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All-American Soap Box Derby will be in Hamburg

Miles Calloway of Eden will be among those who will be competing in the All-American Soap Box Derby in Hamburg on Saturday, June 29.
The ultimate goal for several youngsters will be a trip to Akron, Ohio. But before one lucky person attains that goal, he or she must first master a hill in the Village of Hamburg as the All-American Soap Box Derby will have a competition in Hamburg on Saturday, June 29.

Don Lucarell, who competed in the race as a child in 1946, spearheaded the idea of bringing the derby to Hamburg starting last fall, and now, it will come to fruition next month.

“It is the greatest amateur event in the world,” Lucarell said.

The winner of the local race will then move on to the National Championships in Akron, Ohio, which take place July 21-27.

“It’s a gravity race. There’s no motor,” Lucarell said.

When Lucarell first became involved in the event, he said it was a boys only event, but today, boys and girls both compete.

Although nationally, there are three divisions – Stock, Super Stock and Master’s – for 2013, the Hamburg race will only be in the Super Stock division, which is open to those ages 9-17.

“We have to have so many entrants (in order for there to be a race),” Lucarell said, adding that there are currently enough racers in order to run it, but that those interested in participating can still sign up.

Part of the reason Lucarell wanted to see this race added locally is because currently, the two closest races besides the one in Hamburg will be in Jamestown and Rochester.

“Those are the two closest in this area,” Lucarell said, adding that a racer must participate in the race closest to them.

Jennifer Eckman, who is helping Lucarell coordinate the event, said they would like to see as many children as possible participate in the race. She noted that normally, these are at least two-day events, but since they are starting with only one division locally this year, they will be able to finish the competition – which is a double-elimination tournament – in one day.

The race organizers were able to enlist the support of the Village and Town of Hamburg.

Mayor Thomas Moses said the inaugural race will be held on the hill near the Hamburg Counseling Center (97 South Buffalo St.) from 9 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m.

“We came up with a place in the village,” Moses said. “I like the place. It’s good for parking. It’s also shady.”

It is a 1,000-feet race, Lucarell said, adding that the cars reach speeds of up to 35 m.p.h.

Racers rotate the wheels throughout the race, and according to Lucarell, there are four components to success. Those are the driver, the wheels, how well built the cars are and the lanes.

“The total weight of the car with the person in it (can be no more than) 240 lbs,” Lucarell said.

The racers will be assigned numbers on the day of the race and will compete one-on-one with the other racers as part of the double-elimination process. Lucarell said each racer races one time, returns to the top of the hills, and switches wheels.

“As long as they’ve not lost twice, they keep going,” Eckman said.

As someone who participated as a child and has supported it through the years, he believes this race is important for more than just competitive reasons.

“It builds self-confidence for a kid,” he said.

For those who do not have a car currently, they can purchase a kit (which according to Eckman, most people do) or they can build it from scratch. There are specifications that must be followed, which is why more people purchase the kit, making it easier to fit the requirements.

The cost of the kit comes to around $700, and Eckman noted that it is also common for children to find people or businesses willing to help sponsor the driver to help with costs.

Lucarell said it is much different cost wise then when he was a child, as back then it cost $11 to build a car, plus the wheels.

A clinic will be held, which will include racers building their cars, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4 at the Hamburg United Methodist Church, 116 Union St.

Eckman and Lucarell said this is open to anyone, including those who might be interested in entering the race or have any questions. Mark Scuderi, regional director for the All-American Soap Box Derby, will be on hand to help answer questions.

Eckman believes this provides children who are not as athletic with an alternative.

“The real value of it, is if the kid enters it, he or she is a winner,” Eckman said.

Lucarell said helping plan the event has brought back some great memories for him.

“We had a Boys Club in Hamburg,” he said, noting this is where he first became involved.

He remembers combing through the rule book, and said even today, he remembers exactly what that book said, 67 years later.

“Then you got the wheels and started building the car,” he said. “It used to be in Buffalo on Best Street and High.”

According to Lucarell, participants at that time also received a T-shirt and a boxed lunch.

Although he did not win the race, he said being part of it was one of the best experiences of his life.

While this event is held in the Village of Hamburg, it is open to racers throughout the area. The deadline to sign up is June 10.

For more information, visit www.aasbd.org. Those interested in signing up can call either Eckman at 440-9186 or Lucarell at 649-3977.


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