Derby Day in Kenai offers thrills & chills for Soap Box Championship

The Kenai Rotary Club’s All American Soap Box Derby was held on Spruce St in Kenai on Saturday, May 18th following snow showers that left a half an inch on the ground in places in Soldotna and Sterling, in Kenai however the roads were dry and race day started as scheduled.  The race featured 17 sponsored soap box cars, and drivers ranging from 9 to 17 years of age, all vying for the championship trophy and the right to represent Kenai and Alaska at the National All American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio!  The Kenai Soap Box Derby is the last remaining gravity race in Alaska on what Scott Hamann says is the most unique course in Soap Box racing, “We’re the only race that has a corner in it and as steep as Spruce St. is it makes for challenging and exciting gravity racing for the kids,” said Hamann.

            Participants strapped on their helmets, grabbed the steering wheels of their custom Soap Box Derby cars, and raced down that hill to the Cook Inlet at speeds over 30 MPH.  Following a literal photo finish that required official review, the championship trophy was awarded to Zachary Ulrich, racing the Tullis Funny Farm mobile.  Runner up was Emily Dunham, pilot of the Peninsula Memorial Chapel “Undertaker” and third place went to Peyton Matturo, racing the Kodiak “Green Machine.” Other awards were given to the Boatright family for best pit crew and Alexis Coray was awarded the sportsmanship trophy.

            “The Soap Box Derby is the premier event for youth in our community, and an excellent opportunity for Rotarians, volunteers and supporters to participate with our local youth in putting on this great annual event!  This year, local Rotarians were pleased to have the help of several members of the Nikiski High School football team in hosting and setting up the race, as well as many other volunteers and sponsors from the community,” said Kenai Rotary Club president Brendyn Shiflea, “We could not put on this valuable community event without the support of the following businesses: Sweeney’s, XTO, First National Bank Alaska, Pebble Partnership, Metal Magic, Cook Inlet Dental/Dr. Halliday, Derry & Associates, Tullis Funny Farm, Udelhoven, Peninsula Memorial Chapel, The Impact Area, Walters & Associates, Wells Fargo, Stanley Chrysler, Stanley Ford, Peterkin Distributors, HEA, Lynden, Boatright Family and Matturo Family,” he said.  The Kenai Soap Box Derby is the only remaining gravity car race in the State of Alaska, “There use to be races in Unalaska, Kodiak and in the Valley but unfortunately they have shut down now so the only remaining opportunity for Soap Box Derby racing is here in Kenai.  We’re glad we’re able to host the race because it is really a great program and opportunity for kids to learn some great life skills.  The kids and their families who go on to Akron all report life changing experiences for having participated in the international competition,” added Hamann.