The Pikes Peak Soapbox Derby returned to full strength Sunday after a brief hiatus and participation dip during the pandemic. Twenty-four drivers sped down Costilla Street in Colorado Springs over the weekend for the opportunity to race at the All-American Soap Box Derby.
“The job is to really make the kids excited,” said Scott Taylor, who has been the event’s announcer for the past decade. “They can think like they're on a NASCAR race track. So, we put some effort into and try to get some smiles out of them every year.”
The race was canceled in 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic, and only 11 drivers competed in the Derby last year. This year’s event featured drivers from Colorado Springs, Monument, Pueblo, Loveland, Centennial, and Castle Rock.
Drivers were split up into three divisions based on their ages and designs. The Stock Division features racers ages 7-13 years-old, and racers ages 9-18 years-old make up the Super Stock Division. The Masters Division featuring 10-20 year-olds was not contested this year.
The event is a double-elimination tournament. Each round, two drivers run a pair of heats. Between each race, the drivers must switch wheels and lanes with each other, and the driver with the best time overall moves on to the next round.
Colorado Springs racer Daxton Kimsey was one of the veterans competing this year. The 9-year-old from Freedom Elementary has competed in three races, and he knows what it takes to compete at a high level once Derby day arrives. He came into Sunday’s race using the same car his brother raced in over the last five years.
“You have to make sure your brake is moving,” Kimsey said. “You have to make sure your steering is working correctly. You have to make sure the weight is the correct amount of weight you need.”
This year was the first derby for Hannah Perez, who traveled from Loveland to make her debut. The 11-year-old, who attends St. John the Evangelist School, said her interest in the Derby started in an entirely different discipline.
“I’ve ridden go-karts before so that sort of inspired me with that experience,” Perez said.
Her mom, Adriane, grew up in northern Ohio, which hosts the national derby in Akron each year. She got in touch with race officials for the Pikes Peak Soap Box Derby and secured a loaner car for the race. The family assembled the car together once they received the parts, and Adriane said her daughter learned a lot from the experience.
“It taught her a little bit about the dynamics of racing and the steering wheel. She’s an 11-year-old and she doesn’t drive yet, so that’s almost her first car,” Perez said.
Madison Kersten got involved with the Soap Box Derby through a club at her school, the Connect Charter School in Pueblo. The 15-year-old’s car was covered with mathematical equations and featured a wolf on its nose. She designed the livery as a tribute to Connect.
“It’s a school-run car and there’s a window at our school that has a bunch of mathematical symbols and everything, so I got my inspiration off that. Our mascot is a wolf,” Kersten said.
Kersten hopes the Soap Box Derby will help her prepare to work in mechanics.
The Stock Division was somewhat of a family affair, as Centennial's Ethan Elstun emerged victorious over a field that included his more experienced brothers, Carson and Blake. Ethan summed up the experience in one word: “Awesome.”
“I liked going down the hill. It is really bumpy. But some parts of the track are smooth and it is fast,” Ethan said.
Colorado Springs’ Alex Fields emerged victorious in the Super Stock Division. He needed three heats in the championship round to win the title over Castle Rock’s Aria Immormino. The rookie racer said his last races were nerve-racking, but, he was happy to get the win.
“It’s great,” said Fields. “Me and my dad had been working on this for a while. So, it just feels good.”
Elstun and Fields will now move on to the All-American Soap Box Derby, which is scheduled to start July 17. Both will try to become the second Coloradan to win on the national level in the race’s 89-year history. Parker’s Allison Pankoff won the Masters Division in 2018.
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