Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ready for Race Day

Regular Chelsea Stories readers may have noticed a significant lack of activity lately.
My time and attention in recent weeks has been focused elsewhere - namely as the co-designer and builder of a race car.

This is not a foray into a new line of work or a following of my NASCAR dreams.

No, the car The Tiny Mailman and I have been building is for Cub Scout Pack 603's annual Pinewood Derby. Race Day is today at the Augusta American Legion Hall.

And despite the Begin family's tendency to procrastinate and pull off some eleventh hour heroics, we are ready. The finishing touches were made shortly after breakfast.

If you've been a Scout or the parent of one, you're familiar with the drill. Your Scout receives a kit containing a 1-1/4" x 1-3/4" x 7" block of pine, four plastic wheels and four axles (nails).

The object is for the Scout and his parent/parental figure to craft a sleek, super-fast, gravity-powered racer. The finished product must comply with dimensional standards and not weight more than five ounces.

Sounds relatively simple, right? That's what I thought too.

But as I've learned during the last month, there's a real - or perhaps perceived - science to building a Pinewood Derby car. Key points include:
  • An aerodynamic design (a no-brainer)
  • Wheels matched by die number (7s and 10s are the best, apparently)
  • Lightly sanded and graphite-applied wheels
  • Sanded and polished axles to remove burrs and impediments to speed (there's definitely a trick to sanding a 5/8" nail).
  • And, finally, a few tricks that I'm not at liberty to share for fear of competition (but which can be discovered through meticulous web research - i.e. Google "Pinewood Derby car designs and tips").
I'mconfident we've hit most of the marks. Now all that remains is a car that doesn't far apart, a little luck and a reversal of the poor showing of my own cars 30+ years ago.

Today, The Tiny Mailman is going to do the Begin family proud. I just know it.

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