One of the most beloved pastimes in Cub Scouts is the pinewood derby. It's an event in which Scouts race miniature cars that they have built out of blocks of wood and other simple parts. The gravity-powered vehicles usually sport colorful paint schemes. The Boy Scouts of America's Cub Scout Leader How-To Book provides a basic set of pinewood derby rules to help your race run smoothly.
A pinewood derby car, often called a pinewood racer, starts out as a kit of materials that each Cub Scout participating in the event receives. The kit includes wood for the body, nails for axles and a set of plastic wheels. While Scouts can whittle and shape their cars based on their own designs, they can only use the parts included in the kit. Cars must be no wider than 2 1/4 inches, no longer than 7 inches and no heavier than 5 oz.
Scouts can't give their cars wheel bearings, washers or bushings to help the wheels turn. They can only use powdered graphite or silicone for that. They can't give their cars suspension systems or motors.
Modifications to the wheels and axles to reduce weight and friction do not violate the standard rules of the pinewood derby, although some Cub Scout packs have rules governing such modifications.
Loose materials on the car are prohibited. Cars can be painted and decorated in any manner, as long as the decoration doesn't violate any of the other rules.
On the day of the race, each Scout must present his car for inspection, where it is numbered. Upon passing inspection, the Scout can take his car to be registered and entered in the racing schedule.
Cars are brought to the starter's table by den. As the heat is announced, the Scouts place their cars at the starting gate. The gate is released, and the cars race down a sloping track toward the finish line.
Judges watch for the first car to cross the line. They determine first-, second-, and third-place winners for each den, and these Scouts advance to quarter-final, semi-final and final heats, where the overall winner is declared.
Any car damaged in a race may run in the next heat if it is quickly repairable. If a car leaves the track, runs into another lane or gets in the way of another car, it is declared to have finished the heat last.
The basic rules serve as a starting point for planning a pinewood derby. Additional rules concerning car building and modification, track length and the number of cars per heat are left up to each Cub Scout pack.
When conducting a pinewood derby, it helps to remember several things. Inspect the cars a few days before the race so Scouts have time to fix any big problems. Also, have a quick, easy way to track the progress of heats, such as a large scoreboard, and make sure that judges are aware of their roles and can accurately and fairly assess the race results.