On Monday, July 16, the Krohn family of Austintown headed to Akron for a week filled with activities leading up to this Saturday's Soap Box Derby World Championship Race. Brandon Krohn, 12, will be among the competitors from all over the country as well as from Germany, Japan, Ireland, and Canada.
"It's the 75th anniversary of Soap Box Derby, so this year's race will be really big," said Brandon's father, Chris Krohn.
He said the event will be broadcast on television, but for the Krohns, it is another year and a sport that has become a family tradition.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Zach Krohn, 14, of Austintown and a past Soap Box Derby champion puts the wheels on his Masters class car with some help from the 2012 Mahoning Valley champion and his brother, Brandon Krohn, 12. Brandon will be heading to Akron later this month to compete in the World Championships.
The oldest of the Krohn racers is 14-year-old Zach. In 2008, Zach won the local race. In 2010, he ended up fifth in the world and in 2011 was the Region 6 rally champion.
As for Brandon, he competed in a number of races to build points that qualified him for the Akron race. On June 9, he was one of the 48 entries that competed in Cortland for the right to go to the Akron race. He won the event and had only a few days to prep his car for Akron.
"After the local race, the winner's cars are impounded by Soap Box Derby officials," Chris said. "You have a few days to work on them under the watchful eye of Derby officials before they are shipped off to Akron."
Chris said Brandon won't see the car again until he arrives in Akron. At that point, he will be in the draw to race the best from around the world. His week will be a full one that includes a parade and parties before the official weigh-in of driver and car.
Brandon will be competing in the Super Stock class, which has the capabilities of running 25 to 30 miles per hour. The younger class is the Stock class. Both of these classes have the driver bending forward to achieve the best air flow.
Zach already ran that class and has moved up to the Masters class, which is a little different. In that class, the driver lies back in the car with only a helmet showing.
Both Zach and Brandon also take their favorite sport to a different level by becoming ghost riders. In this competition, the Soap Box drivers run a two-seater vehicle that allows a special needs child to ride along and get the thrill of a Soap Box Derby race. The event took place in Salem and Brandon won that event, which means the special needs child will be traveling to Akron to compete in the ghost riders race, with running two cars at the big race.
Akron won't be the end of the line for Brandon though. Because of his win, he was invited to the Buccaneer Challenge in West Virginia. This race is an invitation-only race for champions.
While this seems to be Brandon's big year, there are other Krohns waiting for their shot. Besides older brother Zach, Brandon's two sisters Allison, 10, and McKenzie, 7, both were involved in the races this year. Allison placed fourth and McKenzie took sixth. Next year, the youngest Krohn, eight-year-old Dominic will be receiving his first car.
For Chris, it means a lot of work serving as pit crew. After he gets one racer to the starting gate, he has to turn around and get the next one ready.
"It's rough when you have four cars entered," he said. "I've never seen the bottom of the hill."
For Brandon, the big Akron race will be another chance to rise to the top. Brandon said when he races, his focus is on the finish line.
"I just look straight ahead," he said. "I don't know where the other guy is at and I don't know who won until the announcement is made."
As for Zach, his Master's car is ready to roll and begin the yearlong challenge of rally racing to earn points to be able to qualify for the 2013 Akron championships. In fact, that will be the goal of all five of the Krohn Soap Box Derby drivers.