Soap Box track work, 5.30.19

Crews from Skanska USA Building and Smokey Point Concrete help create the forms on May 30 that will support the new ramp up to a staging platform 4 feet higher than last year.

There was a real need for speed. Literally.

Racers started a little on the slow side during last year’s race — the first at the new track at Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island.

“It took a while to get going,” said Randy Heagle, who owns the ranch and the local Windermere offices with his wife, Marla. “We want to get cars to about 28 mph to 30 mph at the bottom.”

So with the help of labor and material donations from Smokey Point Concrete and Skanska USA Building, the starting line is drastically different this year.

The launching point is more than 4 feet higher, which should get racers to the desired speed, Heagle said. Also, now there’s a large culvert to walk under the track to the other side, and the staging area is larger and easier to navigate.

“Lifting the cars on and off the trailers is really what makes soap box derbies so difficult,” Heagle said.

With the track improvements, trucks towing trailers now pick up and drop off cars at loading bays level with the trailers so cars can be rolled on and off without lifting.

The upgraded track will be put to the test Saturday for the 12th annual Windermere Stanwood-Camano Soap Box Derby — the only soap box derby in Washington.

About 100 kids are expected to compete for trips to the All-American World Championship Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.

The local race is divided into two groups. In the stock division, the combined weight of the stock car, wheels and driver cannot exceed 200 pounds. For the super stock division, the combined weight cannot exceed 240 pounds. Stock division drivers must be ages 7-13; super stock drivers must be ages 9-17. The top finisher in each division wins a trip to the annual All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week, taking place July 14-20. Champions at the All-American compete each year for the title of world champion and more than $36,000 in college scholarships.

But this year, three young Camano Island racers have already clinched a spot at the national race.

Bella Siddle, Addison Inman and Ronan Johnson each won their divisions at the 24th Annual Best-in-the-West Rally over Memorial Day weekend in Salem, Oregon.

There, hundreds of kids from California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon competed in six races: Stock Racer events, two Super Stock and two Masters races.

But the Camano kids stole the show.

Siddle placed first in both Stock Racer events. Inman, who was a winner on Camano last year, placed first in one Super Stock and second in the other. Johnson took first in both Masters races.

“Love it,” Heagle said. “The dream is to have an Akron champ within the next five years.”

The free, public race takes place at a more leisurely location than in previous years of racing down a Stanwood street. It starts at 9 a.m. at 615 Arrowhead Road on Camano Island and features food and fun throughout the day. For more information, visit arrowheadranchcamano.com.

Spectators are encouraged to use the nearby Camano Center or Utsalady Elementary parking lots. A bus will shuttle people between the parking areas and Arrowhead Ranch.

The local soap box derby event incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, while encouraging active mentorship and family collaboration throughout the derby car-building process. Most racers and family members have spent the past few weeks attending driving and building clinics in addition to working on their cars, many of which are paid for by local businesses.

Crews that have been hard at work on the track upgrades are eager to see kids test out the upgrades.

“I live in Stanwood near the previous soap box track,” said Ted Riggan, regional sales manager for Smokey Point Concrete and Skagit Readymix. “So when we heard about Randy’s plan (to raise the starting location), we knew we wanted to help. We really like to support community events, especially things that involve kids.”

Smokey Point Concrete and Skagit Readymix donated 10 yards of concrete and the concrete blocks used to create the upper platform.

Kevin Johns, senior superintendent with Skanska construction, said he and his six-man crew were happy to help build the track upgrades.

“We were working on a volunteer project at an Everett school with Smokey Point Concrete when they told us about this,” Johns said. “It was a no-brainer. This is a project we wanted to be a part of. The kids will have some fun, for sure.”

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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