Cub Scouts chase glory with handmade cars at Kings Plaza

Off to the races: Boy Scout Alex Marin prepares to race his toy car at the Pinewood Derby at Kings Plaza Shopping Mall on March 3, where the scouts built and raced their own miniature vehicles.
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These cubs are scouting the competition!

Cub Scouts raced small, homemade, wooden cars down a plastic track at the Pinewood Derby at the Kings Plaza Shopping Center on March 3. Racing the handmade cars at the scouting event teaches the kids the value of building something yourself, according to one of the cubmasters.

“The goal is to give them ownership. It’s easy to go to the store and buy something,” said Michael Moscol, the cubmaster of Pack 16 on Coney Island. “They must plan ahead and learn what types of tools to use. The goal is to do your best.”

The annual Pinewood Derby is an event for Cub Scouts — that is, Boy Scouts in grades one through five. The cubs are given a block of wood, nails, and four wheels, and must fashion a car out of all this within a strict set of regulations, including the car’s weight. The kids must design and craft the cars by themselves. At the derby, they race them down a slope that leads to a straightaway, and the winner is the car with the best time, according to Moscol.

The races are competitive and continuous. Each pack first has its own internal races, and the winners of each of the pack’s age groups, known as dens, advance to the Brooklyn regional tournament, which was the Kings Plaza event. The top three racers for each age group at the regional derby then advance to the national championship in Times Square at the end of the school year, according to the regional district executive.

“They definitely like to see something they’ve created and then compete,” said Genesis Rodriguez.

What makes a pinewood car blaze down the track comes down to how it’s built, said one cubmaster.

“They have to have good wheel alignment, and get the weight right towards the back of the car. This pushes it down the hill and gains momentum,” said Pack 238 in Sheepshead Bay’s Vinny Romano.

There are trophies both for the derby winners in each den as well as the cars with the best design.

Romano said his pack had the three fastest cars on March 3.

The location of the car’s center of gravity does seem to be the key to success, according to consistent winners.

Jeannine Turnbull’s son Nicholas, from Pack 76 in Bergen Beach, reached the national tournament for the second time on March 3, and she said he ran experiments to determine the best design.

“It really depends on how you position the weight,” she said. “He tested the car at home and found that the back made it faster.”

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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