Winning a pinewood derby takes but a few things: the right shape car to swiftly cut through the air, enough weight to pull it down the track, some graphite lubricant to grease the wheels and usually a dad to help make it all happen.
In the case of Teyler Newkirk, 10, of Mayfield, it was he and his uncle Gary Wands, of Gloversville, who put together the winning car for the Webelo II division of the Cub Scout Pack 101 Pinewood Derby Saturday, held at the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam. Webelo II is the highest level of Cub Scouting before the Boy Scouts. Newkirk’s car resembled an American flag, with red and white stripes.
Teyler was asked why it won the first place trophy. “Speed,” he said.
Wands filled in the details. He said they made the car as heavy as they could, 4.9 ounces, just slightly less than the maximum of five ounces allowed. They did this by putting the eight ball bearings allowed for the car on the outside of it and a lead weight inside. They also used a lot of lube for the wheels.
“We had graphite all over wheels, graphite all over his face, graphite all over the kitchen table,” Wands said.
Newkirk’s car won the Pack 51 Pinewood Derby before winning the Pack 101 derby. There is no regional or national competition but Pack 101 allows other packs to participate. That produced 56 race cars in Saturday’s derby representing 10 packs from Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties.
Wands said adult male guidance is really the key.
“A lot of the times when you get kids here with mothers or grandmothers, where there is no male figure in the family, the cars aren’t that fast. A couple of kids in his troop just took the block out of the box and nailed the wheels on it,” he said.
The cars at Pack 101’s derby raced on three separate tracks, one of them an electronic track that used a motion sensor to determine the victor. The cars are held in place at the top of the track and then released. Gravity does the rest.
Pack 101 Chairman Rick Bautz, one of judges, said the motion sensor technology was useful because some of the races were too close to call with the naked eye. He spoke to the importance of the pinewood derby to Scouting.
“This is one of the premier, iconic events for Cub Scouts,” he said. “The pinewood derby has been a part of Scouting for years. It just brings all of the Scouts together,”
Peg Knack, den mother, said Pack 101 is currently trying to raise money for a $2,300 electric pinewood derby racetrack that will have motion sensors and also automatically calculate all of the different brackets of competitors.
“The pinewood derby is very serious,” she said. “That’s why we do a senior class because the fathers need to have their own race. We also have a sibling division.”
The sibling division was won by Abigail Pettica, 6, of Amsterdam. Her mother, Michelle Pettica, said her daughter has taken home several trophies from Cub Scout competitions. Last year she came in first in the space derby involving rockets and rubber bands. She said next year Abigail will likely participate in Brownies, the younger version of the Girl Scouts.
“She’s made a habit of winning these things. Last year brother got upset, but it is a fun event,” Michelle Pettica said.