Danny O’Brien, of Hamburg, lines up in the chute at the All American Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio.
HAMBURG — After qualifying by winning first place in Hamburg’s local All American Soap Box Derby, 11-year old Danny O’Brien, of Hamburg, continued on to win 10th place in the world championship super stock division in Akron, Ohio, out of 105 contestants. During race week in Ohio, July 21, Danny became the first child from Hamburg ever to qualify in the world championship past the first heat. He made it to the third heat.
His mother Tracey Howard said, “It was just a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him. He made memories he will never forget. There was a permanent smile on his face.”
The 2014 soap box derby race in Hamburg was Danny’s second local race.
The soap box enthusiast’s racing career began after hearing about the soap box derby race through Cub Scouts. He then began to ask local businesses for donations for his cart. According to Howard, contestants can rent carts or buy them, but after receiving a sizable donation from his orthodontist, Suburban Orthodontics, Danny bought a cart-making kit. With the help of his mom, step-dad and soap box derby committee members, he fashioned a workable and competition-worthy cart and chose to try it out in the local race. held June 21.
There are two kinds of winners that compete separately at the world championship: local race winners and rally race winners. Within the local races, there are separate races for stock, super stock and masters racers. The different races are determined by the kind of car participants use to compete. In the rally races, there are also stock, super stock and masters racers; however, in rally races, participants can qualify to move on, based on a points system.
In the competition in Hamburg, there was a double elimination, but for the contest in Akron, there was a single elimination; only the winner of the heat moved on in the competition. Danny won first place in the first and second heats.
According to Danny, his goal was to be one of the top nine in his category. His future plans include acquiring a masters car and winning a championship.
“It really is a lot of fun for the kids,” said Howard. “Danny had to help build his car, so he learned about the engineering aspect of that, as well. He also needed to know how to adapt to the track. He made so many lifelong memories and many new friends. I was surprised at how focused the kids were all week and really seemed mature for the various ages.”
Since it was a world championship, Danny was competing against children from across the globe, including Japan, Germany, Canada and New Zealand. The first-place winner received a $5,000 college scholarship. This year’s winner for the super stock division was 13-year-old Emerson Minch of Cleveland, Ohio with a winning time of 29.447. Minch’s sister, Maddie, was the 2012 Local Masters Champion.
According to the organization’s website, the mission of the All-American Soap Box Derby Program is to “educate and inspire youth through fair and honest competition and mentorship…to instill basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition, and the perseverance to complete a project from start to finish.”
The AASBD is administered by the International Soap Box Derby Inc.