Soap Box Derby cars usually spin out when they wreck.
If they run into trouble, drivers are told to steer their cars along a guardrail until it comes to a complete stop.
But by the time Alaskan racer Brenner Furlong, 12, crossed the finish line Tuesday, he found himself upside down, facing the wrong direction.
His adventurous first trip down the fabled hill at Akron’s Derby Downs started around noon on Lane 3 and ended with a crash into the west guardrail.
Brenner, a resident of Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, suffered scrapes on his chin and cuts to his arm and leg. He emerged from the car rattled, but not deterred.
“Can I race again?” Brenner asked race officials who rushed to his aid.
His grandfather, Gerry Tullos, told him he can have another go at the hill “if we can get that car ready.”
An ambulance was called to the track to check over Brenner’s injuries. Paramedics determined he did not have to be taken to the hospital. His face was swollen, though.
Joe Mazur, president and CEO of the All-American Soap Box Derby, said derby officials will work with Brenner’s family to see if the car can be repaired for Saturday’s race.
“Whether it is [repairable] or not, we will have a car for him to race in,” he said.
Mazur said Brenner’s crash was unusual in that the car flipped over. Last year’s derby had just one on-track crash.
“Typically, the car will spin, but he hit [the guardrail] head on,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Brenner was among more than 400 derby finalists who had to wheel their cars over scales and through inspections.
The final race on Saturday is a culmination of points-based rally races and winner-take-all local championships held across the nation and abroad. The riders will compete for a share of $45,000 in scholarships.
For most drivers, Tuesday was the first time they saw their cars in two weeks after the vehicles were loaded in trailers, shipped by freight or even airmailed from all over the world to Akron.
“We flew. The car drove,” said Austin Spory, 14, a first-year local championship winner from Pike’s Peak, Colo.
License plates in the parking lot transcended the nation’s coasts and borders.
Ben Smith, 8, won the local championship in Danbury, Conn., on June 2.
His father, Frank Smith, said the win was an early Father’s Day present.
The Smiths weighed their car according to the smallest of the three racing classes, the stock division. As drivers stood in their cars atop a scale, derby staff ensured that stock drivers weighed no more than 200 pounds, super stocks less than 240 pounds and masters less than 255 pounds.
From there, the racers filed through a line to get their photos taken. Then staff checked the racers’ brakes.
Bob Cooper waited at the brake station to catch a young driver. He checked to make sure the brakes work and that they retract after use.
“Everything’s gone very smooth this year,” said Cooper, 67, in his 50th year volunteering at the derby.
“It’s better than it has been in many years,” said Bob Troyer, derby spokesman, noting that about 90 percent of cars passed inspection. If needed, minor safety and performance modifications were completed on site.
Saturday is the only day of the week busier than Tuesday, Troyer said.
This weekend, 422 racers from around the world will compete in the 75th running of the All-American Soap Box Derby.
Some racers took their first test run Tuesday at Derby Downs. Some will also make a trial run today, when contestants can make last-minute alignment changes.
A ceremony was held Tuesday night at the Akron Civic Theatre, where a drawing was held to determine lanes and heats for the big race.
Every tweak builds confidence. And nearly ever rider is confident that he or she will win.
“People are having fun,” Troyer said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
With sunshine and heat in Saturday’s forecast, Troyer said things could be worse.
“The heat we can live with. The rain makes it difficult,” he said.
Doug Livingston can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.