Stull brothers head to Akron for All-American Soap Box Derby

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Submitted Photo Hudson (left) and Jensen (right) Stull along with their father, Brian Stull (center) celebrate after a race. Brian was a Soap Box Derby racer in his youth and is the current board resident for Tuscarawas County organization.

By Carol McIntire


Jensen and Hudson Stull are gearing up for what they hope is the ride of their lives in a Soap Box Derby car next month.

The brothers, the sons of Brian and Crissy (Guess) Stull of Tuscarawas County are both qualified and plan to compete in the 86th First Energy All American Soap Box Derby in Akron July 20.

The race is held Saturday, culminating a week of activities that includes fun and racing for the participants.

Jensen 10, and Hudson, 13, are veterans to the top race in Soap Box Derby racing. 

Jenson, who will be a fifth-grade student at New Philadelphia Schools this fall, has been racing cars three years. He will be making his third trip to Derby Downs. He advanced to the second round by winning the first heat in his previous appearances. 

“This year, my goal is to advance to the third round and place,” he said from his chair inside the Guess Showroom at Carrollton last week. “I race in the stock division (ages 7-13) which has between 80 and 90 qualifiers.”

He currently sits in third place in the country in the stock division of the Rally program with 13 wins this season.

In the first round, three racers compete at a time down the nearly 1,000 feet Derby Downs course with the winner advancing to the next round. The same is true in the second round. In the third round, the racers face one opponent on the three-lane track with a medal on the line.

Hudson, who will be in the seventh grade at New Phila, is a four-year veteran of the racing circuit and is making his fourth trip to the national championship.

He competes in the superstock division with drivers ages 10-19 which, for a 13-year-old, can be difficult considering some of the other competitors have actual highway driving experience.

He says his first year in the division was tough, but now he’s catching on and is a strong competitor. He currently sits sixth in the division in the country of the Rally program with six wins.

My goal is also to advance to the third round and place,” he said. “I want to place.”

To qualify for the All American Soap Box Derby, participants must earn 600 points during the racing season. Both boys exceeded that goal during this past season. They participated in races in Ohio, New York and West Virginia this year during the fall and winter season. 

Crissy said racers can participate in races as close to home as they want or travel to other states. The Stulls previously traveled as far as Florida to race. 

“You can do as little or as much as you want,” Crissy said. “Some kids stop racing as soon as they have enough points to qualify for the national race and other keep racing,”

She explained in each division the total weight of the car and driver is the same for each competitor. 

“The secret is how you place the additional weight in the car,” she explained.

Jensen piped up to say aerodynamics is also extremely important in racing.  He used his fingers to show about how much of his head is visible above the car as he travels down the track, which was from the bottom of his eyes to the top of his head. 

When asked how they became interested in Soap Box Derby racing, both boys replied, “Dad.”

Crissy explained Brian was a Soap Box Derby racer as a youth.

“He told me we were going to go to one race,” Crissy related. “We went to one race and now we live and breathe it!”

Soap Box Derby cars have no engine. They are gravity powered cars created from a kit. Stock division cars are built from ready-to-assemble kits which assist derby novices by providing step-by-step layout and components for construction of a basic car. According to the Soap Box Derby website, this division is designed to give the first-time builder a learning experience.

The super stock division allows racers ages 9-18 the opportunity to expand their knowledge and build a larger, heavier model car, also from a kit.

Crissy, who is a Carrollton native, said the Stulls would like to see more Carroll County youth participate in the Soap Box Derby. 

Brian is the board president for Tuscarawas County organization. Anyone interested is asked to call him at 330-204-5711.

According to the Soap Box Derby website, the idea of the Soap Box Derby® grew out of a photographic assignment of Dayton, Ohio, newsman Myron Scott. He came across a group of boys racing their homemade cars in the summer of 1933, and was so impressed with the event that he acquired a copyright to Soap Box Derby and went in search of a corporate sponsor to establish a national program.

Chevrolet liked Scott’s proposal and agreed to sponsor the first official All-American Soap Box Derby® in Dayton in 1934. The following year, the race moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain. The first race in Akron was run on Tallmadge Avenue.

In 1936, Chevrolet and Akron civic leaders – including legendary journalist John S. Knight – recognized the need for a permanent track site for the youth gravity racing classic. That year, through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Derby Downs became a reality in the southeast section of Akron.

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