Cub Scouts of Wood Ridge, NJ Pack 183

Do Your Best!

Racers, Start Your Engines!!!

Pinewood Derby  

This is the most exciting Pack Meeting of the year.  Cub Scouts race the cars they've built down our three-lane track.  A computer records the time for each car and the winner of each race.  Each car races three times.  The computer adds up and averages each car's times to come up with overall den and pack winners.  Most years, only tenths or even hundredths of a second separates the first-place finishers from the rest of the field.  Hot dogs and soft drinks are served.  Besides trophies for the winners, ribbons are awarded to cars for various categories such as best-looking car, most unique design, most original, funniest, etc.  Each car wins in at least one category.  The top finishers from each den and the pack are invited to race in the District-wide Pinewood Derby.

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How Do I Make a Pinewood Derby Car?

Each scout receives a car kit at the January pack meeting.  Each car kit includes a block of wood, four nails (for axles), and four plastic wheels.  Each cub scout comes up with a car design and then, with help from an adult, carves up the wood accordingly.  The car is then sanded, painted and decorated.  Finally the wheels are added.  Weights can be added to increase the car's weight (and speed).  Cars cannot weigh more than 5 ounces, or be longer or wider than the original piece of wood.

Official Rules

Three Rivers District Official Pinewood Derby Rules


The information listed below will be the guidelines used by the racing committee in judging

all entries at the District Derby. Information gathered from other sources that does not

conform to the following will not be allowed.

1. The car must have been made for this year's race. Previous year cars cannot be entered.

2. Axles, wheels, and wood body are provided in the official BSA kit - no substitutes.

Official BSA wheels and axles must be used. Solid axles are prohibited.

3. Wheels/tires cannot be altered. Rounding or shaping is not allowed. Wheel bearings,

washers, and bushings are prohibited.

4. The car shall not ride on any springs.

5. The car must be freewheeling, with no starting devices.

6. No loose materials of any kind are allowed in or on the car.

7. No light emitting devices are allowed to be turned on during the race.

8. The maximum car length shall not exceed 7 inches. The car must fit in the check-in box.

9. The maximum overall width (including wheels and axles) shall not exceed 2 3/4 inches.

10. The minimum width between the wheels, side to side, shall be 1 3/4 inches. This is to

ensure the car will clear the center guide strip on the track.

11. The minimum clearance between the bottom of the car and the track surface

shall be 3/8 inch. This is to ensure the car will clear the center guide strip on the track.

12. The maximum weight shall not exceed 5 ounces. Weights can be used.

Moving weights are prohibited.

13. Weights that become dislodged during racing will not be re-attached.

14. The official Three Rivers Districtict weigh-in scale may be different from yours,

but it is official and final! All competing cars are weighed on the same scale.

15. Only dry lubricant may be used. All liquid lubricants are prohibited. All wheel

lubrication must be done prior to check-in.

16. Each car must pass inspection to qualify for racing.  Once qualified, the car

stays in control of the racing committee until the end of the race.  No adjustments

after qualifying for the race.

Cub Scouts who are in need of assistance to meet District specs may take their cars

to the "Pit Stop". The pit crew will provide assistance to the Cub Scout - attaching

loose pieces, reducing weight, reducing length, etc.


The Three Rivers District Pinewood Derby is run using two three-lane tracks.

The tracks are fitted with electronic timers. Each track has an infrared starting gate

and finish line. Each track has software that captures the results. Each Cub Scout's

car races at least once per lane - in most cases, each car will race three times per lane.

The total elapsed time is taken and an average is calculated. The lowest total elapsed

time wins.

Two Big Showstoppers

The number one showstopper is "failure at inspection."  It is heartbreaking to see a scout be told that his car can't race, or will be allowed to race but cannot be declared a winner, because it does not conform to the rules of construction.  However, letting such cars race and win would not be fair to the other scouts who followed the rules.

The number two showstopper is not reaching the finish line because of poor car construction. Examples are wheels that fall off, wheels that are on so tight they can't rotate properly around the axle, or cars whose bottoms or sides scrape the track's bottom or sides so much that they can't make it to the finish line. 

Building a pinewood derby car is very exciting for a Cub Scout, who is imagining the thrill of the race and victory as he is helping to build and paint the car. 

Meanwhile, it is an opportunity to teach your Cub Scout about science.  Depending on the age of the scout, he will be able to understand one or more of the concepts of weight, mass, speed, velocity, friction, acceleration, oscillation, inertia, air resistance, and energy. 

The car that does not reach the finish line dashes its builder's immediate hopes and may well prevent him from coming back to try again. On the other hand, some initial successes can spur him on to learn more.

Tips on Avoiding Disaster

Get started early.  Don't wait until the last minute.  Follow the rules.  If you're not sure about something, call your den leader, cubmaster, assistant cubmaster, or another adult who has raced before. 

If you have waited until the last minute to get started, focus on the basics.  Don't carve out an elaborate design or go for a fancy paint job.  Carve out a simple design, a basic paint job, make sure the car conforms to the pack rules, the wheels are on firmly and still turn freely.  At least your scout's car will be able to race and make it to the finish line.

Winning, losing, sportsmanship, doing your best, and having fun

The Pinewood Derby is an opportunity to emphasize good sportsmanship.  Each race has only one first-place finisher.  Good sports are humble in victory, gracious in defeat.  When a youngster has worked hard toward a goal and does not achieve it, it can be very disappointing.  Winning should not be the primary goal.  We "do our best" to win.  But building a good car, learning about the forces that affect cars (such as friction, weight, etc.), the fun of the competition,  playing fair, and being a good sport are more important goals.

How to Build a Winner

There are numerous books and web sites dedicated to how to build a winning pinewood derby car.  They are not hard to find.

Cub Scout involvement in building the car

Your Cub Scout cannot build a Pinewood Derby car by himself.  Carving a block of wood, painting the car, putting on the wheels - all of these require adult involvement.  Depending on the age of the scout, the adult may do most of the work.  But don't forget, the purpose of the Pinewood Derby is for the Cub Scout - to have fun, to learn, to work on a project with an admired adult.  Let your Cub Scout be as involved in building the car as he is capable.  When he can't do something on his own, do it for him, but explain what you are doing and why.  Even the youngest scout can be involved in choosing the design, shape and color of the car.

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