It can be lonely going down the track during the All-American Soap Box Derby.
Thankfully, Rapidan’s Joey Kratochvil had a passenger – his dad.
James Kratochvil passed away on Jan. 7, 2008 but he had a front row seat last Saturday as his youngest son won the stock division at the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
Prior to his race, Joey’s aunt Eileen Hunter presented Joey’s mom Arlene Rupard with a necklace containing James’ ashes. With his dad figuratively and literally going down the hill with him, Joey was confident he was going to win.
“I was just excited,” Joey said. “I knew my car was fast and I wasn’t as nervous as I was at the local race. I had a feeling I was going to win.”
Accompanied by a large contingent of his family from Culpeper, including his grandparents Joe and Freda Kratochvil, the win and the way it happened was a special moment for the Culpeper crew.
“It was very emotional,” Rupard said. “I gave Joey the necklace and told him that when you go down the hill, he’ll be going with you.”
Kratochvil was the fifth Culpeper driver to win the world title and the second to do so while racing with his loved ones ashes.
Sean Brown won in 2010 with the ashes of his sister Carol Anne Brown in his car. During that run, butterflies engulfed the family while they waited for Sean to come down the hill. On Saturday, the Kratochvil clan experienced the same phenomenon.
“Michelle (Brown) texted me and said ‘Carol Anne will be with him (Joey),’” Rupard said.
Joey said he had an advantage as he was used to going faster at the Culpeper track, which was modeled after Akron’s asphalt.
That advantage was something that the Piedmont Area Soap Box Derby committee thought of when they were constructing Paul Bates Raceway.
“I think it helps a great deal,” Piedmont Area Soap Box Derby executive director Frankie Gilmore said. “They get to Akron and they’re not overwhelmed.”
Having another driver from Culpeper win helps put Culpeper on the map, Gilmore said.
“It makes other drivers want to come rally here,” Gilmore said. “It brings revenue to our area.”
Also putting Culpeper on the map was Joey’s appearance on July 18 on the Live with Kelly show. Appearing before a national audience, Joey made small talk with host Kelly Ripa while showing off the ring he won at the All-American Soap Box Derby.
“She’s really tiny,” Joey said with a laugh. “I was just a little shorter than her.”
Now the 14-year-old turns his attention to the Super Stock division where he hopes to return to Akron.
And be sure that he’ll have his dad with him again.