Pinewood derby held

Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Juneau Area Cub Scout Pinewood Derby was held Feb. 12 at the Nugget Mall. Many volunteers made the event possible.

Courtesy of Keith Pahlke / Courtesy of Keith Pahlke
Courtesy of Keith Pahlke / Courtesy of Keith Pahlke

The first Cub Scout pinewood derby was run in 1953. In the 60 years since, it is estimated that over 40 million fathers (mostly) and sons have participated in races. Millions more parents, den leaders, Cubmasters and committee members have been involved in various ways.

The rules of the very first race stated: The derby is run in heats-two to four cars starting by gravity from a standstill on a track and run down a ramp to a finish line unaided. The track is an inclined ramp with wood strips down the center to guide the cars. They still roll that way, accompanied by shouts of excitement and grins of delight.

What is a Pinewood Derby? A bunch of fun! At the end it is a Pack of Cub Scouts racing little wooden cars of various shapes and colors on little plastic wheels down a 32-foot plywood (or aluminum) track. But that is only a small part of it. Each Cub Scout gets a kit with a block of wood, four nails for axles and four plastic wheels. Then, based on the rules, he shapes and paints his block of wood into a vehicle to race down the track. The track’s start line is approximately 5 feet high, and the track slopes down to the floor and levels off for the final 16 feet or so. In the old days two judges were used for scoring the finish, but we now have photo cells connected to a computer program to decide first, second and third place in each heat.

The five Cub Scout Packs in Juneau have run their individual derbies over the last three weeks.

Most Packs divide the Cub Scouts by age; Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelos, and award a medal to the top three cars for each den. In addition there are often awards such as “Most Original” and “Best Paint Job” to give credit for creativity and effort. Each Scout also receives a Pinewood Derby patch. The culmination of this event is a grand finale championship with the top car of each den racing each other to determine the three fastest cars in the Pack.

The Feb. 12 race was open any Cub Scout in Juneau and determined this year’s fastest three cars in town. Third place went to Clayton from Pack 5, second to Mathew from Pack 21 and first place to Damen from Pack 10.

The competition is fun and the race is exciting, but more important is the opportunity for the boys to work with their dads or other adults on a project from start to finish. Pinewood Derby is one of the highlights of the Cub Scout year, which also includes working on various awards, skits, songs, hikes, games, field trips and banquets. Cub Scout Packs meet at most of the elementary schools and are open to all boys in first through fifth grade. For more information, contact Amy Russell at the Boy Scout office at 617-2907, or at

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