Ways to set up a Pinewood Derby bracket are as diverse as the different ways to build the cars themselves. Scout leaders should take into account several factors: how many cars are going to race, how many dens will race, overall age of the Scouts, how much time they have on race day and if the Pack has access to a computer race timing program.
Pinewood Derby cars are supposed to be made by the Scouts, resulting in a huge difference in quality between different ranks or age groups. For this reason, race brackets can be set up so that each Scout only competes with others of his age group. Tigers race Tigers, Wolves race Wolves and so forth. A winner is declared for each rank or age group.
A bracket chart can be made up and posted on the wall for this type of race. List the name of each Scout on the left-hand side of a large sheet of poster paper. Divide the Scouts into brackets by their Den, patrol or section. Den winners then compete for a rank or age group title, and those winners compete for an overall champion.
Time and the number of cars to be raced is a huge factor in planning the brackets of a Pinewood Derby race. A large Cub Pack (or other youth group) with more than 50 cars to compete will need to run its race quickly to avoid dealing with bored Scouts. Use the timer method to simplify a Pinewood Derby race.
A computer timer and race management software, like GrandPrix Race Manager, is required for this method.
Have each car run as many heats as you have lanes of tracks. A four-lane track would have four heats or a six lane track would have six heats and so on. The cars run each heat on a different lane--thus eliminating an unfair advantage if one lane runs faster. Average the individual cars times to calculate an average speed, then sort these numbers in a spread sheet to find the winners. Race results can be sorted by age groups to determine first, second and third place for each age group as well as the overall champion.
Head to Head Race Brackets
This "head to head heat" method is for Packs that don't have access to a computer timer or race management software. Its also good for small groups because this method may require up to 20 heats to determine first, second and third for each bracket.
It's necessary that all the cars in one Den can fit on the track at the same time, so if you have more cars than lanes of track, divide the Dens into equal sections.
Cars from the Den/sections will race each other in heats to determine the fastest car. A judge will determine the fastest car from each heat by sight. Rotate the cars to different lanes for each heat for fairness.
The first car to win two heats is pulled from the race and declared the winner for that section. Then the next car to win two heats is declared the second-place finisher. The next two-time winner is the third-place finisher.
After all the Dens compete, the winners race head to head to determine, first, second and third place for the rank or age group.
Age group winners race again to find the overall grand champion.
Double Elimination Brackets
The double-elimination bracket can be used with computer timers or sight judges. Unlike other methods where the timer or judge is looking for the fastest car in the heat, cars are pulled from the race after LOSING two heats. Only the first-place winner is tracked in this method.
The winning car from the section advanced to the next bracket until a grand champion can be declared.