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Soap Box Derby returns Saturday | News

Soap Box Derby racing returns to Ben Hawes Park on Saturday.

Last year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the race was canceled for the first time since the Owensboro Lions Club took it over in 2001.

But Josh Meyer, race director, said racing will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue until 1 or 2 p.m.

There is no charge to watch, he said.

Meyer said the number of racers is down this year, because of the earlier uncertainty about the Lions’ being able to stage it.

“We’ve got 25 racers this year,” he said. “It’s usually in the 40s.”

Meyer said, “It’s unbelievable how close some of these races are. Some of the times are only two- or three-thousandths of a second apart.”

The gravity-driven cars can hit speeds of 35 mph on the long slope of the track, he said.

And when drivers begin to slow the cars for a stop, people can see the smoke from the brakes, Meyer said.

About half of the drivers these days are girls, he said.

And girls win most of the races these days.

The Lions also use the track for rally races, which draw drivers and their families from several states.

Meyer said a rally race last month brought 28 drivers from as far away as New York; Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Illinois.

There are two ways kids can get to the 83rd FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week in Akron, Ohio, on July 20-24.

One is by winning their local races.

The other is by racking up 600 points at rally races.

Meyer said rally races are also planned at Ben Hawes Park on Aug. 21-22 and Sept. 18-19.

Because the races are staged over two days, most of the families stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants, he said.

Soap Box Derby racing returned to Owensboro after a 36-year hiatus in June 2001 with 42 boys and girls, ages 9 to 16, racing on Bluff Avenue just north of 18th Street.

A decade later, the Lions built an 800-foot asphalt track in Hawes Park with assistance from city and county governments at a cost of more than $150,000.

It began attracting rally racers from several states almost immediately.

Meyer said that Owensboro, Madisonville and Bowling Green all have Soap Box Derby tracks, “so you can get in a lot of racing within an hour’s drive.”

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