Pinewood Derby returns

For the first time in five years, local Scouts participated in a wooden model car race that will send winners to a regional competition.

Phoenix Reding, 7, with her mother Danielle Reding, displays the Pinewood Derby uniform patch she earned for racing in the Five Rivers District Pinewood Derby on March 23, 2024, at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. [Photo by Andy Fillmore]

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Posted March 28, 2024 | By Andy Fillmore,

About 50 Cub Scouts and 11 Boy Scouts from the Boy Scouts of America North Florida Council’s Five Rivers District gathered March 23 at the “Big Daddy” Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing south of Ocala for the 2024 District Pinewood Derby model car races.

The event was the first Pinewood Derby held here in five years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Five Rivers District includes Alachua, Marion, Columbia, Baker, Union, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties.

Cub Scout Phoenix Reding, 7, said her entry at the southwest Marion County venue was fast, was painted cobalt blue and had black windows.

“Painting was the hardest part,” she said.

Phoenix was joined by her parents, Danielle and John Reding of Ocala, who are active in scouting leadership.

Logan Drillick, 9, took first place in the Bears (3rd grade) competition at the Five Rivers District Pinewood Derby. [Photo by Andy Fillmore]

The derby is a competition using gravity-powered model cars crafted from wood, which are rolled down an indoor track with an incline and timing device to record the roll time.

The cars—four were rolled in each race—were placed on the track by a scout leader and racers sat along the track watching the competition, which involved “best of” heat races. Race guidelines dictate that the cars weigh no more than 5 ounces, measure 7 inches long and be 2¾ of an inch wide. They may only use a designated type of wheels and a certain amount of added weights to enhance the roll, according to Steve Hickman, Scoutmaster of BSA Troop 18 of Ocala, who served as chairman for the event.

Stephanie Hickman, Stephen Hickman’s wife, also worked to hold the event.

Hickman said the Pinewood Derby is a “fun exercise” that highlights craftsmanship and “getting it just right.”

“The (Pinewood Derby racing) helps the scouts learn woodworking, planning, patience and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills based upon physics and weight placement,” Hickman wrote in an email after the event.

“(The racing) also helps Scouts learn to be good sports, learn to celebrate victory, acknowledge defeat, congratulate each other and learn the importance of competition, good sportsmanship and that by participating, everyone is a winner,” he stated.

The district competition involved: Kindergarten Lions, first grade Tigers, second grade Wolves, third grade Bears, fourth grade Webelos and Arrow of Light Scouts.

Heather Brose, Cubmaster of Pack 18, said the race participants received a uniform patch reflecting their involvement.

Ben Hilliard, with Pack 42, served as race starter and placed the cars on the track to be released and timed.

Adult scouting leader Barbara Kwatklsky, whose son is an Eagle Scout, had three entrants racing in the derby.

“It’s fun. The cars are made from a block of wood,” she said.

Alex Castora accompanied his son, Declan, 10, and daughter, Willow, 7. Declan raced his rather uniquely designed model of a semi tractor-trailer.

Steve Schroeder traveled to the event with his son, Kase, 6, and found it to be a “good experience” while Katie Demonaco’s daughter, Patrica, 8, and Cub Scout Layne Strange, accompanied by his grandfather, both placed in the races. Logan Drillick, 9, garnered first place in the Bears group, with his parents, Tori and Ian Drillick, looking on. Three generations of the Thomason family were represented as Larry and Jan Thomason came out to support their son, Trevor Thomason, and his daughter, Jocelyn, 10, who finished first in her den competition.

The winners from Saturday’s races, already winners in their individual packs and troops, will advance to the North Florida Council derby on April 13 at The Brumos Collection, a museum featuring famous racing cars in Jacksonville.

2024 Five Rivers District Pinewood Derby Results, in first, second and third place order:

Lions (kindergarten): Parker Pokorney-Duong, Pack 197; Michael Demonaco, Pack 574; and Alija Carneccia, Pack 574

Tigers (first grade): Hawk Hutchins, Pack 18; Jaden Ryan, Pack 197; and Bodhi Komyati, Pack 197

Wolves (second grade): Hayden Waring, Pack 18; Aubree Shumpert, Pack 563; and Jaxon Nickerson-Spaziano, Pack 563

Bears (third grade): Logan Drillick, Pack 574; Patricia Demonaco, Pack 574; and Layne Strange, Pack 574

Webelos (fourth grade): Keegan Erhart, Pack 42; Jocelyn Thomason, Pack 563; and Cooper Yanke, Pack 563

Arrow of Light Scouts: Jaden Griffin, Pack 18; Jordan Drillick, Pack 574; and Liam Serrano, Pack 197

To learn more, go to

Race starter Ben Hilliard starts four cars during the Five Rivers District Pinewood Derby held March 23, 2024, at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. [Photo by Andy Fillmore].

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