FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown
Finish Line Bridge

Derby Downs

Akron's world famous Derby Downs was built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936. Created by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. 

Derby Downs has been the home of the All-American Soap Box Derby® for 76 of the event's 78 years. The track was built after Derby officials and Akron civic leaders determined that the annual racing classic needed a permanent facility. It lies against a natural hill on the eastern fringes of Akron Municipal-Fulton Airport.

Derby Downs is a center of activity and interest from the spring through the fall for special events, corporate outings, Derby rallies and local races leading up to the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby.

On the west side of the track's run-out area is the International Soap Box Derby organization's headquarters building, which was built in 1992. The Derby program's year-round administrative staff operates from the headquarters.

There is a garage and service area at the top of the track which serve as car storage and the "service pit" area during the All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week. The Derby Hall of Fame and Museum building on George Washington Boulevard, funded by Summit County, was added in 2001. During other times of the year, the Topside facility is the site of the Derby program's assembly and shipping operations for the car kits and other components purchased by race organizations and individual contestants.

The track facility is owned by the City of Akron, which in 1999 contributed $1.3 million to replace the aging wooden grandstands with metal bleachers and to repave the entire length of the track. The track was again repaved for the 2009 race.

In 2000, a two-deck steel structure replaced the three-level bridge that had stood over the finish line since 1937. The bridge, funded by a $250,000-grant from Summit County, houses race control operations, judging, record-keeping and media.

The bridge is 35 feet, seven inches past the former finish line, which was moved to lengthen the official track to 989 feet, four inches. To obtain the propulsion that produces exciting races, the track's decline is separated into three stages. The first 53.75 feet carry a 16 percent grade, meaning a drop at the rate of 16 feet for every 100 feet. There follows a six percent grade for the next 530 and a two percent drop over the remaining 405.5 feet.

The track itself is as safe as experience and engineering can make it. The 30-foot-wide track is bordered by guardrails. The 1,200-foot run-out area beyond the finish line is an additional safety precaution. Parallel lines on the full length of the track serve as guides for drivers.


1936 - 1939 (1,175 feet) - Cliff Hardesty, White Plains, N.Y., 27.80 (1939) *

1946 - 1970 (975.4 feet) - Tony Penuelas, San Diego, Calif., 26.63 (1947)

1971 - 1999 (953.75 feet) - Ed Myers, Conshohocken, Pa., 27.10 (1974) **

2000 - Present (989.4 feet) - Hilary Pearson, Kansas City, Mo., 28.24 (2004) ***

2000 - Present (989.4 feet) - Sherry Lazowski, 26.585 (2011)****

*Finished first in the All-American

**Finished third in the All-American

***Finished first in the Masters Division of the All-American

****Ultimate Speed Division Car