s event:
“Just the part where I can race and have fun.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.