Janesville29°

Full speed ahead for fun

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Mike DuPre'
February 18, 2008
— Sunday. Race day.

But it’s not NASCAR or the Daytona 500.


While Rock County drivers were trying to negotiate slippery streets and icy roads Sunday, 25 young car designer/racers ran head-to-head in the cafeteria of St. William Catholic School in Janesville.


“But it’s not about winning,” said 7-year-old Hunter Olson.


“It’s about having fun,” Olson’s buddy Jay Gorman finished the thought.


Hunter and Jay are members of Cub Scout Pack 539, and Sunday was race day for them and other Pinewood Derby racers.


The youngsters—ages 6 to 11—used a high-tech course to test their designs.


The 49-foot aluminum track has four electronically timed lanes. The Scouts dropped their wooden cars down a slope of 42 degrees. A computer recorded their times.


Pack 539 raised the $1,500 for the cutting-edge track and software three years ago mostly through sales of Christmas wreaths, pack leader Chad Seichter said.


Scouts carve their Pinewood racers from blocks of wood into many designs and shapes. But specifications and rules are exact: no more than 5 ounces, no longer than 7 inches, only official Scout Grand Prix axles and wheels and so forth.


Despite the exacting specifications, the Scouts came up with many innovative designs: a military jeep with fenders, a yellow school bus, a “Lazer racer” complete with blinking taillights, a racer carved to resemble a Wii video game controller.


“The unsung heroes and helpers are the grandpas, neighbors and friends of Scouting who had the right power tools (for woodcarving),” said Kevin O’Leary, leader of the Tigers Den, made up of the youngest Cubs such as Jay and Hunter.


Off to one side stood the pits—a worktable complete with power drills, graphite and glue for last-minute race-day modifications.


Racer too heavy? Drill out some wood.


Too light? Glue on a coin.


Wheels sticky? Graphite.


The finals for the Tigers presented a dilemma for Jay, son of Randy and Nancy Gorman, and Hunter, son of Sara and Steve Loertscher.


The best friends had to race head-to-head to determine a winner.


Hunter’s Turbo Ram slingshot dragster, complete with ram’s head decal, edged out Jay’s yellow-striped Indy car for victory in the Tigers Den.


The boys said it was tough to race against each other, but then they got philosophical and made the comments about how having fun was more important than winning.


Asked who told them that, Hunter said, “My den leader, but I already knew that.”


Jay replied, “My den leader. Well, my dad told me that when I was, like, about 2.”


A lesson apparently well taught—and remembered.



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