By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers
Back in 1960, 14-year-old speedster Larry Erwin fastened his Soap Box Derby car together with Elmer’s glue — and earned a trip to the national finals at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio.
Although his victory was in his hometown of Owensboro, Ky. — where he said his car is on display at the Davis County Speed Museum — Erwin decided to import the Soap Box Derby to Clovis in 2001.
“We needed a community project,” said Erwin, director of the Rotary Club Committee that oversees the derby.
Going strong with 16 racers already registered, this year’s Clovis Soap Box Derby will take place at 10 a.m. June 18 on Sycamore Street between Yucca Junior High School and 14th Street. And there is still time for more racers to sign up, Erwin said.
To be eligible, the potential racer must be 8 years old by June 18 and not older than 18 years old by Aug. 1. Registration should be soon, Erwin urged, as it takes two weeks for the required car kits to be shipped from Akron.
Erwin said the winner from Clovis, where cars average 20 mph., goes on to the All-American finals in Akron, where speeds reach 35 mph
Tara DeWitt, 13, placed second in Clovis’ competition in 2004 and said she beefed up her car to help clinch this year’s top slot.
Clovis is a particularly unique place for a derby, Erwin said, since the soap box cars run on gravity — and Clovis has no hills.
“We are known as the town that builds its own hill,” Erwin said, explaining how a flattop tow truck is equipped with a ramp for the two lanes constructed down Sycamore Street.
DeWitt was also the first girl to sign up for the Clovis Soap Box Derby when she began competing three years ago.
“Everybody thinks it’s a guy thing but it’s not,” said DeWitt, who also participates in volleyball, basketball, track team and choir member. “It’s for everybody.”