While two leagues of youths are preparing for the Williamsport Soap Box Derby Race Day on Saturday, a third league of adults are readying up to take to the Market Street hill.
This year, the Soap Box Derby will bring a new kind of race to the street.
Eight “celebrity” racers representing the events’ sponsors will take a downhill dive between the stock and super stock races in their own scaled-up go-carts.
The Soap Box Derby, which was canceled last year, sees kids tech and assemble their own race carts, which they race in two separate leagues down Market Street.
The celebrity participants are John Sanders, city engineer; Tanya Weber, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Williamsport; Rick Coulter, a member of the Rotary Club; Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce; Blaise Alexander Dealership Vice President Adam Alexander; Sean Ecker, sales manager for Fairfield Auto Group; Brian Brooking, vice president of mortgage and consumer lending of the Woodland Bank; and the Sun-Gazette’s own Mark Maroney.
According to Jim Campbell, race director, there is no cost for young participants to race in the derby–they need only make a deposit payment of $20, which is refunded after the race.
Back in 2010, when Campbell and company wanted to bring the derby back to Williamsport after a 56-year hiatus, several core supporters chipped in to sponsor stock cars and help get the race off the ground.
“That allowed us to have the race at no expense to the participants,” Campbell said. “We’re very much wanting to provide this event to children, to youth of our area, and not have to eliminate people due to lack of funds.”
Stock cars cost around $600 a piece; in the first year, the derby raced 52 cars, while now the derby is up to 64 stock cars.
“They represent the strength of our community in making people’s lives better,” Campbell said of the sponsors. “This is our 11th year, and we owe them (the sponsors) a debt of gratitude.”
In previous years, the derby would alternate between racing stock and superstock cars, which allowed the different age groups to intermingle. However, this year the race will separate the stock cars into the morning races, and the superstock cars will race in the afternoon.
This separates the age groups to allow for social distancing and reduced physical contact.
In between each of these races, when the superstock cars are being set up, the celebrity racers will take to the track.
“We knew we needed community support. These groups are part of a larger group who helped us get started,” Campbell said. “This is something new and different and exciting this year in terms of having celebrities chosen from their respective business.”
The celebrity racers gathered earlier this week to do a test-run of the superstock car and become comfortable with the steering and brakes. Sanders said he’s excited to be part of the event, even though he was a little nervous about the prospect of racing.
“But after sitting in the car and using the brake, I realized this was going to be fun,” Sanders said.
“This gathers everyone together at the end of COVID and shows everything is opening back up,” Sanders added. “We can gather together as a community and show our support for the Williamsport Soap Box Derby.”
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