More than 400 young gravity racers from the United States, Canada and Japan have gathered in Akron, Ohio this week for the 82nd running of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby. Among them is Providence-native Cash Chappell.
Chappell won the honor of competing in the world championship by becoming the first Providence resident to win the Pennyrile Soap Box Derby Association’s local stock division in Madisonville in May.
He and other participants will spend much of the week at Derby Downs for technical inspections of their race cars, weigh-ins and racing on the famous 989-foot track.
Highlights of the week’s activities will also include the annual parade through downtown Akron, in which every racer is honored as a champion.
“I am having a great time so far in Akron!” Chappell said. “I got to make a trial run down the hill and it was amazing. I’ve met lots of new friends, even a girl from Japan. Everywhere I go, people call me ‘Champ.’”
Racers compete in separate divisions, based on their ages and construction skills. Boys and girls from seven to 13 compete in the Stock Car division, which features the simplest ready-to-assemble kits purchased from All-American Derby headquarters. Youngsters nine through 18 are in the Super Stock division, whose cars are similar but larger to accommodate larger youngsters, or the Masters division, featuring the traditional, more sophisticated cars for boys and girls from 10 through 20.
Division champions will compete in Akron for $36,000 in college scholarships. In addition, the University of Akron will match champions’ scholarships as long as they attend the university and major in the College of Engineering.
The National Super Kids Classic, a race in which special needs children compete in two-person cars driven by veteran Soap Box Derby racers, will take place at Derby Downs on Friday, July 19.
“Akron has hosted the world championships of the Soap Box Derby for more than 80 years and race week is a tradition that is part of the city’s heritage,” said Mark Gerberich, the Soap Box Derby’s president and chief executive officer. “Boys and girls from around the globe will spend a week building friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Reach MATT HUGHES
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