FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown

About Us

Dayton’s Unique Soap Box Derby Legacy

Most people associate the soap box derby with the City of Akron, Ohio.  However, organized soap box derby racing was born in Dayton, Ohio during the summer of 1933.  A local newspaper photographer, Myron Scott, came upon 3 boys racing home-made cars down a brick street.  He persuaded the boys to help him organize a race one week later on Hilltop Avenue (Oakwood area) with 19 cars participating.  Scott then persuaded the Dayton Daily News to sponsor a race later that summer on August 19, 1933.  The race was moved from Hilltop Avenue to Burkhardt Avenue to accommodate a larger crowd.  With the help of the newspaper’s advertising and feature articles, the August event drew 362 participants aged 6-16 and over 40,000 spectators. 

Scott then persuaded other newspapers in large cities to hold local races and send the winners to Dayton for a national championship race.  Racers from 34 other cities attended the 1934 Dayton race and Chevrolet became a national sponsor of the event.  Out of town racers were hosted at Dayton’s Van Cleve Hotel and all racers participated in a banquet, theatre events and parties.  Prizes awarded in 1934 included college scholarships, box cameras and a trip to the World’s Fair.  The early cars were made of wooden crates, wagons, baby buggy wheels and had clothesline steering systems.  The national race winner in 1934 was Robert Turner from Muncie, Indiana who built his car from discarded wood from an old saloon bar. 

In 1935, the Akron Beacon Journal sports editor, Jim Schlemmer, enlisted support from Akron’s rubber companies to move the national derby championship to Akron.  They met with Chevrolet shortly after the 1934 Dayton race was completed and were successful in moving the race to Akron in 1935.  The next year, the Works Progress Administration built a permanent soap box derby track near the Akron municipal airport where the international championship race is still held today.

The Dayton Daily News and City of Dayton continued to sponsor a local soap box derby race and sent winners to the international championships in Akron each summer until 2002 when homeland security procedures prevented the Wright Patterson Air Force Base from continuing to host a local championship and the group lost its track location.  After fifteen years, it is time to return local soap box derby racing to Dayton! 


Mission Statement

The Soap Box Derby® is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to build knowledge and character, and to create meaningful experiences through collaboration and fair and honest competition.

Core Vaules and Drivers

• Youth Education and Leadership Development
• Family Engagement and Enrichment
• Honesty, Integrity and Perseverance
• Innovation and Entrepreneurship
• Teamwork and Collaboration
• Mentoring
• Volunteerism
• Commitment to Community

The Derby is the official sanctioning body of Soap Box Derby racing and has exclusive licensing partnerships with more than 100 racing districts throughout world. These racing districts conduct sanctioned Soap Box Derby races throughout the year and qualify champs for the annual FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby® World Championship race at the world famous Derby Downs Track in Akron, Ohio. 

The Derby's Education Program is a fast-growing component of the organization and includes a STEM-Based Curriculum, the Gravity Racing Challenge® STEM Team Competition and a Mini Soap Box Derby program. 

The Derby also operates the world famous Derby Downs Track in Akron, Ohio where events are held throughout the racing season.

The Board of Directors oversees the operation of the Derby, and the day-to-day activities are handled by the Headquarters staff in Akron.