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May 24, 2017
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Pinewood Derby taps Cub Scoutsí need for speed

  • Scoutmaster Tom Denson and Assistant Cubmaster Robert Connell presented J.P. Miller with the first-place trophy for speed at the annual Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby held Saturday, Feb. 11, at Fundemonium in Rohnert Park. Robert Grant

By: Dave Williams
February 17, 2017
Annual event a favorite for local Cub Scout packs

Just about everyone who ever donned a Cub Scouts uniform looked forward to the Pinewood Derby.

The Pinewood Derby is an annual event where the scouts get to show off their creative side by designing and carving out a race car from pinewood. Then, the scouts race their little vehicles on a 35-foot track that’s elevated at the start and flat at the finish line. Local Cub Scout Pack 1 held its Pinewood Derby on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Fundemonium in Rohnert Park.

The rules for the Pinewood Derby are fairly simple. The overall length of a car must not exceed 7 inches, and the car’s width cannot be wider than 2¾ inches. Also, the car must have 1¾-inch clearance between the wheels and three-eighths of an inch clearance underneath the body so it does not rub on the track.

Also, a derby car cannot exceed 5.0 ounces. The cars are weighed by an official scale when the contestants check in. Once a car passes inspection, only race committee members can touch it, and if a car loses a wheel or suffers other damage, its owner has five minutes to make repairs.

These rules have been in place and haven’t changed in more than 40 years. For the outlaw category, which is an open class for parents and friends of the scouts, the weight limit is 8 ounces.

“The only thing that’s changed is the way we do the finish line,” said Tom Denson, Scout master for Pack 1. “When I was a scout, there were a couple of parents and a stop watch at the finish line. Now we’ve got lasers and a lot of technology that sometimes doesn’t work.”

The scouts, because of technical glitches, were forced to wait awhile before racing began. But because they are energetic kids in a toys and hobby shop, they found plenty of ways to occupy themselves.

“This and camping are the two things the scouts love to do,” Denson said.

The blocks of wood were handed out to the scouts nearly 2½ months ago, but some of them didn’t need that long to carve out the shape of their cars.

“It took a couple of days for me,” said Logan Zumstein, 10. “I went on Google to look up ideas and I saw an idea that I liked. I was thinking of doing one design then I changed it. My car did OK, I guess.”

There were multiple heats of four cars at the derby. Shea Warner, 9, was one of the heat winners.

“It took me five days to build my car,” Warner said. “Building my car was the most fun part of this. I had a little help.”

Denson said the Pinewood Derby can serve two purposes.

“It gives time for the mother and father to work with the scout to prepare for the event and it gives time for the scout to figure out how to do something by themselves,” Denson said.

Each Cub Scout pack holds its own race. 

There will be a regional race on May 20 at the Boy Scout Hut in Cotati, where participants will come from Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma.