Confessions from a Pinewood Derby Winner’s Mom

I’m going to tell it straight. I did not think this car would be a winner. Except for the name, that is.  He wanted the car to be called “The block of wood” but he wanted it to sound fancy. His time on the computer language translator resulted in Le bloc de bois.  It still makes me laugh.

Up to the very moment of the race, I was reminding Sam that we weren’t going to have high hopes this year, we were just going to have fun enjoying the experience and the racing pit stop (doughnut ‘tires’ and apple juice ‘gas’). Sam just smiled at me. “Yeah, I know, Mom. But you never know…”

I just shook my head fearing the boy would be crushed, but also remembering that Sam looks at the world different than I do.  His first year of racing, his car did not do well at all. And while his eyes betrayed the disappointment he felt, he kept congratulating others and looking carefully at cars that did well.  He went home that night and took notes, had lengthy discussions with his dad, and drew designs for the next year.

The next year, he placed in the final four. And we were ecstatic.  He still went home with notes and asked to get on the computer for research.  Yet, this year, he made a design that just didn’t make sense to me.  So I kept preparing him for a big lose. His dad kept telling me to have faith.  I kept pointing out that Sam didn’t put the wheels in evenly.  But I watched, praying he would do well.

My mouth fell in surprise when his car won this race,

and this race,

and THIS race!  And then . . . I had to leave to go pick up his sister from band practice. I left making Mike promise he’d keep me in the loop.

I was barely down the street when he called and told me Sam’s car made it in the final three.  I hung up and shot my hands up in the air (I was at a stoplight) and whooped and hollered – in the car alone.    I stopped when the people next to me looked over at me with uneasy expressions.

Ten minutes later, and at another stoplight, Mike called again. “First place.” I flung down the phone, whooped it up and pumped my fists in the air repeatedly.

Unfortunately, the same people happened to be in the lane next to me.   I think they were as thankful as I was that I turned left at that light.

I missed the moment where he placed first but thankfully Kimball Larsen (who also has a fun iPod app you should check out) captured it (and the race pics above) on camera.

Apparently, when Sam was interviewed, he gave the basic tips – add enough weight, aerodynamic designs, etc. At home he finally told me why he did what he did.  And since I don’t think he fully grasped that this year was his last pinewood derby, I’m going to take the liberty of sharing his tips:

Besides the usual tips you’ll find on the BSA website, Sam placed his wheels as far apart as possible.

He also attached the wheels unevenly on purpose!  This shocked me.  Having one wheel that isn’t fully down on the track gives less resistance and the car goes down faster. Who knew?!  Sam did, that’s who.

And finally, name your car a fancy yet funny name so that you’ll have fun no matter what.  Plus tell your leaders to get doughnuts and apple juice.  Seriously.


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