Before the race starts
The race is run on a 50 foot, two lane track. The cars are set on the track behind the starting gate. The person running the starting gate opens the gate and the cars race down the track to the finish gate. An electronic timer measures the time for each car to traverse from the start gate to the finish gate, normally about 4 seconds.
Cars compete two at a time. Two cars race down the lanes to the finish gate and the times are measured. Then the cars are immediately brought back to the starting gate for a second time down the track. This time, the car that was on lane 1 the first time is now on lane 2. This helps average out any differences in the two lanes.
On the day of the race, all cars are tested for final weight and minor adjustments made. Cars should be as close as possible to maximum allowable weight. For best performance lubricate the axles with a dry graphite lubricant. Simply blow the graphite powder onto the axle and spin the wheel until it runs smoothly. Certain other types of lubrication may melt the plastic wheel, causing the wheels to seize.
At this time, boys register for the race and are assigned starting positions. None of the starting positions offer an advantage toward winning. Occassionally, as in the case of brothers, boys may prefer to not begin the Derby by racing against each other. These boys should arrange to separate their starting positions when they register.
Starting the race
The race starts with each boy racing his car down the track (two boys at a time) and the times are recorded. This is a non-competitive race and no winner is declared. The cars are raced in the order they are registered.
After all the boys have raced, the times are sorted and all the boys race again. This time, the two fastest cars race against each other, then the next two fastest cars race, and so on. Since the two cars are fairly well matched, the races can be quite close, even for the slower cars.
After everyone has raced a second time, the times are totaled (four times for each car), and the 32 fastest cars are selected. The Derby continues with these 32 cars. The Derby is over until next year for the other cars.
Finishing the race
The 32 fastest cars now race competitively, two at a time, in a single elimination. The car with the best total time for lane 1 and lane 2 wins that race and continues in the Derby. The other car is eliminated. Track times apply only to the one race and are not carried over to any other race.
This continues until the winner is determined by eliminating all the other cars. Time to acknowledge the the winner, hand out awards, take photos, clean up and go home. The Pinewood Derby is over until next year.
Building the car
How the Derby is organized
How the race is organized
Pinewood Derby Rules
A Brief History
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