FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Derby Spotlight - Steve Cox

Pic1 7Th Place August 4 1962

In the All-American Soap Box Derby semi-finals,
Steve Cox placed seventh in Lane 2.

Derby Spotlight – Steve Cox

It wasn’t a far stretch to assume that Steve Cox would excel at Soap Box Derby racing. His father built steel mills and his grandfather owned a wood shop. When Steve was younger he had a strong mechanical aptitude. In 1960 Steve wanted to participate in the Middletown, Ohio Local Soap Box Derby race. With his grandfather’s guidance, Steve did most of the design and construction of his well-balanced Soap Box Derby car himself. Before constructing his car, Steve built a working model to ensure the car would function properly and meet his goals.

Steve participated in the Middleton race from 1960-62. In 1962 he won the local race and represented Middletown in the All-American Soap Box Derby where he placed seventh. He was so excited that he had the opportunity to represent his Local in Akron. During this time, his dad started to train him in the fine art of reconnaissance. “My father explained to me that everything moved for a reason, and he wanted me to figure out why and give him a report at the end of the day,” said Cox. “This practice of reporting recon to my dad turned into race analysis and helped me set up a game plan for each race.”

His passion for designing and testing his Derby car helped pave the road for his engineering career. He spent a year at Tri-State College in Angola, Ind. and two years at The College of Applied Science in Cincinnati, Ohio, majoring in Civil Engineering Technology. He then went on to Miami University of Middletown, Ohio where he majored in Electronics.

“My career path was designed at an early age because I was from an engineering and steel mill family,” said Cox. For 36 years he worked at ARMCO (American Rolling Mill Company) where Cox worked on turbines for 13 years as a licensed steam engineer, then worked an electrical technician until he retired in 2007.

His family also had a hand in developing the former Middletown Local’s permanent track. After negotiating with the City of Middletown, Ohio, Steve’s dad turned a portion of land at a city park into a Derby track modeled after Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. This track was used from 1964-1995 for the Middletown Local Race.

Steve shared his passion for the Derby beyond his racing career. For several years he was the Local Race Director in Middletown, Ohio. “I felt honored to be part of the All-American Soap Box Derby,” said Cox. “In 1991 he shared his knowledge and experience, and was a strong advocate for the first ever stock car kit used in the Derby racing.”

The Soap Box Derby helped Cox learn how to handle himself not only as a competitor, but as a champion. These lessons came in handy when he was given the honor of having his Derby car on display at General Motors (GM). As part of this honor, GM expected Cox to make public appearances and be a role model for what it meant to be a Derby Champ both on and off the track. These are just some of the many valuable life experiences Cox learned through gravity racing.

“I love what the Soap Box Derby has become today and I’m very excited about what it has grown into with the new STEM-based Curriculum and a full week of activities at the All-American Championship,” Cox said. “Volunteers have laid the foundation for what the Soap Box Derby has become today.” 


Pic2 1986 Oldest Daughter Loris Kitcar Me A Single Dad Derby Director And Everyone Having A Good Laugh About It

In 1986 Cox with his oldest daughter Lori. Everyone had a good laugh about Lori's kit car, Cox being a single dad, and derby director.


Pic3 1988 1993 Youngest Daughter Heather S Kitcar At Jacot Park Middletown Ohio

In 1988 to 1993 Cox's youngest daughter
Heather 's kit car at Jacot Park Middletown, Ohio.


Pic5 1994 Heathers Kitcar With A Soap Box Derby Nose Extention Kit Makin It A Masters Car

Cox's daughter Heather's car with a  Soap Box Derby nose extention kit making it a masters car in 1994.

Note: This is the thirteen in a series of spotlights on former Derby racers who have gone on to study/work in a STEM related field. If you know of someone who we could spotlight please let us know at 

Past Spotlight Features

Nicole Stout - Spotlight (January, 2016)

Michael Gallo - Spotlight (February, 2016) 

Todd Hinton - Spotlight (March, 2016)

Alan Uhler - Spotlight (April, 2016)

Kristi Murphy - Spotlight (May, 2016)

James Fell - Spotlight (June, 2016)

Michael J. Corson, Jr. - Spotlight (July, 2016)

David Reid - Spotlight (August, 2016)

John Horner - Spotlight (September, 2016)

John Hamels - Spotlight (October 2016)

Kenneth Holmboe - Spotlight (November 2016)

John Menches - Spotlight (December 2016)