No underage driving here: Kids get rolling at Fircrest Derby Day
Jackson Elliot wanted some serious lumber to “knock on wood” and preserve his luck as the leader in the qualifying round Saturday at Fircrest’s second Derby Day.
He pumped his helmet in the air like a NASCAR pro, exclaiming “Oh my gosh! I’m in first!” when he heard his time.
A moment later, he tapped the plastic and metal on his racer. It wasn’t the right feel.
“I need a tree!” he shouted as he sprinted to the nearest trunk so he could rap its bark and avoid the “jinx” he was feeling from his early success.
Elliot won his age group last year, but the competition was tougher this time. More than 40 kids participated in the races, about 10 more than in 2011. Elliot knew he had to go faster to hold his spot in the finals.
“It’s crazy this year,” he said.
Hundreds of people lined Electron Way to watch this year’s heats. They chowed down on hot dogs and cheered for the neighborhood kids speeding down Electron Way’s slope.
P.J. Pedroni, one of Derby Day’s founders, estimated that about 750 people dropped by the event at different times. They raised money for Fircrest’s parks department and checked out the winning cars to design their own models for next year.
“I wish I had a dollar for everybody that comes up to me and said next year we’re definitely making a car,” Pedroni said.
Sometimes, the audience had to hustle to get in the road and slow runaway cars. Others had to move out of the way. One car crashed into a grandstand, causing some bruises among the onlookers.
A couple of drivers lost their brakes after the young drivers cleared the finish line. They’d turn into a flat stretch and lose momentum until someone could catch them.
”It’s kind of scary,” said Jalin Fitzgerald, 8, Elliot’s closest competitor Saturday.
Her brakes popped on one of her fastest runs. She turned in time to avoid a crash, and her friends and family repaired the car so she and her sister, Kate, could keep racing it.
Pedroni and friends in the neighborhood organized the first race last year in the spirit of helping families spend time together building derby cars and racing them. His children are too young, but he has plans for them.
His infant son’s middle name is Danger, and that bodes well for the boy’s racing days.
Pedroni was impressed by this year’s participation and the backing the organizers received from the city in closing streets and providing insurance.
“I’m overwhelmed by the support of the community,” he said.
The races inspired all sorts of vehicles. One family made a coffin-like racer with fat tires and a skull.
Cooper Burdick dressed up like Speed Racer and modeled his car after the cartoon’s famous Mach 5. It earned him second place in the 11-14 age group.
Kate Fitzgerald, who drove the racer with the damaged brakes, won that age group. The car she and her sister drove was simple and sleek.
Elliot went with a flashier approach. He wore a yellow-and-black cape and painted “Action Jackson” on the side of his car.
He frequently practices his races, having his dad give him a nudge down their street. His strategy centered on avoiding any bumps in the road so they could not slow him. He shifted the weights around in his car to make the most of his 80 pounds, and huddled low over his wheel to maintain his speed.
His planning – and that knock on the tree trunk – were good enough for first place in the 8-10 age group for a second year in a row.