Four years ago, Andrew Culas lost by 7/10,000 of a second. Coming that close to first place has encouraged him and his father, Ray Culas, to keep trying.
This year will be their fourth time entering the annual Steamboat Rotary Soap Box Derby. They keep trying because they enjoy racing -- and someday they want to get to the All-American Soap Box Derby World Finals held in Akron, Ohio.
Each year, the father and son meet in the garage to work on Andrew's car. For three years, Andrew raced the same car, but this year they plan to make a new one.
"That car was getting too much mileage," Ray Culas said.
Now 14, Andrew has learned a lot from building his soap-box racers; last year, he was given the Sportmanship Award for helping friends build their cars.
On May 15, soap box racers will travel up to 35 mph down the hill on Rockies Way.
Because cars must be inspected before they race, now is the time for children who want to race in May's fourth annual Steamboat Rotary Soap Box Derby to order their car kits. Cars cost $500 with additional cost for shipping and custom paint jobs. Members of the Rotary Club know that price tag is cost prohibitive for many families.
"We don't want parents to be turned away by the cost," derby director Michelle Petix said. To help, the Rotary Club will match children with business sponsors. In return, the business puts their logo on the car.
Last year's champion, Melissa Campagna, was sponsored by Johnny B. Good's Diner and the Creekside Cafe. She hand-painted their logos on her car and won an award in Akron for her decoration.
"They rewarded her for doing it herself because that's what it's all about. It's about kids putting the effort in," Petix said. "If you've ever built anything, there's a certain satisfaction in having done it yourself."
Campagna raced with someone else's car, which she stripped and repainted herself.
"The painting took about a month," said her mother, Trish Campagna.
But most people don't spend that much time.
Building a soap-box racer is a perfect project for a family with a limited scheduled, Petix said. "You can build it in a weekend, and you race it in a day. This is a fairly short commitment."
This year's Soap Box Derby will be part of a bigger event sponsored by the Rotary Club called "Youth In Motion." The carnival-style event will feature a dunk tank, booths and remote-control races.
Registration for the race begins April 12, but cars should be ordered now. Anyone looking for sponsorship or more information should call Michelle Petix at 736-2777.
Building clinics are being offered April 6 and May 1 to make sure cars pass inspection.
-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210
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