Auto Racing for Young Drivers
Auto racing for youth has been around since the early 20th century. Many of the world's best drivers started out in the youth circuit, whether it was with Midget cars or drag racing. Youth racing all began with soapbox derbies and eventually grew branches of youth divisions from adult sports, such as auto racing and drag racing. No matter the type of racing that is done, it all teaches children a wide variety of lessons that can be used all throughout life.
The Pinewood Derby cars are small unmanned wooden cars that are raced on a downhill slope. The derby was started in May 1953 by Cub Scouts Pack 280c of Manhattan Beach, California. Scouting Magazine looks at the reason for success after 60 years, which is contributed to flexibility and tradition. Today, more than 1 to 2 million participate in a Pinewood Derby throughout the country. Each derby is customizable by the Cub Scout pack, where car expectations and designs can vary from each locale.
Pack798 states that Don Murphy was inspired to create the Pinewood Derby from another famous racing institution; the Soap Box Derby. Since the minimum age for Soap Box disqualified many Cub Scouts, the Pinewood Derby was created so those younger than 12 years old could still race. The Derby was based on the father-son dynamic, where fathers worked with their sons on creating and building their own derby car.
Even though this started out as a Cub Scout event, some Girl Scouts and other groups have started their own Pinewood Derbies.
The first step to getting started in your own Pinewood Derby, according to the Pinewood Derby website, is to obtain how-to resources from your local scout shop. After obtaining your resources, follow the steps below.
- Design your car's body.
- Shape your car's body. This will take some time as you need to make sure all pieces are specifically measured and fitted.
- Inspect the wheels. You will need official wheels as designated by your local pack's specifications.
- Insert axles.
- Paint your car.
- Install the wheels and axles.
- Add weights but make sure your car does not exceed 5 ounces.
- Test your car.
- Lubricate your car but be sure to check with the pack's lube rules first.
- Accessorize your car with stripes, decals, etc.
To learn more, visit:
- Boy Scouts of America: How to conduct a Pinewood Derby
- Boys Life: How to make a fast Pinewood Derby Car
If you are interested in joining a Pinewood Derby in your area, check out some of the links below. You can also search for your local cub scout council.
- Pinewood Derby National Championships: Official site
- Chief Seattle Council BSA: Pinewood Derby Seattle
If you would like to learn more or become involved, the following resources are great places to start:
- Maximum Velocity: Building a fast Pinewood Derby Car
- Master Clubs: Pine Car Derby
- Pathfinders Online: Pinewood Derby requirements
Soap Box Derby
The Soap Box Derby was first conducted in 1934 in Dayton, Ohio. After moving the race to Akron in 1935, Soap Box Derby came to international focus due to a famous radio announcer being struck by a race car. In 1941, the last All-American Soap Box Derby was conducted and went on suspension due to World War II, but resumed in 1946.
In 1971, girls were allowed to compete in the derby, and the first girl winning the soapbox derby happened in 1975. Other divisions of the Derby included the Junior Division for 10-12 year old children, which started in 1976, and the addition of the novice category for 8-13 year old participants in 1992.
In the past, most cars were built by hand from scratch. Beginning in the 1990s, ready-to-assemble fiberglass kits were provided by the All-American Soap Box Derby. Kit cars were replaced by Super Stock cars, which were also ready-to-assemble kits in 1995.
Races continue today in the Akron area with a new scholarship fund which is awarded to the top three Local and Rally Divisions of the First Energy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship winners each year.
The California Family Soap Box Derby Association has some information on getting started.
The derby is opened to girls and boys, ages 7-20 years old. You will need to search for a local race near you, which can be done at official soap box derby websites. There are three divisions to enter: Super Stock, Masters, and Stock Car. Each division has car design plans that have to be met in order to qualify to race.
When purchasing a car kit, they must be ordered through the All-American Soap Box Derby website, as these are official kits to be used in the races. After receiving your kit, have a look through the rulebook to become familiar with how the race is conducted.
