The pinewood derby is one of the most exciting traditions of Boyscouts that has stood the test of time since the first one being held back in 1953 in California. It gives the Scout a chance to build his own car and pit his talents against all the other competitors.
As Scouting has grown, the Boy Scouts of America have published standardized rules that are recommended for packs and districts to follow. A copy of these rules and regulations are distributed to all participants two weeks before the race.
The car must be built by the Scout in the current race year. Cars must meet the following dimension requirements to be eligible to enter the race:
1. Width can be no more than 2.75 inches.
2. Length can be no more than 7 inches.
3. The car must have 1.75 inches clearance between wheels.
4. The car must have a minimum of 3/8-inch clearance underneath the body to adequately clear the track
5. The car can weigh no more than 5 ounces.
6. The cars must be built form the parts included in the official Pinewood Derby Kit.
Wheel bearings, washers, springs, and bushings may not be used.
There are no set rules regarding the pinewood derby track. The most common in the traditions of Boyscouts being the straight track. All tracks have a separate lane for each car to ride in. Track sizes range from two lanes to four or more. Many tracks have electronic finish lines to determine the times and the winners of each heat. Typically, winners of each round or heat are determined by the average of the car’s race time, not whether it won the race or not. This ensures that the fastest cars are advancing to the next round.
Some common track rules include:
1. Announced participants may approach the track only when it is time for their heat, all others stay behind the barricade.
2. The race starter is responsible for making sure all cars are positioned properly on the track before the start of the race.
3. Participants and the race starter will report to the finish line to determine results of the race.
4. If a car jumps the track and interferes with another car, the race will be re-run.
The pinewood derby committee should clearly state in the rules at what time the car inspection will take place. The committee should determine how many judges there will be to ensure the car dimensions meet eligibility requirements and to choose winners of non-racing awards, i.e. ugliest car.
The number of awards given out at the pinewood derby is at the discretion of the judges. Traditionally, the first, second and third fastest cars will receive an award.
Other awards that may be considered are participation certificate, best paint job, most original concept, or others. These can be printed or written in on a blank certificate on race day to ensure that everyone takes home something for his efforts. In the traditions of Boyscouts these types of awards should be decided upon by the derby committee during the inspection phase of the race.