Americana at its very best
Culpeper’s Soap Box Derby delivers tears, thrills and family pride
As Katie Frazierâ??s derby car rolled down the hill she stared intensely through the narrow slit between her helmet and Masterâ??s Division racer. She hoped that she could stay just inches in front her opponent Gabby Bevilleâ??s racer.
Her breath quickened and heart pounded as the finish line approached.
Frazier knew that winning this final heat would be tough. Her opponent was a 2011 World Champion.
As her racer crossed the Rosson Troilo Finish Line banner she applied her breaks and a wisp of pale tire smoke chased her until she came to a grinding stop. Outside the aerodynamic confines of her racer a friendly voice told her just what she wanted to hear.
Derby volunteer Fontaine Halsey tapped on the door of her racer and opened the latch.
â??You won Katie,â? he said with a wide smile.
As her racer was wheeled into the pit area Frazier was quickly greeted with hugs and a few tears from a large group of friends and family members. Among the hug-happy family members was Frankie Gilmore, Race Director of the Culpeper Soap Box Derby.
Frazier went from hug-to-hug looking every bit the wide-eyed champion starring in a dream made real.
Her father Troy Frazier, also a volunteer, drove his truck from the starting hill down to congratulate his daughter. He found her and lifted the Eastern View sophomore in a tight hug as tears of joy crept into the corners of his eyes.
â??Iâ??m speechless,â? said the proud father. â??Sheâ??s worked so hard and been so committed to this derbyâ??thatâ??s the pay off. Iâ??m so happy for her. The derby is a family and I love her commitment to our family.â?
Like nearly all of the hundred drivers in the 12th Culpeper Soap Box Derby, the newest Masterâ??s Division Champion spoke of the derby as an â??extended family.â?
This concept of family permeated the derby from rookie drivers to seasoned volunteers.
â??It really is a family,â? said Frazier minutes after her dream finish. â??Itâ??s amazing and Iâ??m so happy and proud today.â?
Cheering the champs
In the following minutes two new championships were also earned by Brandon Kearns, of Culpeper, a fifth-year derby veteran. Kearns came from behind in the standings to surpass first-day leader Emily Maley, to earn the Super Stock Division championship.
In the Stock Division, derby rookie Mason Breeden, of Culpeper, rolled to victory with a true sense of purpose. Breeden was quite emotional as he was surrounded by family at the finish. His car was a few seconds faster than his competitors on both days of the two-day derby.
â??I felt like I won a million dollars. It is fast and its full-throttle all the way down the hill,â? said Breeden, after watching a replay of the race on his motherâ??s phone. â??As I crossed the finish line, I thought pleaseâ?¦I hope I won!â?
The applause told him his hopes had come to fruition.
The Super Kids, now in its second year as a division, inspired the heartiest rounds of applause from the hundreds gathered at the raceway. The Super Kids has grown from a handful of racers to an 11 racer field.
Racer Owen Lenon, of Culpeper, took home the championship for the division, but all the racers displayed total elation as they crossed the finish line.
Rookie racer Zachary Frye, of Boston, seemed to be a crowd favorite each time he crossed the finish line with his arms held aloft the applause grew.
â??Stay tuned, the smiles on these kidâ??s faces is worth it all,â? said Marty Carroll, an organizer of the Super Kids Division. â??We added two new cars this year thanks to Tyler Miller, who did it as an Eagle Scout project.â?
â??Our driver Brandon really likes the cars and loves the speed as he rolls down the hill,â? said Brenda Fincham Butler. â??We want to win it all. The entire derby experience has been great.â?
As a two-day event the Culpeper Derby was highly organized and efficient, especially on day one.
â??I have to give a lot of credit to Jim Beville, Paul Bates, Wayne, John and Alex Holt, who created and built 21 metal racks. I think that is one of the main reasons why we are moving so quickly and efficiently today,â? remarked Suzi Windland, of the derbyâ??s Junior Committee. â??The racks really allow us to organize, move and check tires all at the same time. Itâ??s been super easy to be me today. We even had volunteers asking what more can they can do.â?
In addition to the time saving car racks two additional events also made day-one special.
Eagle Scout legacy
â??I wanted to create something for my community and the derby,â? said Sam Armm, an Eagle Scout from Culpeper Troop 1202, sponsored by the Brandy Volunteer Fire Department. â??For my Eagle Scout project I wanted to give something back to the derby. I had grown up participating in it so it meant a lot to me to create this project. At first we considering making a bridge and then we decided on a Memorial Garden Terrace to honor the memory of Joe and Bootsie Troilo, Stan Karas, Louise van Dort, Carol Anne Brown and Andrew Windland.â?
Armm remarked that even though he wasnâ??t the most successful driver in the derby when he participated as a 9 and 10 year-old, the experience helped shape his concepts of community and family.
New camp offering
Derby organizers also unveiled a new program last Saturday. Culpeper will become the first derby within the All-American Derby, outside of Akron, Ohio to host a science, technology, engineering and math summer camp. It will be held from July 28th-August 1st. According to organizers, the Culpeper derby was approached by All-American President/CEO Joe Mazur about hosting a pilot program.
Culpeper race director Frankie Gilmore commented that the committee was thrilled to give it a go.
â??I realized that thereâ??s so much technology and mathematical skills and engineering that go into building our cars,â? Gilmore said. â??The cars are kits, granted all the kits are the same, but itâ??s all about applying angles and using mathematics. This camp will be a great opportunity for local kids to apply those skills in a derby setting.â?
The camp is designed for ages 9-12 and it will cost $205 and it will be taught by two Culpeper Middle School teachers. For more information on the camp, contact Gilmore directly at 540-272-1848 or check out the Culpeper Soap Box Derbyâ??s website.
The Culpeper derby has a rich tradition of champions on the local and national level. Local derby fans have another high-quality group rolling to Akron, Ohio for the All-American Soap Box Derbyâ??s World Championship event to be held on July 24th.
â??I felt nervous coming down the hill at first, but it was fast and awesome,â? said Zane Hackley, 9, a rookie driver. â??Iâ??ll be back for more next year.â?
SOAP BOX DERBY RESULTS
Best in Show Awards
Luke Morris, 2-year veteran
Martin O’Heir, 3-year veteran
Taylor Hunley, 5-year veteran
Carol Anne Brown Sportsmanship Award
Taylor Rupard, 5-year veteran
Super Stock Top Finishers
1. Brandon Kearns
2. Emily Maley
3. Taylor Rupard
4. Ben Conner
5. Sofie Nelson
6. Nathan Brockman
7. Gillette Harris
8. Lucy Clark
Stock Top Finishers
1. Mason Breeden
2. Luke Morris
3. Haven Kramb
4. Jaden Torosian
5. Ella Nelson
6. Emily Markley
7. Jayme Rohrbaugh
8. Jase Pickering
Masters Top Finishers
1. Katie Frazier
2. Gabby Beville
3. Zach Chapman
4. Zachary Miller
5. Nicole Holloway
6. Titus Konold
7. Taylor Hunley
8. Lucas Combs
Super Kids Top Finishers
1. Owen Lenon
2. John Thomas Walbroehl
3. Zachary Frye
4. Jordan Haun
5. Jasmine Brown
6. Brandon Butler
7. Alex Procino
8. Miguel Chapman