The sleek Soap Box Derby cars that have dominated Akron’s Derby Downs this week were parked Wednesday afternoon.
They were replaced by clunky cars that resembled blocks of wood — something more akin to the derby’s past. It was all too fitting that the racers on this day were reliving their past or making some later-in-life memories.
Derby racer Cameron Burdgick, 11, of New York, joined fellow competitors to watch as parents had their shot at a run for glory down the hill.
Cameron’s dad is not a stranger to Derby Downs, as he raced there as a youngster 33 years ago.
Before the start of the parents race, Stephanie Getz of North Canton stood by her father, Andy. She stared blankly at the block-shaped car in front of them.
“He knows everything I know,” said Stephanie, who won the Akron Suburban championship this year.
Her father quickly corrected her.
“Well,” Andy Getz said as he stepped out of the rudimentary Soap Box Derby car designed for adult riders, “we don’t know much about these.”
The cars, supplied by the derby, were equipped with only the basics — steering wheels and brakes.
“Parents become children when we do the parents race,” derby spokesman Bob Troyer said.
After 40 three-car races, Nicki Green of Lancaster walked away the victor. She raced for her son Jacob Green, a 2012 national points champion who will compete in Saturday’s running of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby.
Tim Dever of Wooster finished second and Paul Bates Jr. of Culpepper, Va., came in third.
Parent races started seven years ago, when Alan Howe petitioned the All-American Soap Box Derby board to allow them.
“It’s a very simple race,” Howe said. “It’s just fun.”
The race consisted of 81 parents competing in four single-elimination heats. The cars ran three wide, with the winner advancing.
The racers were chosen from three categories. The first group gained entry through a winning raffle ticket sold Monday and Tuesday. Parents also could race if their child’s or grandchild’s car was inspected for the All-American race on Saturday and had no safety or performance problems. Other participants came from those cars were randomly selected for a more thorough inspection and passed.
Earl Woods, 58, waited until two years ago to get into soap box racing. A neighbor introduced his granddaughter, Makayla Buxton, to the sport.
With no experience, Woods stepped into his car with Makayla’s only advice: “Have fun!”
Woods said he was ecstatic to have the chance to share the thrill of going down the hill.
“Whether we admit it, we are all kids,” Howe said.
Doug Livingston can be emailed at email@example.com.