Keystone Rally Association Logo - Soapbox Derby Organization
soapbox derby car
 Welcome to Soap Box Derby Racing 
   
 
Introduction  
 
The most important thing to remember about most things in life is that at some point we've all been beginners. Don't let that discourage you from getting involved in the sport of soap box derby racing. Please don't hesitate to ask questions. Derby people love to talk derby and will try to answer your questions to the best of their abilities and will refer you to others if they can't or if you want a second opinion. Soap Box Derby racing has been around since the turn of the 20th century, however it really hadn't become organized until 1934 when Myron "Scottie" Scott, a journalist, organized the first All-American race in Dayton, OH. The following year, the event was moved to Akron, OH where it continues today. Throughout its years of existence, the goals of Soap Box Derby Program have not changed; to educate and inspire youth through fair and honest competition and mentorship. With the primary goal to advance family values, soap box derby racing provides an environment in which parents or other adults work hands-on with racers to instill basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition, and the perseverance to complete a project from start to finish. (taken from the All American rules mission statement)  
 
Organizations  
 
There are two main organizations that sanction soap box derby races, the All-American Soap Box Derby (AASBD or AA for short) and the National Derby Rallies (NDR). Both organizations share the same rules but there are some subtle differences between the two.  
 
Types of Races
  • All American
    • AA Rules Apply (click here for rules)
    • Race cities are divided into Regions
    • The championship races (one for local champs and one for rally champs, in all three divisions) is held in Akron, OH
    • There are no fees to be an AA member
  • NDR
    • NDR Rules Apply (click here for rules)
    • Each year, the championship race is held at a different location
    • There is a nominal fee to be an NDR member
  • Local
    • Mostly associated with AA races
    • According to their residence, drivers are "assigned" to race city (town)
    • The winner in each division (car type - see below), earns the right to go to Akron as a local champ representing that race city in the AA Championship race held every July in Akron, OH
    • The top two finishers in each division, are pre-qualified to race in the NDR Championship race
    • Please note, the local winner may race in the AA and NDR championship races
  • Rally
    • Races will either follow AA rules or NDR rules as decided by the race city (through its race director)
    • Drivers earn AA rally points or NDR rally points
    • At the end of the season, these points can earn a driver the chance to race at the AA championship race as a Rally Champ and/or the chance to race at the NDR championship race
  • Keystone Rally
    • For rallies designated as Keystone events, drivers earn Keystone points (in addition to AA and NDR points)
    • Races will be designated as AA or NDR races and those rules apply for that particular race
    • Keystone does not have a championship race. At the end of the season, the top 12 drivers (as determined by their total Keystone Points) are recognized, with the top point earner in each division being named Keystone Champion
    • There are no fees to be a Keystone member
 
 
Keystone Rally Association's Role  
 
In the early years of soap box derby racing, when only the AASBD existed, drivers built their cars and raced them at their local. If they were fortunate enough to win their local, they earned the right to represent their local city at the big race at Akron. For most, their car would only be raced at their local. The rally circuit was born from a desire to race more often throughout the year.  
 
At these early rallies, drivers raced for prizes, trophies and even money. During this time, the rules were not consistant from location to location leaving room for debate. As a result, several race cities (towns) got together and established common rules for rallying and decided to link all of the locations to a master points system whereby drivers could earn prizes for winning a race but they also earned points toward prizes awarded for their total accumulated points. Hence the birth of the Keystone Rally Association was formed. Before their was an All-American Rally division and before there was an NDR, drivers earned Keystone Points.  
 
Differing from the Keystone system, both the All-American and NDR Rally points, are used to earn the opportunity to race in an end-of-season championship race. The Keystone season ends with an annual picnic where awards are given, retiring drivers are recognized and fund raising events are held.  
 
Car Types (Divisions)  
 
The first order of business in derby racing is to select a car. Regardless of the organization sanctioning the race, there are three main cars from which to select (there are other car types in both the AA and the NDR but they will not be covered here). The car type you select will determine your division. Please note, stock cars only race other stock cars, super stock cars only race other stock cars, etc.  
 
StockSuper Stock"Scottie" Masters
stock carsuper stock carmasters car
 
 
  • Stock
    • AA Rules
      • Ages 7 to 13
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 5'3", 125 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 200 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 107.5 and no less than 92.5)
      • May NOT be painted but may be decorated in pressure-sensitive labels
    • NDR Rules
      • Ages 7 to 17
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 5'3", 125 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 200 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 107.5 and no less than 92.5)
      • Must Remove Nose Screw
      • May NOT be painted but may be decorated in pressure-sensitive labels
 
 
  • Super Stock
    • AA Rules
      • Ages 10 to 17
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 6'0", 150 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 240 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 127.5 and no less than 112.5)
      • May be painted and/or decorated with pressure-sensitive labels
    • NDR Rules
      • Ages 8 to 21
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 6'0", 150 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 240 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 127.5 and no less than 112.5)
      • Must Remove Nose Screw
      • May be painted and/or decorated with pressure-sensitive labels
 
