By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — The threat of thunderstorms and a broken timing system made for an interesting finish to this year’s City of Firsts Soap Box Derby Saturday down on Main Street.
With the clouds darkening overhead and 10-year-old Micah Gremelspacher leading 11-year-old Rachel Carden in the finals for the Super Stock division, Gremelspacher braked his No. 10 Crume-Evans Insurance car as he crossed the finished line ripping out the cable for the timing system.
His mistake cost him the victory as he was disqualified for braking. This gave Carden, in the No. 55 Solidarity Federal Credit Union car, the victory and the opportunity to advance to Akron, Ohio for the International Soap Box Derby Championships.
In the Stock Division, Ansen Russell, 7, driving the No. 3 Coca-Cola car, edged out the No. 40 car driven by Samantha Golding to take the victory on the 900-foot, two-lane track on South Main Street.
Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, the Soap Box Derby pitted 35 drivers ranging in age from 7 to 14. Racers created their cars from kits supplied by the All-American Soap Box Derby.
The crowds were sparse toward the end of the all-day races due to the threat of storms, but earlier in the day crowds cheered on their favorite drivers and enjoyed the sunshine.
“We had a really good day,” said Darrell Blasius, a member of the Kiwanis Club. “The crowd was really excited. It was a good turnout. The look on the kids’ faces as they run around - it’s really neat. That’s what it’s all about – the kids. They are our future so events like this are important,” he said.
Near the starting line, Denny Clelland watched the action from the sidewalk.
“My grandson is thinking about doing this next year so I came down to check it out,” he said.
“It’s pretty fun. It’s kind of like the Pinewood Derby, but bigger,” he said of the cars. “We did the Pinewood Derby a couple of years. We got beat the first year and won next. I’m just out here trying to learn. Racing is in my blood. I used to race stocks at the Kokomo Speedway. Competition is competition no matter what you’re in.”
Greg Francis, another big race fan, was rooting for this daughter, Olivia, in the No. 199 car.
“This is our first year,” he said.
“She loves racing and loves going to the Kokomo Speedway. She’s loving every minute of it. Now she wants me to get her a quarter midget.”
Luke Hetzner standing next to his Rusty Nuts car, said his strategy is “staying closest to the rail.”
“I’ve always liked to build things,” Hetzner said of the reason he got involved with the Soap Box Derby two years ago.
At about half way through the competition, Hetzner cruised to victory in his first two heat races and was hoping to keep up the momentum. In the end, Heztner took seventh in the Super Stock Division.
Kokomo City of Firsts Soap Box Derby winners Super Stock Division First - Rachel Carden Second - Micah Gremelspacher Third - Matthew Edison Stock Division First - Ansen Russell Second - Samantha Golding Third - Elizabeth Jarrell