This image shows the finish line of a Soap Box Derby Race at Donald R. Cronin Soap Box Derby Downs behind Southwestern Academy. Courtesy photo
FLINT, Michigan — The Flint Soap Box Derby is making a comeback.
Ending a hiatus of about 25 years, the sanctioned All-American Soap Box Derby will return to Flint on June 8. Registration is now open and car kits will soon be available for those looking to enter the race.
Flint has a “wonderful legacy” and historical connection to the soap box derby racing, says Executive Director Kevin Cronin. The very first races were held in Dayton, Ohio in 1934 — but Flint soon followed with its first race in 1936.
“Those initial races took place on Cadillac Street, and were celebrated community events,” says Cronin who acknowledges a deep family connection to the Flint races. In 1969, the races moved to the track behind Southwestern Academy known as Cronin Derby Downs, named after Mayor Donald R. Cronin, Kevin’s grandfather.
The construction of the permanent track helped spur growth and success. Three Flint participants won the national All-American Soap Box Derby Championships in six years: Greg Cardinal in 1978, Russ Yurk in 1979, and Mark Burdgick in 1983.
When the track was built, Cronin said his grandfather believed “soap box racing could be both a local strong suit as well as a tourist attraction to draw visitors from across the country for racing.
“We believe the same is possible today, and hope to create a program strong enough that brings visitors and showcases Flint's local talent. As an automotive city, we believe this race is a perfect fit in every sense.”
This year’s races will take place on Chevrolet Avenue near the newly renovated Chevy Commons — but the organization is also raising money to complete repairs, perhaps even starting this summer, on the old track to allow for additional programming. The races will be an all-day event, Cronin said.
“We're very excited about the Flint Soap Box Derby — not just as a race, but also as an initiative that can inspire,” he said. “To build lasting friendships and celebrate the Greater Flint community in a unique way.”
Cronin said there has not been a sanctioned soap box derby race in Flint since the mid-1990s. It will offer an opportunity for both hands-on education in science, technology, engineering and math and a competitive sport option, Cronin said.
“That sense of community, along with the STEM disciplines the race inherently teaches, is a powerful combination and creates foundational characteristics for local youth to become future leaders,” Cronin said.
Participants will be divided into two groups: Stock for racers age 7 to 14 and Super Stock for racers age 9-18.
All racers participate at no cost through a sponsorship by Goyette Mechanical, Cronin said.
Courses will be held at Factory Two for racers to build their soap box derby vehicles the weekend of May 4.
Registration is open through May 1. Winners will be eligible to compete in the championship All-American Soap Box Derby Championship in Akron, Ohio, in July. For more information visit https://www.flintsoapbox.org/