This past weekendâ??s 13th annual Culpeper All-American Soap Box Derby had it all. The derby had sibling rivalries, miraculous comebacks, creative car designs, and close finishes all wrapped up neatly in a patriotic, family atmosphere.
The weather was hot, yet the Paul Bates Raceway was a model of efficiency and dedication throughout the two-day derby. Organizers, members of its Junior Committee and a loyal band of volunteers made sure that racers, families and fans had a great time.
As promised by derby organizers, the Masterâ??s Division was completed on Saturday. The division charged through its tournament brackets and Jayme Rohrbaugh, a first-year Masterâ??s Division driver won by the nose in her lime green racer against an 11-year derby veteran Zach Chapman.
â??I felt like my racer rolled smoothly and I kept a straight line,â? said Rohrbaugh after beating Chapman twice to earn the top trophy on the first day. â??Both of our cars were very competitive. Iâ??m going to try and represent Culpeper well in Akron.â?
Drivers who either win their division or accumulate enough rally points qualify for the Soap Box Nationals held in Akron, Ohio later this summer.
In the Stock Division Luke Morris earned the top honor, but he had to battle his little sister on the first day of racing. He also had a tough final opponent in five-year derby veteran Joey Kratochvil on Sunday.
Just minutes after his racer crossed the finish line his little sister once again became a fan and was the first to give Morris a hug. Morris, still wearing his helmet, could only squeal with delight as his family and extended derby family rushed in to congratulate him.
â??Iâ??m so happy! Iâ??m going to celebrate by chugging root beer and putting my feet up on the couch,â? said Morris as he removed his helmet for post race interviews. â??My sister is a great racer and so were all my opponents. I used to think that if I tilted my helmet a certain way it would give me luck. This year, I just focused on racing and it worked. I had a feeling I might just win this today.â?
Culpeper Race Director Frankie Gilmore was right in the thick of Morrisâ??s celebration swooping in for a congratulatory hug along with other family members.
â??This is what itâ??s all about isnâ??t it?â? said Gilmore. â??Itâ??s tough to race against your own family, but his smile says it all.â?
In the hotly contested Super Stock Division it was another brother sister battle, but this time it was for the chance to hoist the trophy and represent Culpeper in Akron.
The siblings split the first two phases of the Super Stock Divisionâ??s championship rounds—-then they had to battle it out two more times before Dakota Breeden edged out her brother Mason, a 2014 Stock Division and world champion when he knocked over a few cones beyond the finish line.
The cones resulted in elimination sending his sister on to victory.
â??Iâ??m a little worried about what conversation will be about tonight at dinner,â? said Dakota. â??We had people arguing over which one of us would win.
Breeden made an incredible comeback from a loss on Saturday that forced her to race and defeat four challengers in the consolation bracket to earn another shot at the final.
â??I just tried to run the best race possible, but it was competitive when you have to face your own brother,â? added Breeden.
The creative designs on all the race cars are always a favorite of fans. Sponsors and race families inherit cars from sponsors or create innovative new designs.
Super Stock driver Nathan Brockman, of Aroda, a two-year derby veteran sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Burton-Hammond Post 2524 had an amazing visual tribute to his grandfather and great-grandfather on the side of his racer. The nose of his racer resembled the nose art of the famous Flying Tigers of World War II fame.
â??My great-grandfatherâ??s photo is on my car. He was in the first wave at Omaha Beach during D-Day. He was with the 29th Division. I also have my great-grandmotherâ??s photo on here. He met her in England,â? said Brockman. â??My grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran is also on my racer.â?
This yearâ??s derby also fell on Fatherâ??s Day weekend.
â??A good dad, mom or family member to celebrate with is essential when it comes to racing,â? said one spectator. â??It helps even more if you need a hug if you donâ??t win.â?
On Saturday, Don Lane, a Soap Box Derby director from nearby Waynesboro, Virginia was visiting with his friend Paul Bates at the top of the hill and observing the Culpeper Derby for the first time since its opening year.
â??They named this track after a good guy. We had our derby on Motherâ??s Day,â? said Lane. â??Iâ??m in awe of this facility and the support of your community and sponsors. Itâ??s all for the kids and Culpeper should be very proud. Iâ??m truly enjoying my day here.â?
â??Heâ??s the one who got me into the derby,â? said Paul Bates.
This weekendâ??s derby was a model of speed and efficiency. The event was managed well once again by the Culpeper Derbyâ??s Junior Committee for the second-straight year.
The Super Kids Division, designed to allow drivers with special needs to enjoy the thrill of the hill alongside an experienced derby driver was once again inspiring.
There were 12 drivers in the Super Kids Division and 12 experienced drivers serving as co-drivers. A number of first-year drivers joined the fun this year.
Second-year Super Kid Justin Dyre earned the top finish after a close race with Alex Procino.
Nearly half of the Super Kids field had just concluded their Little League baseball season on Friday night.
â??Heâ??s had a busy weekend,â? said Heidi Conta, mother of Jacob Pritchett, a rookie Super Kids driver sponsored by Kid Central. â??Weâ??ve had a great day supporting him and all the drivers. Itâ??s been a wonderful experience.â?
Since its start the Culpeper Derby has been remarkably consistent event that never fails to have participants, fans and volunteers smiling. The Bates Raceway is 950 feet from the starting gate to finish line and it offers young racers a heart-pumping thrill, but what leaves you smiling at the end of the day is the time spent working together for families.
Over the years, the Culpeper Derby has produced national champions, stories of courage, tears, and a long list of inspirational stories. The derby personifies family on all levels. Each driver is part of a larger extended derby family and thatâ??s the way organizers and fans like it.
The essence of the derby is often personified by the recipient of the Carol Anne Brown Sportsmanship Award presented to the driver who receives the most votes by fellow drivers.
Sean Brown, a former World Champion and Junior Committee member presented the 2015 award named for his late sister to Taylor Rupard at the conclusion of Sundayâ??s races.
Marshall Conner is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at email@example.com.
2015 Culpeper All-American Soap Box Derby Results:
Stock top finishers
1. Luke Morris
2. Joey Kratochvil
3. Sophie Morris
4. Brandon Kearns
5. Griffin Smythers
6. Domenic Del Grosso
7. Ella Nelson
8. Jaydon Corbin
Super Stock top finishers
1. Dakota Breeden
2. Mason Breeden
3. Tucker Minter
4. Zachary Miller
5. Emily Maley
6. Jeremiah Foscato
7. Ben Corner
8. Luke Rimmer
Super Kids top finishers
1. Justin Dyre
2. Alex Procino
3. Zachary Frye
4. Caleb Walbroehl
5. Owen Lenon
6. Gwendolyn Kowalski
7. Brandon Butler
8. Miguel Chapman
Masters division top finishers
1. Jayme Rohrbaugh
2. Zach Chapman
3. Gabrielle Beville
4. Taylor Rupard
5. Maribeth Combs
6. Titus Konold
7. Mikayla Quinton