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Soap Box Derby racing returns to Flint for first time in decades

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

On Saturday, soap box derby racers made their first appearance in Flint for the first time in more than two decades.

The announcer dramatically counts down, “3, 2, 1 GO….” to start each race.

Starting slowly but gaining speed, a pair of tween drivers pilot their soap box race cars down from the crest of Chevy Commons to Kettering University’s Mobility Research Center.

Soap box derby racing has a long history in Flint, going back to the 1930s. But this is the first time since the 90s there has been a sanctioned race.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Children (and adults) get hands-on experience tweaking their soap box cars.

While soap box racing may seem old fashioned, race organizer Kevin Cronin says there’s a place for it in the 21st century.

“There’s a lot going on in the automotive industry,” says Cronin. “We really just want to encourage kids to be a part of that going forward and offer a way to do that in a different context that’s hands on.”

Cronin points out that prepping and racing soap box cars can give students getting a STEM education valuable hands-on experience.

“They can see how it all comes together,” says Cronin. “Where you’re tweaking one bolt here, you’re making adjustments to the wheels here. Those are things you can read about in a book, but you may not fully understand it until you’re actually doing it too.”

Cronin hopes to expand Flint’s soap box derby field in the future.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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