Gentlemen: Ignore your engines; fourth Fircrest Derby Days at the starting line

Fircrest residents might find a few people going over the city’s well-known 25 mph speed limit on Saturday.

Carson Miller, 13, hopes to be one of them in his custom-built soapbox derby car.

“I like going fast,” Carson said about his interest in derby racing.

The fourth Fircrest Derby Days will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday along Electron Way. Organizers expect about 60 to 75 drivers to take part. Race director P.J. Pedroni estimated about 700 people will attend the event throughout the day.

Carson has been racing since the first derby in 2011, when he raced one of his uncles’ vintage soapbox derby cars.

Marcus Miller, Carson’s father, said he and his neighbor were about to build a car from scratch that year when a conversation with Miller’s brother recalled the family memento.

“I asked my brother, ‘Whatever happened to the old soapbox derby cars that we had when we were kids?’ He says, ‘They’re still in Mom’s basement with a tarp over them,” the elder Miller said. “The cars were in almost perfect condition.”

The racers had been in the Miller family since 1972, when Carson’s uncles raced them in the 32nd annual Tacoma Gravity Grand Prix at an soapbox derby racetrack next to Cheney Stadium.

Marcus Miller was tasked with building a new derby car from scratch the next year when Carson outgrew the small frame of his original racer. He called on his neighbor, Dale Kent, to help with the project.

Kent, a construction contractor, said he and Marcus Miller began building the car last winter with spare wood, scrap rubber for the breaks and a custom axle designed by a local architect.

They modeled the brakes and steering system off of the old family derby car.

“We figure they work great, so why mess with it,” Marcus Miller said.

Carson also had a large role in the project, sanding the wood, painting the frame and helping design the look of the car, his father said.

Marcus Miller said working on the car and racing it every summer has created fond memories around the derby.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said.

Carson has driven the car to two first-place finishes over the past two years.

Practicing Thursday evening on a hill on Drake Street nearby the family’s home, Carson hoped to go for a third first-place trophy this year.

Pedroni, the race director, said the derby continues to receive strong support from local businesses and Fircrest government, including the police department, which brings out a speed trap trailer to clock the racers as they speed down the hill.

One thing Pedroni looks forward to every year are the homemade cars that bring their own individual styles.

“I’m always interested to see what fandangled new contraptions people have created in their garages,” he said.

Carson opted for a more traditional design.

With a red, white and blue color scheme and checkered flag trim that runs along the bottom of the frame, the car was almost ready Thursday for the race.

The only thing missing?

The decal on the side that will read Carson’s nickname: “Carsonator.”