by June Portnoy
Carly Stead, of Yardley, won first place in the super stock division of this year’s 56th Annual Bucks County Soap Box Derby on June 23rd. She beat 11 girls and boys in her division during the race held on Woodbourne Road near Five Points in Bristol Township.
“I felt very proud of myself when I won,” says Carly, a freshman at Pennsbury High School this fall. “I was also surprised because the girl I raced to win and I were head to head till the finish line, so I seriously didn’t know which one of us would win until the end of the race.”
Winning the Bucks County Derby qualified her to represent the super stock division for Bucks County during the 75th All-American Soap Box Derby, the annual worldwide competition held every year in Akron, Ohio.
Carly, who began racing in the stock division (the entry level division) in 2006, was the county’s stock division winner in 2008. Since 2009, she has been working hard to win Bucks County’s super stock division after coming in third place for the past three consecutive years.
“This year, I tried a different approach,” says Carly. “I raced in quite a few rallies, which are fun races that offer practice for the actual race. My hope was that this additional practice time would give me more experience in driving and would also help tune up my car.”
Carly, along with her family, went to rallies in Maryland, Ohio and New York.
“Since the driver is the key part of the car in these races, I’m sure all this extra practice time helped Carly win the Bucks County Derby,” says her father, Allan Stead.
Allan is hardly new to Soap Box Derbies. When he was Carly’s age, he too raced in these competitions, as did his brothers and sister.
In fact, his sister, Karren Young, was the first female world champion in 1975. Back then only one division existed.
“It’s very common for multiple generations to participate in these races,” says Allan. “It’s a great activity to bring families together.”
Carly became interested in racing watching her own brother, Sean, race in the Bucks County Soap Box Derby. He won the county’s stock division in 2006, the super stock division in 2008, and the master’s division (the most advanced division) in 2009. This year he too qualified to participate in the worldwide competition as a “Rally Champ.”
The National Rally is a separate division where competitors travel to different races and compete to earn points to qualify for entry into the annual All-American Soap Box Derby Race. The worldwide race is a weeklong event. This year close to 500 racers between the ages of 7 and 17 competed across multiple divisions.
Prior to the race, Carly said, “I think everyone has an equal chance of winning. Some have been racing longer than me even though I might have more experience than others.”
Carly added that participating in the Soap Box Derby has taught her good sportsmanship.
“I have learned to be a good loser and a good winner and that you should always shake your opponent’s hand and wish them good luck no matter what the outcome is.”
Carly’s race in Akron took place July 21st, and she won the first two rounds. Unfortunately, she lost in the final qualifying round. She finished in the final 18 out of the 120 racers in her division. Her brother placed second in the Rally division.
“Carly missed going to the championship round by inches,” says her father. “She just needs to pick up her speed a bit and she’ll get there.”
Carly refuses to be deterred by not winning this year’s worldwide competition. Next year she plans to race in the master’s division, and is ready to get back in her car and try again.