How Pinewood Derbies Work

By: Eric Baxter

Pinewood Derby Competitions

When Don Murphy and three other Scout parents hatched the idea for a Pinewood Derby they had little, if any, idea they would be starting a sport that would last more than 50 years and counting. Part of the charm of derby racing is the creation of the cars and the parent-child interaction. Many of the kids grow up and continue to race into their adult years, spawning the many offshoots and keeping the sport, and Murphy's legacy, intact.

In 2003, Steve and Jennifer Jacobs launched the Woodcar Independent Racing League (WIRL). Like many people involved with derbies they got started when their son was a scout. They just never left it behind. They saw the need to continue something for the parents and started a race-by-proxy league with six entrants -- a few of those were Steve's own cars. Now, they race about 60 cars in the monthly events and have more than a few hundred regular members. Each member sends a car in to the WIRL Georgia headquarters before the monthly race and the heat races are broadcast live via webcast. The track is located in the basement of the couple's home.


"There are a few small prizes, but mostly it's about the bragging rights," Jennifer Jacobs said. "It's pure competition, just like any race," said Steve Jacobs. "These guys get more excited than the kids." Part of that excitement is the open division racing where performance products come into play. That same sense of open competition has spurred several other open Pinewood-esque racing series including a Pinewood Derby Drag Racing league.

While WIRL has set the stage for adult races, as well as taking the competition up a notch, the Pinewood Derby is still rooted in youth movements like the Canadian Royal Rangers, the YMCA and Awana, a Christian youth social group.