The track that was used for the race belongs to Rich Stape of Berlin Center, who bought the track just for the car show. It features computerized starting grids, a real drag-strip Christmas tree and a staging button and accelerator. The finish line has sensors that accurately depict the winner.
“This track is all aluminum,” he said. “It is sold by a company called Best Track out of Illinois.”
Stape said prior to buying the state-of-the-art track, he had owned a wooden Pinewood Derby track. In fact, his involvement in Pinewood racing goes back to his early days in Scouting.
At Cars in the Park, Stape was accompanied by his daughter Robin Stape of Boardman, who keeps the score sheets in the double elimination race. She also registers the cars and weighs them to ensure they are legal. Robin presently works in a bank and is attending school for finance.
“This is a bit off my career path,” she said.
One reason she and Rich stay involved is the third generation Stape, namely her daughters Valerie, who is 11 and Caitlyn, 9. Both get tips and advice from grandpa on building their own Pinewood car and when the show arrives, all four are busy.
“It has become a family hobby,” Rich said. “The only problem is I am always busy with everyone else and I don’t have the time I wish I had to spend with my grandkids.”
At least he does get to spend time with Valerie during the race.
This year, two age groups competed on Rich’s track. A total of 23 cars were registered and when the final heat was run, Mary Garrett of Boardman came out on top of the nine- to 12-year-olds. Second place went to Michael Mason of New Middletown, and third went to Caitlyn Stape of Boardman.
In the five- to eight-year-old class, first place went to Madison Herrmann of Hubbard, followed in second by Lacey Phillips of Damascus and Tyler Garrett of Boardman for third. The Best of Show award went to Jay Green of Boardman.
The special challenge this year was to race and beat the Town Crier bus for prizes. Town Crier staff members designed and built a Pinewood Derby bus for the race challenge and afterwards gave the bus to Hunter Shaffer, 4, of Austintown, who can return next and race the bus in the five- to eight-year-old age group. Collections at the event went to Hunter’s family to help with medical costs as Hunter suffers from refractory epilepsy.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Pinewood Derby track owner Rich Stape of Berlin Center and his granddaughter Valerie Stape of Boardman test the track out prior to Sunday’s big race at the Cars in the Park car show at Boardman Park.