 
  • Masters
    • AA Rules
      • Ages 10 to 17
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 6'0", 160 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 255 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 135 and no less than 120)
      • May be painted and/or decorated with pressure-sensitive labels
    • NDR Rules
      • Ages 10 to 21
      • Max Driver Size - approximately 6'0", 160 lbs
      • Car + Driver = 255 lbs
      • Front to Back Weight Differential <= 15 pounds (tail weight no more than 135 and no less than 120)
      • Must Remove Nose Screw
      • May be painted and/or decorated with pressure-sensitive labels
 
 
All cars are sold as kits by the All-American Soap Box Derby. Both kits and parts may be purchased on their online store. Please see their web site for more details and pricing. Any additional weight required must also be provided by the driver.  
 
Construction  
 
The All-American Soap Box Derby publishes instructions on how to construct each type of car. Be sure to read the instructions very carefully. The NDR has some variations of their own so it's not a bad idea to read their instructions, too. Remember all of those sayings you've heard before - "measure twice cut once", "keep it simple stupid", "righty tighty", etc. and be sure to involve your driver in every aspect of the construction. In the end, you'll end up with more than just a finished car. Trust us on this one.  
 
Don't forget to mark your wheels (LF - left front, RF - right front, LR - left rear, RR - right rear)  
 
Again, don't forget to ask questions. In the near future, we hope to launch our big derby brother and sister program where existing race families volunteer to be mentors to new race families. Please stay tuned to this site for more details  
 
Optional Accessories  
 
Arguably, this is the area that offers the most flexibility in creativity and innovation in soap box derby racing. Dennis Wilt out of York, PA (717-764-5632) has a good selection of these items as does Zero Error Racing out of Sharon, PA (724-346-5898).
  • Canopy   easy up tent for soap box derby racing
    • A canopy keeps the elements off of the car and the family
    • Since most pits are on black top, temperatures during the summer can be quite high. A canopy can provide much needed shade
    • Most folks use four-legged canopies that can be erected and folded by one person in a few minutes
  • Car Stands   saw horses for soap box derby racing
    • Keeps your car elevated for adjustments or just to spin the wins between races
    • Most folks use saw horses, however some use shorter homemade stands made from metal or wood
  • Dollies   dollie for moving soap box derby cars
    • This is the preferred choice of drivers to get their cars from their pit to the trailer
    • Dollies come in many sizes and shapes. Some are store-bought and some are homemade
    • The top surface of the dolly is covered with a non-abrasive material such as carpet or soft rubber. This prevents the bottom of your car from being scratched
    • Dollies with large wheels tend to roll easier on rough surfaces
    • Most dollies feature wheels that pivot 360 degrees. This makes it easier to get the dolly (with the car) in and out of tighter spaces
  • Alignment Jig   alignment tools for soap box derby cars
    • The camber angle (forward, backward, up and down) of the spindles can be adjusted by bending them. Please note, the axles have square bodies with the last few inches at each end being turned into round sections (where the wheels go) which are referred to as spindles
    • This gage, using in the shape of a horseshoe has two "feet". One foot rests on the spindle of one side of an axle and the other foot rests on the other
    • One of the feet of the gage is equipped with a heighth gage. This gage indicates, usually in thousands of an inch, the distance the spindle is deflected
    • The up/down displacement is measured with the gage in a vertical position while the front/back displacement is measured with the gage in a horizontal position
  • Zero Bar   zero bar for soap box derby car alignment
    • A zero bar is used to calibrate the heigth gage on the alignment jig
    • It is usually an old axle or a piece of steel with the same dimensions of an axle, where the spindle has zero camber angle in all directions, i.e. your gage should read zero in the vertical and horizontal directions
    • An alignment jig is essentially useless without a zero bar
  • Spindle Bending Tool   tow and camber adjustments for soap box derby cars
    • There are many varieties of tools used to bend the spindles of the axle
    • The goal of each is to bend the spindle in the direction of your choosing without throwing the axle out of alignment
  • Wing Nut Wrench   wing nut wrench for soap box derby car weights
    • Movable weights are held in place with wing nuts. These wing nuts can be hard to reach and sometimes hard to tighten
    • This tool, which fits nicely in your back pocket, can greatly reduce the effort it takes to reach and adjust your wing nuts
  • Level   level for soap box derby hills
    • A good level can help you understand the track's terrain and gage the slope of the ramps
  • Torque Wrench   torque wrench for soap box derby adjustments
    • By loosening or tightening the king pins on your car, you can control the "rock" of the body on the axles
    • A torque wrench will guaranty that you are torquing the king pin consistantly
  • Fischer Gage   fisher gage for soap box derby car alignment
    • Designed by Nick Fischer
    • By loosening or tightening the king pins on your car, you can control the "rock" of the body on the axles
    • A Fischer Gage is used to measure how much "rock" you get at a particular king pin setting
    • A torque wrench can accomplish the same task, however with less accuracy
 
