2011 Pinewood Derby Champion Bo West surrounded by his fellow scouts and pinewood derby competitors, made a bold prediction last week in advance of Sunday’s race.

2011 Pinewood Derby Champion Bo West surrounded by his fellow scouts and pinewood derby competitors, made a bold prediction last week in advance of Sunday’s race.

“Last year my car was fast. At the end before everyone left they all raced me and I won them all. But I think my car this year is faster,” said the 7-year-old West. “This year, my car’s name is “Fireball”. I’m going to paint flames on it. I think I’m going to win.”

Scouts from Kiowa County gathered in the Boy Scout cabin in Greensburg last Wednesday to put finishing touches on their small pine racecars.

Pack Committee Chair Chad Pore and Wolf Den Leader Susan West wrangled the eager and excitable group of boys, cleaned up spilled paint and shaped a variety of wooden racers with their newly donated band saw.

West, who was last year’s pinewood derby champion, explained what would happen at Sunday’s race. “We set up the track and then we race the cars and then we get different awards.”

The pinewood derby has been a staple of the Cub Scouts since its introduction in 1953 by Manhattan Beach, Calif. scoutmaster Don Murphy. Murphy felt that the traditional soapbox derby was too dangerous for his younger Cub Scouts, and created the small wooden block race which uses “a block of wood, four wheels and four nails.”

In a 1999 interview with Scouting Magazine an 81-year-old Murphy was shocked at how popular his creation had become and recalled his own childhood experiences that led him to create the worldwide scouting event.

"I'd made models of airplanes, cars, boats, and any number of other structures and remembered the pleasure I got out of doing it," he said. "I also wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition."

According to the official pinewood derby website, operated by the Boy Scouts of America, a fast pinewood derby car can reach up to 20 mph, and that there have been more than 100 million pinewood derby cars made since 1953.

First year racer, 6-year-old Greensburg resident Blaine Zimmerman rolled his bright yellow and black striped car along the counter top on Wednesday night.

“My car’s name is “Bumblebee Camaro,” he said. “My dad helped me make it and he helped me paint it. It looks like a bumblebee mixed with a Camaro.”

The soft-spoken first-year scout was looking forward to his inaugural pinewood race and talked about his first year in the scouts. “I like the cub scouts. We make snowflakes and we go on field trips. We went to the museum, the museum in Greensburg, it was fun.”

“I liked it when we went to see monster trucks at Wichita,” scout Connor Pore chimed in. “My car’s name is “Derby Racer” I’m painting it red and yellow. I’m going to put white stripes on it when it dries. I think it will be fast, definitely faster than last year’s car. Last year my car was a “snake” car. It placed second once and got third twice.”

When asked if his car would win on Sunday, Zimmerman, who said he would be cheered on from the sidelines by his mom, dad and two sisters Brielle, 4 and Jasney, 13 months smiled shyly and answered a confident “yes.”

Sunday morning’s race followed a lovely soup and salad lunch inside the community building in Greensburg. Scouts and their families watched heat-after-heat of handmade wooden racecars zip by.

Winners pumped their fists and beamed when their car took an early lead halfway down the 20-foot wooden track. Some last place racers pouted and stomped defiantly when their car wouldn’t race as fast as they wanted it to.

Each den raced each other, and then all of the dens raced each other to crown a champion.

With a triumphant high-five, West, as elated as any sportsman who was able to deliver on a promise of victory, described his day on the track.

“I was undefeated. I came in first place,” he said. When asked which of his cars was the fastest, this year’s or last year’s, West explained that it was a matter of simple physics.

“This year we used different weights. The weights this year were heavier and last year’s weights were towards the back and this year’s weight was towards the front.”

First-year racer Zimmerman didn’t win the overall first place, but he placed respectably. He thought maybe he should have changed his car’s name.

“I was first place in the tiger den. My car’s name was “The Bumblebee”, but it turned out to look like a taxi,” laughed Zimmerman. “I had a lot of fun today. I raced Bo and I lost. He’s got a fast car.”

Winners at last Sunday’s race will have the opportunity to bring their cars to St. John for the regional championship on March 31.

“The pinewood derby teaches the kids to make their own cars, learning the skills to build the cars and often kids bond with their parents while making the cars,” said Boy Scout Quivira Council District Executive Arvin Fontarum who was one of Sunday’s finish line  officials. “Also on the day of the race it teaches kids to get along with others, how to be a good sportsman, how to compete and how to win and lose. For the Cub Scout, the pinewood derby is one of the things they always remember.”