Area youth competes in Soap Box Derby

By Josette Keelor

Landon Rutherford has a history with racing.

Recently placing among the top 18 drivers in the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, the 13-year-old Skyline High School student said his interest in building and driving soap box cars came from a family tradition.

In 2009, Landon placed sixth in the Winchester Stock race of the All-American Soap Box Derby. The next year, he raced to a fifth-place finish — the year his older brother Logan won the Winchester Super Stock race. Landon skipped a year when he said Winchester didn’t hold a race and the following two years competed in Harrisonburg.

Then last May, he caught up with his brother. Earning the title of Super Stock Champion in Harrisonburg’s race, he qualified for the All-American Soap Box Derby on July 26.

“It felt really nice to win Harrisonburg,” Landon said. “I really didn’t think that I could do it. It seemed really hard.”

His nerves chased him to Akron, but in the end, he said, “pretty much the fun overwhelmed the scariness.”

It helped that the track isn’t as long or steep as it used to be. Along the route were signs showing how the year-round track used to start higher than it does now. He said it was shortened so drivers could better slow their cars after completing the race.

Derby cars are standard and come in regulation-size parts that drivers build at home. The Super Stock cars cannot exceed 240 pounds with the driver inside, his mother Lisa Rutherford said.

Each race in Akron is a single elimination race. If you win, you go on, but she said her son’s biggest challenge was competing against drivers from Ohio, where she said the Derby is especially popular.

“The Ohio kids were all winning,” she said. But her son outlasted a couple of them.

Landon was eliminated around 3:30 p.m. that day, with only two more races to go.

During his week in Akron, Landon also played sports and made buttons to trade with many of the 150 other drivers from the United States and other countries, including Germany, Japan, New Zealand, China, England and Canada.

“You end up having a bunch of buttons from people from all around the world,” Landon said.

Landon said he can’t race his winning car in another regional qualifying race but can continue on to rally racing, if he wants. Instead, he plans to move up to the Masters Division in a new car.

“It’s a lot different from the car that I have right now,” he said. Part of the car will reach over his head, which he admitted is “a little bit intimidating looking.”

Until last year when Harrisonburg got its first Masters race, Landon had never seen a Masters car in person.

“They’re pretty cool,” he said. “The cars just get bigger.”

“I’ll have many years of racing.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com