Pinewood Derby

Pre-Derby Preparations

All derbies have several things in common: they all require planning and preparation; they all involve competition and prizes, and they all provide fun for the Scouts and their families. Always remember that in Cub Scouting, it is more important to “Do Your Best” than to come in first. Emphasizing winning too much can demoralize a young Cub Scout who does his best but doesn’t win.

The program committee for every derby should:

  • Provide each pack family with a set of simple, uncomplicated rules, including a time schedule
  • Plan and carry out appropriate opening, award, and closing ceremonies.
  • Handle all aspects of awards. Every Scout should receive an award for his participation in the derby.
  • Plan for crowd control.
  • Devise a fair method of judging.
  • Plan and provide appropriate decorations with lots of Scout participation.
  • Secure a public-address system, if needed.

Derby Personnel & Responsibilities

Registration Team

  • Before the race begins
    • Mark unique numbers on the bottom of each car.
    • Enter the number and name of each entry on a preliminary heat sheet.
  • Once the race begins
    • Enter the names and numbers of heat winners on semifinal sheets.
    • Determine the final standing of each winning car and report the results to the awards committee.

Inspection Team

  • Before the race begins
    • Weigh the cars with an accurate scale.
    • Check the overall dimensions. One easy method is to construct a small box measuring 2-3/4″ by 7″.  If the car fits in the box, it passes inspection.
    • Act as judges for prerace craftsmanship awards, such as Most Colorful, Best Looking, Best Paint Job, Most Scouting Spirit, etc. Report the results to the awards committee.
  • Once the race begins
    • Help at the starter’s table.

Track Operations Team

  • Set up and maintain derby track or tracks. Larger packs may find that multiple tracks make the event move more quickly and smoothly.
  • Have a starter’s table where cars are placed until their turn to race.
  • Have a starter at the beginning of each track.
  • Have two or three judges at the end of each track (two for determining first and second places, three for determining first, second, and third places).
  • Have two or more gatekeepers to line up the Scouts.
  • Report winners to the registration team.

Interim Event Team

  • Have planned activities for Scouts and siblings during the preopening, while registration and inspection are taking place.
  • Make paper racing flags to mark off the race area.
  • Have planned activities for Scouts and siblings between heats and during final awards ceremony.

Awards Committee 

  • Make sure enough awards are on hand for the size of the pack.
  • Inform the master of ceremonies of the name of and award for each recipient. Large packs might consider having each den come forward and present all awards to the den leader. Smaller packs might consider calling each Scout in alphabetical order and presenting any and all awards won. As every Scout will receive and award for their participation in the derby, no one will feel left out.

Sample Derby Rules/Car Specs

  • The car can not be wider than 2-3/4″ and longer than 7″.
  • The car can not weigh more than 5 ounces.
  • The axels, wheels, and body of the car should be made from materials provided in the kit.
  • Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited.
  • Only powdered graphite or silicone may be used for lubrication of the axels.
  • The car must be freewheeling, with no starting devices.
  • No loose materials of any kind are allowed on the car.

Running The Derby

  • Each Scout takes their car to the registration table to have their name and number entered onto the heat sheets
  • After registration, each Scout takes their car to the inspection table to have it pass final inspection and be placed, by den, on the starter’s table.
  • As each heat is announced, drivers retrieve their own car from the starter’s table and place it at the starter’s gate. The starter releases the gate.
  • Judges at the finish line will determine the results of the race. the car whose nose is first over the finish line wins. In case of a tie, or if judges are unsure, the race will be run again.
  • After the race, cars are returned to the starter’s table, in the event of additional heats.
  • If a car leaves the track, runs out of its lane, interferes with another car, jumps the track, or loses an axel or any other part, it is judged as finishing last. If a car interferes with another car and negatively affects that car’s result, the race should be run again. In the case of lost parts, if the car can be repaired quickly, it can be run in additional heats.
  • Judges’ decisions are final.

Maintaining The Track

Many packs build their own tracks for use year after year. In many cases, packs work together, sharing tracks as needed. In any case, be sure to inspect each track after use and make needed repairs before storage. Equally important is inspecting each track well enough before race day to correct any problems that may have occurred during storage.