Derby race honors Boy Scout

Published 8:26 am Friday, March 27, 2009

FRANKLIN—Pinewood Derby racing has always been a competitive sport.

This May, it’s going to be taken to the extreme.

Cub Scout Pack 17 will host The Carter Thomas Stephenson Memorial PWD X-Treme Open, a grand prix open to Scouters and non-Scouters who have an interest in derby racing.

The race is named in memory of Carter Stephenson, one of three Boy Scouts who lost their lives in a November 2006 car crash that also claimed the life of a Boy Scout leader.

“Carter loved Pinewood Derby,” his father, Kent Stephenson, a Cub Scout leader himself, said. “He enjoyed making the cars and deciding what color each car would be. When he moved on to Boy Scouts, he still came back to help with races.”

Pinewood Derby has become a rite of passage for Cub Scouts.

With each race, a Scout — and each person or team in the case of the event in May — is given a block of pine wood with two notches cut out for wheels. The kit also comes with plastic wheels and nails.

The block is whittled into some semblance of a car, painted and sometimes decorated with decals. The finished product can’t weigh more than 5 ounces.

Races are run in heats, usually on a wooden track that slopes down to allow for gravity to take effect.

The X-Treme Open will feature a high-tech track purchased by Stephenson and also dedicated in Carter’s memory.

The 42-foot metal track has a projector screen and computer software that measures how fast the cars go. Stephenson had first planned to raise funds to buy the track for the Cub Scout troop, which is affiliated with High Street United Methodist Church in Franklin.

“After the accident I said I’m going to buy a track myself and make it available to any pack that wants to use it,” Stephenson said.

True to his word, after the May race, the track will have been used 26 times since the first Carter Stephenson Memorial Pinewood Derby on Feb. 3, 2007.

“Carter would have loved the track. There’s no doubt about it,” His mother, Jennifer Stephenson, said.

To salute his dedication to scouting, Kent Stephenson was honored Monday night with several awards, including the District Award of Merit.

The Grand Prix will be held May 16 at the James L. Camp Jr. YMCA on 300 Crescent Drive. There will be two divisions – stock and super-stock. The stock division uses Cub Scout district rules. The super-stock rules are a little more lax, Stephenson explained.

Inspection and weigh-in for the cars will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and the races begin at 3 p.m.

A car kit is included with each entry fee — $10 for under 12; $15 for 12 and older and $30 for teams or corporate racers.

“We’re really trying to involve businesses,” Stephenson said. “We’d love to see some corporate teams get together and build a car.”

Those who are a bit older and fondly recall their old Pinewood Derby days can even dig the dusty cars out of the closet and race them again — provided the cars pass inspection.

Money from the event will help fund Boy Scout trips to camps, as well as helping those who want to become involved.

“It’s too valuable of a program,” Jennifer Stephenson, said. “We don’t ever want (lack of) funds to be the reason kids don’t become Boy Scouts.”

For more information or to register for the race, visit E-mail questions about Pinewood Derby to