Archive for Tuesday, June 22, 1993

6TH-GRADER TAKES PLUNGE WITH SOAP BOX DERBY

June 22, 1993

Advertisement

Matthew Pool didn't get the nickname, "singing boy" for his ability to carry a tune.

"I used to like to yell when I was going down -- I thought the vibration made the car go faster," said Matthew, who gained the nickname at Soap Box Derby races. "But I found out that it doesn't, so I don't do that anymore."

The 11-year-old Deerfield school sixth-grader, who's been racing a Soap Box Derby car for two years, will try his luck in the national races in August in Ohio.

Matthew, the only Lawrence participant, will race his fiberglass and wood car in the National Derby Rally races Aug. 9-13 in Columbus. He also hopes to qualify for the All-American Soap Box Derby race in Akron on Aug. 7.

Hundreds of boys and girls from several countries will participate.

His car, paid for by the local Kmart store and by Matthew's own earnings as a newspaper carrier, is painted in crimson and blue.

"This is truly a Lawrence car, it even has the Jayhawk colors," said Matthew's mother, Jan, who says she is known as the only mother in the region who has helped build and maintain a Soap Box Derby car.

"All the guys say I'm the only mom who knows the mechanics of one of these," she said.

Last weekend, Matthew qualified for the Columbus races with a second-place finish in a Wichita-area derby race.

He says he became interested in the cars about three years ago, after picking up a book about racing at the library.

"I kind of like race cars and when I saw this I just said, 'Wow, where can I get one of these.'"

Kmart each year donates about 400 Soap Box Derby cars and helps sponsor their drivers, Jan Pool said.

Matthew in 1990 won a drawing for his car organized by the local Kmart. He has participated in several races in Kansas and Missouri, winning several trophies.

"I'm very good at racing, but I don't think I can win a (college) scholarship" at the national races, which is awarded to the top finishers.

Matthew and Jan said they are seeking a sponsor to help cover the travel costs and entry fees for the national races. Sponsoring companies or organizations could have their name painted on the side the Matthew's car, they said.

Soap Box Derby cars, which weigh about 100 pounds, race on asphalt tracks about 1,000 feet long on a grade of 2 percent to 16 percent. The cars, which race in pairs, do not have motors or gears. They travel up to 35 mph.

Winners are based on race times and victories against other cars in two races per heat. After the first race, the wheels of the two cars competing against each other are switched, and the cars switch lanes.

"That's called a wheel swap, lane swap," Jan said. "It helps make the races more fair for everyone."

The cars are steered by wires attached from their axles to a steering wheel on the inside of the car.

The cars cost $600 and up to build, Matthew said.

Matthew, who's spent about $350 of his money on his car, says racing is worth the expense.

"It's fun the very first time you go down the track, and every time after that, even on the practice tracks," he said.

Companies or organizations wishing to sponsor Matthew may call Jan Pool at 749-1633.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.