 
Participating in a Race  
 
Now that your car is built, it's time to find some competition.
  • The AA, NDR and Keystone web sites all publish calendars of upcoming races
  • Please note, since you cannot be at two places on the hill at the same time, it is highly recommend that each driver have two car handlers. One at the top of hill to load them in the ramps and one at the bottom to help them exit the car and remove the car from the track
  • For some races advanced sign up is required, however for Keystone, all you need to do is show up and register the day of the race
  • Registration, at Keystone races, usually opens at 7:00 am and closes at 7:30 am. You'll want to arrive at least 30 minutes prior this time to set up your pit
  • After setting up your pit, it's usually a good idea to check your car's settings to make sure nothing changed in transit
  • When the scales have been set up, you should set up the total and rear weight for your car. Please note, different race cites have different scales. Expect to have to change weight for each race city
  • If you haven't done so already, mark your wheels (LF - left front, RF - right front, LR - left rear, RR - right rear)
  • Before racing starts, the race director will hold a driver's meeting where important details about the race will be presented
  • At the end of the driver's meeting, the first race heats will be announced. Note, the person called first will race in lane 1
  • After the driver's meeting, all drivers who have never raced before are allowed to take a test run down the hill. If this is your first race, take advantage of the test run
  • After you've been called, you will trade (swap) wheels with your opponent. Please see Wheel Swaps below
  • Next, you and your opponent will check each other's total weight.
  • There are two types of tail weight checks. Some race directors will want drivers to check tail weight before your race with your opponent while others will allow you to challenge tail weight after the race with your opponent is over
    • If the race director wants to check tail weight prior to heats, you cannot challenge tail weight after the race with our opponent is over
    • If the race director allows post race challenges, the winner may challenge the loser. If the winner is over or under the allowable tail weight, they will forfeit that heat
    • As a beginner, it's not a bad idea to check your opponent's tail weight as this will give you a piece of information that may be useful in the future
  • After "going across the scales", you and your opponent should proceed to the starting line
  • When it's your turn, place your car in the ramps (it's not a bad idea to watch how other drivers are setting their car in the ramps), get your driver in the car and wish your opponent good luck
    • Sun Glasses or Bubble Goggles help shield your drivers eyes from the wind
    • Note, drivers racing their second phase go to the start of the line at the ramps
  • After completing the first phase with your opponent (the time differential will be announced), you will take all four of the wheels on your car and transfer them to your opponent and vice versa, being careful to put them on their correct position. This usually done at the top of the hill
  • For your second phase, you will race in the opposite lane than your first heat
  • The winner will be the driver with the fastest combined time of both phases (the overall winner will be announced)
  • In a double elimination race, you are eliminated from the race afer losing two heats.
  • Continuing racing until you have been eliminated from the race
  • An awards ceremony is held at the conclusion of all of the races where the top 10 drivers from each division are presented with trophies
 
 
Types of Wheel Swaps  
 
Wheel swaps or trading wheels with your opponent, ensures that both you and your opponent race on all eight wheels involved in the race. Listed below are the common wheel swaps
  • 2 / 4
    • For heat 1, you will trade 2 wheels with your opponent
      • Race directors may elect to have a standard heat 1 swap for all races that day, i.e. LF, RR
      • Race directors may elect to have drivers select their wheel swap from a can using labeled chips or balls
    • For heat 2, you will trade all four of the wheels on your car with your opponent (you will also change lanes after heat 1).
    • Unless a progressive wheel swap is announced, after the race with your opponent is over, you and your opponent swap wheels one last time to give each other's wheels back. In the end, you should have all of your wheels back on your car
  • 0 / 4
    • For heat 1, you will race on all four of your wheels
    • For heat 2, you will trade all four of the wheels on your car with your opponent (you will also change lanes after heat 1).
    • Unless a progressive wheel swap is announced, after the race with your opponent is over, you and your opponent swap wheels one last time to give each other's wheels back. In the end, you should have all of your wheels back on your car
  • Progressive
    • When a Progressive Wheel Swap is in place, after your second heat with an opponent, you do not return each other's wheels. The wheels on your car stay on your car until your next heat is called or until the entire race is over, at which time your wheels will be returned to you
  • Wheel Bank
    • You and your opponent are given a set of wheels by an independent party
    • Wheel swaps (2/4, 0/4, 2/4 progressive, etc.) are completed as required
    • To put it bluntly, you don't race with the wheels you brought to the race
 
 
In Closing  
 
There is a lot of information on this page to digest. Hopefully it's not too overwhelming. Soap Box Derby Racing definitely requires a lot of reading at first. But in no time at all this stuff will be second nature.  
 
And remember, the only stupid question is the one that you didn't ask.
 

   The page prints best in landscape orientation.