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Pinewood Derby whittles scouting skills

One looked like a school bus. Another like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Yet another was optimized using Internet blueprints. Some were just plain fast.

Sixty-two miniature race cars of all shapes and colors plunged down the tracks Saturday at Cub Scout Pack 3071's annual Pinewood Derby at Prairie Park School.

The competition — split into a 42-racer Scout division and a 20-member Open division — required each participant to craft and race a vehicle within specific length, width and weight parameters.

The challenge of keeping each car's weight below five ounces made last-minute adjustments necessary for many competitors.

"We had people taping quarters on, shaving wood off the bottom, popping weight on and off, taking cars apart and putting them back together," said Pinewood Derby committee member GR Gordon-Ross. "We had all sorts of stuff."

Even Nicholas Guerrero, a cub scout and the winner of the Scout division, had to modify his car after arriving at the event.

"We've done a lot of adjusting," Guerrero said. "We had to, just today, glue a dime on the bottom before the race started."

Cub scout Matthew Petillo spent several minutes listing the different parts of the process, which included whittling, painting, sanding, decorating and weighing the Pinewood Racer. Petillo's car performed well, taking second place in the Scout division, and its looks rivaled its speed.

The car was emblazoned with a star near its front and flames shooting from realistic dual exhaust pipes at rear. Petillo said he felt good about his competitive finish but that his favorite part of the Pinewood process was the painting.

Beyond providing education and amusement for the Cub Scouts, the Pinewood Derby served another purpose for the pack — an auction of cookies, cakes and treats to raise money, plus a well-stocked snack bar, complete with chicken wings and pizza.

"All of the money, with the exception of what's used for some of the food here today, goes back to the pack," said Pinewood Derby co-chair Teresa Hinkle. "Besides our popcorn sales in the fall, this is our major fundraiser."

Gordon-Ross participated in the derby as a father, a committee member and the Open division winner. A self-professed "computer geek," Gordon-Ross said he enjoyed the opportunity to engineer a winning car, but stressed that the event was about more than winning and losing.

"The biggest thing of the Pinewood Derby, when done correctly, is the scout and the parents working together to build the car," said Gordon-Ross.