Race Day. 1215 hrs. We arrive at the scouts' lair, which is fantastically festooned with streamers, checkered flags galore and NASCAR license plates. Hot dogs, soft pretzels and mini-cartons of lemonade for all. The air is tense.
1300 hrs. Cars are removed from quarantine and picked up by their owners. Twenty-four cars are on display, as the racers vote for their favorites in a series of categories. Most popular. Most comical. Most colorful. Etc. They jockey for pole position around the crowded display table.
1320 hrs. The man with the track has arrived and set up the 3-laned non-motor speedway, complete with electronic auto-release, infrared-sensing finish line and order-of-finish digital display board. He is all business. We begin with 3 heats of round-robin racing, then begin to eliminate cars with further heats based on a reverse-point system by how the car places (5 points and you're out) until we're down to 3 cars, finishing with a multi-race final heat with the same 3 to determine the winner. Anticipation is peaking.
1340 hrs. Tristan's 1st heat is called. He's in lane 1. He wins by a good yard (about 5 car lengths!) as the other two eat his dust. Tears of joy engulf my eyes as his face lights up and he returns the car to the starting gate. By default, we've already made it past the 1st elimination. I pump my fist. We're taking this!
1345 hrs. Second heat. Lane 2. It's neck and neck. All three cars are within 1/2 length of each other. He loses by a hair. We notch 1 point on the board for 2nd place. Bummed but not down and out. I think lane 2 is the evil lane. Must be built up with excessive rubber from worn down tires. Except that the tires on these cars are plastic. Hmmm.
1350 hrs. Third heat in the round-robin. Lane 3. No question this time around, as Tristan takes another victory by a good 2 lengths. Zero points for the win. Hope is restored. OK, stay out of lane 2 and we're golden.
1400 hrs. We go through 4 more heats, as losses pile up and cars continue to be eliminated. Tristan never finishes in 3rd but never wins another race. Every loss is to one of the 3 eventual finalists. Five 2nd place finishes + 2 wins = 5 points and we're out. We made it to the very last heat before the FINAL. A fourth place finish out of 24!! Awesome job for his first derby. He pouts for a bit but gets numerous celebratory high-fives (and a bit of a talking to) and congratulates his pal Noel who made the finals. Wolf Cubs represent!! Noel finishes 3rd, the two at the top both being older boys (4th or 5th grade) - two 2nd graders nipping at their heels!
1415 hrs. Tristan has won most popular car in the racers' vote! Must have been that super-shiny metallic paint job (and two clear coats). No one else had silver hubcaps, either. The assembled press take massive amounts of photos. Raffle prizes are awarded. We get shut out, but we do take home a goodie bag (matchbox car!) and two boxes of girl scout cookies from our own dime. A fine haul, indeed.
Believe it or not, that funky looking white car with the raised front end won the whole thing and never lost a single race. (see photo #9, 3rd car from the bottom). Interesante.
We had a great time. Our pack has kind of a habit of not being all that organized or on time, but they were well ahead of the curve this time around, and the guy they paid to run the race had it DOWN. He said he's been doing it for 30 years.