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For the second straight year, a Newton boy will represent his city and state in the All-American Soap Box Derby.
Nine-year-old Caleb Atkinson will race as the only rally champion from
North Carolina in the Super Stock division at the 74th edition of the Derby this Saturday, which is held in Akron, Ohio.
The Derby features around 500 of the greatest soap box champions from around the World.
â€śIâ€™m more relaxed than the first time I went,â€ť Atkinson said. â€śI know what to do. Last time, I had someone guiding me that I knew from Huntersville. Iâ€™m way more relaxed than nervous.â€ť
In order to earn the title of rally champion, Atkinson traveled to seven locations across five states, including Culpepper, Va., Charleston, W.Va., Bowling Green, Ky., Tallahassee, Fla., Huntersville, N.C., Morganton, N.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C.
At each of these derby tracks, Atkinson finished in the top-eight of each race. That helped him accumulate 176 points to earn the title of rally champion, the only boy from North Carolina to do so in the Super Stock division.
Atkinson said each track was unique and had to be driven differently.
â€śIâ€™m focus on the strategy of getting down the hill,â€ť Atkinson said. â€śAt Tallahassee, I didnâ€™t drive right down the middle. You curve near the other side of the pavement. That makes you go faster. At Kentucky, you want to go down the middle because the track is smooth, just like in Akron.â€ť
This will be Calebâ€™s second straight trip to Akron for the Derby. Last year, he competed in the first-year stock division, which includes boys and girls age 8-13. He was eliminated in his first heat.
â€śIâ€™m kind of nervous because last year I wasnâ€™t the only one from North Carolina,â€ť Atkinson said. â€śIn the first heat, I lost. Thatâ€™s how I got to Super Stock.â€ť
Last year, Atkinson said he met a ton of great derby drivers from all around the world, including Germany and Japan, and exchanged derby badges with them.
â€śThe Japanese kidsâ€™ badge was weird looking,â€ť Atkinson said. â€śIt had a tiny body with a big head and big eyes.â€ť
Atkinson is the third member of his family to race in the Derby. Calebâ€™s father, Barron, raced in the derby in 1970 when he was 13 years old. Calebâ€™s sister, Emily, raced in 1991 at the age of 10.
Cindy Atkinson, Calebâ€™s mom, said her husband and son bonded through the derby.
â€śCaleb and his dad built Calebâ€™s first car out of wood,â€ť Cindy said. â€śIt took them a long time. He was only 5 years old. He couldnâ€™t race it, but he wanted to build it. He would run it down the hill in a development near our house, but he still couldnâ€™t race it. He just practiced. We would go to the fairgrounds and he would race it down the hill by himself. It was fun.â€ť
As for his future in the Derby, Caleb said he would like to race in the Masterâ€™s division (11-16 year olds) or Ultimate Speed division (16-18 year olds), but he doesnâ€™t want to try the National Derby Rallies (NDR), which another derby organization that includes kids of all ages.
â€śIâ€™d like to try to the Ultimate Speed, but I donâ€™t want to try NDR,â€ť Caleb said.
â€śIt will be couple of years before he can compete in the Masterâ€™s division,â€ť Cindy said. â€śIâ€™m sure it will be something that he will try to do.â€ť
For more information about the All-American Soap Box Derby, you can visit their website at www.aasbd.org.View more articles in: