Derby plans changes for July race
Published June 7, 2012, in The Akron Beacon Journal(Link)
By Caitlin Cook
Joe Mazur asked the Akron Press Club on Thursday whether anyone gathered at the luncheon had ever raced down the hill at Derby Downs.
The president and CEO of the All-American Soap Box Derby was pleased to see a few hands go up.
The laughter even today from those few racers, he said, shows the fabled Akron event brings out the kid in all of us.
Mazur said it is hoped new sponsors, events and rule changes for this year’s race will re-energize the derby that will celebrate its 75th anniversary July 21.
A big boost came from Akron’s corporate community, he said, when FirstEnergy stepped in last year to provide the organization its first title sponsor in several years. And that announcement helped the race organizers to land other sponsors.
Mazur said just last week Akron-based Myers Industries agreed to be the official sponsor of the event’s service pits.
And Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which has been a sponsor in the past, is assisting the derby through scholarships.
Mazur said Goodyear’s support has helped the organization raise its scholarships by 50 percent. It also earned $150,000 through the movie 25 Hill that premiered in Akron last year.
“A lot of the things over the years have been pulled back because the funding wasn’t there to do them,” he said. “So we’re bringing back a lot of those elements.”
Derby Week will kick off with a revamped welcoming ceremony for racers in downtown Akron. The derby also plans to partner with the United Way to once again offer A Day on the Hill where teams can build and race old-style cars. A Topside Show will open with two buildings storing the race cars for public viewing.
“They’re the coolest things I’ve ever seen as artwork all in one place,” Mazur said.
The hill will also be open to the public for racing for a $20 fee. And to mark the anniversary, the derby will welcome old derby cars to race, as long as they pass an inspection.
Rule changes have also been made, Mazur said, and they have been well received by car builders. Race officials are hoping to bring back some creativity in the racing program.
“There have been a lot of rules that were put in place that we just this past year removed and rescinded [that] … will allow the growth of the derby,” he said.
In an attempt to attract more racers, the age limit was lowered from 8 to 7. Derby officials increased weight capabilities in one car model to give heavier racers a chance to compete.
“The theme is getting the kids together to enjoy the day and week, and when they leave they need to have friends forever,” Mazur said.