To learn more, visit Utah State University: Soap Box Derby tips.
Here are some organizations and clubs that have a wealth of information for those interested in Soap Box Derby racing:
For more information, you can also visit the following websites:
- NPR: High tech soap box racing
- Whangaparaoa Rotary: Superstock plans
- Keystone Rally Association: Soap Box Derby racing
The National Museum of American History calls go-kart racing as a truly “grass-roots” sport that began in the 1950s with various types of small, open-wheeled race cars for oval tracks. Go-karts appeared due to would-be racers unable to afford the high-powered midget cars. Marketers of leisure-time products produced small, motorized 'karts” for pre-teens. These karts were meant to be driven on paved surfaces and had no true body. Some adults installed more powerful motors, and the racing go-kart was created. Soon after, organized races began in parking lots that were marked off but eventually moved to specialized short, paved race tracks.
Famous NASCAR and Formula One racers got their start on go-kart tracks, such as Jeff Gordon and Michael Andretti.
The first thing to do when you decide to start racing is to choose the type of track you'll be racing on and what to buy according to that. Puget Sound Road Race Association suggests going to a local go-kart racing track to check out the track and areas surrounding it. Are you using a paved or dirt track? Ask questions to racers if you want more information. Find a local go-kart supply store and check out the equipment they sell. Decide if you want new or used karts.
Next would be to sign up for classes. Classes are broken down into age groups, engine package, and total vehicle/driver weight. Be aware that different regional classes will have different names but are the same engine package.
For more information, go to Motorsport Safety: How do I get started in karting?
There are many local and regional associations and organizations specifically for go-kart racing. Here are a few examples of some organizations that may be in your area or are great for researching the sport of kart racing:
- Louis Karting Association: Official website
- Los Angeles Karting Championship: Official website
- Karters of America Racing Triad: Official website
For more resources and information, you can visit the following links:
- California Colleges: Go-karting information
- We Build Men: Build a go-kart like a champ
- George School: Riding go-karts expands physics learning
Belk Library states that American track racing began in the Southern Appalachians around the 1920s-30s. Given the winding roads in the mountains, this made the perfect racing track. The need to prove their souped up cars until there were the fastest eventually led to weekend races on proper tracks. In 1948, NASCAR was started to formally give way to organized competition.
Drag racing began in the Californian deserts in the 1930s, according to PBS. After World War II, youth with cars decided to turn drag racing into a serious sport. Races took place on military runways in the first organized events in 1949 at Goleta Air Base in California.
In response to the need for races for young drivers, Quarter Midget Racing was started. According to Long Island Street Rod Association, Quarter Midget racing began in 1954 when parents created an oval track in a parking lot. Most cars were home built with lawn mower engines, wheelbarrow tires, and bodies made from car fenders. Eventually, pre-made cars were soon in high demand as the sport grew in popularity.
Little Wheels Quarter Midget Association suggests first joining a club, like theirs. The next step would be to find and buy a quarter midget car. You can buy used or new, depending on what you can afford. Proper safety gear is also needed, and there are special types of gear to use for this kind of racing.
Once you have all the gear and car, enroll your child in novice classes in your area. Along with classes, practicing as much as you can will go a long way. Once your child feels comfortable, enter races in your area to gain experience.
To get started in Junior Dragster Racing, first attend a few races to get a feel of what they are like. The purchase of a Junior Dragster usually runs close to $5,000. These reach speeds of 45 miles per hour and help youth learn the basics of drag racing. There are also specific guidelines for what to wear for the drivers, so be sure to purchase appropriate gear from accredited stores.
Each region and locale has its own organization for Quarter Midget cars and Dragsters. Below are some of the organizations for these types of races:
- Tri-Valley Quarter Midget Association: Official website
- Quarter Midgets of America: Official website
- Drag Racer's Association of Florence: Official website
If you are still looking for more information about Junior Dragsters of Quarter Midget Racing, visit the following websites: