Nepert, Ni­chols win Del­marva Soap Box Derby

Dorchester Star - - Sports - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com Fol­low Caro­line/Dorchester Ed­i­tor Dustin Holt on Twit­ter @ Dustin_S­tarDem.

FEDERALSBURG — The 15th an­nual Del­marva Soap Box Derby in Federalsburg Satur­day, June 4, fea­tured a bat­tle be­tween two past cham­pi­ons and a new­comer driv­ing into vic­tory cir­cle.

Pre­ston’s Madi­son Nepert won her se­cond-con­sec­u­tive Del­marva Soap Box Derby ti­tle, this year in the Su­per Stock di­vi­sion. She was joined in vic­tory cir­cle by Saleta Ni­chols who won the younger stock di­vi­sion in her fourth try.

The vic­to­ries earned Nepert and Ni­chols a trip to Akron, Ohio, for a berth in the World Soap Box Derby Cham­pi­onships in July, along with a re­ally big tro­phy.

Thirty-two rac­ers com­peted in the dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion event. Each driver ran down each lane of the course in each heat. Race of­fi­cials took the to­tal time for both lanes down west Cen­tral Av­enue and the fastest time won the heat race.

The Stock class fea­tures 7- to 13-year-old rac­ers in 200-pound car and driver com­bi­na­tions. Race of­fi­cials add weight to the cars so all car and driver com­bi­na­tions weigh 200 pounds. The Su­per Stock class has 10- to 17-year-old rac­ers in 240-pound car and driver com­bi­na­tions.

Af­ter earn­ing her first Soap Box Derby crown, Ni­chols jumped into her fa­ther’s arms. In her first three sea­sons, she earned a top 10 fin­ish in all three at­tempts, in­clud­ing a third last year.

Ni­chols said her goal in 2016 was to top last year’s ca­reer-best.

“I’m su­per ex­cited,” she said. “At first I didn’t know if I won but when they told me I won I just went crazy.”

Ni­chols faced Ai­den Rus­sell in the fi­nals, hav­ing al­ready beaten Rus­sell in the Win­ners’ Bracket Fi­nal. Ni­chols cruised to a 0.372 vic­tor y. Rus­sell, who fin­ished sixth over­all last year in his first start, won four heats on the day, with his only two de­feats com­ing to Ni­chols.

Saleta’s fa­ther, Todd Ni­chols, said he was ex­tremely proud of Saleta’s hard work she put into the car.

“I’m shak­ing right now be­cause I’m so proud of her for what she has done,” he said. “She set her goals to fin­ish in the top 2 this year, and I’m very happy to see her hard work pay off.”

The Su­per Stock Fi­nals fea­tured two fa­mil­iar faces go­ing against one another. Back in 2014, Caden Pollard edged Nepert in the Stock Fi­nals to earn a spot in the World Soap Box Derby Cham­pi­onships. With the vic­tory, Pollard moved up to the Su­per Stock class in 2015. Nepert earned her Stock class ti­tle in 2015, and moved up to Su­per Stock this year.

Pollard took the long road to the fi­nals af­ter suf­fer­ing a de­feat in the first round by 2015 run­nerup Jes­sica Ram­sey of Hur­lock. Pollard elim­i­nated Ram­sey in the dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion quar­ter­fi­nals, then went on to beat Michael Greenage and Todd Phillips to earn a spot in the fi­nals.

Nepert cruised to the fi­nals, win­ning her first three races be­fore meet­ing Pollard for the first time. Need­ing to beat Nepert twice to earn the ti­tle, Pollard started strong with a vic­tory to force a win­ner take all race.

Pollard took a 0.193 lead af­ter the first heat, but Nepert would not be de­nied her se­cond-straight ti­tle. She cruised to a 0.383 mar­gin in the fi­nal heat over Pollard to win the cham­pi­onship by 0.138.

“It felt great to win in the higher di­vi­sion be­cause I’m beat­ing older kids who have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence,” Nepert said. “They have been rac­ing here for many more years, and have won cham­pi­onships so it is great to get the win to­day.

“It is re­ally fun in Akron so I’m re­ally ex­cited to go up there again,” she said. “I’m proud of Saleta for get­ting her first win. It will be fun hav­ing her there as well.”

Phillips fin­ished third in the Su­per Stock with Greenage fourth and Joe Gray fifth to round out the top 5. In the Stock class, An­nie Phillips took third, Ryan Clark of Hur­lock came in fourth and Kate­lyn Jordan fin­ished fifth.

Greenage earned the Kent Smith Sports­man­ship Award for help­ing the younger com­peti­tors with set­ups and driv­ing lines through­out the course of the day.

Driv­ers, who fin­ished on the podium, also re­ceived a gift card from Prov­i­dent State Bank.

The Federalsburg Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, Pre­ston Au­to­mo­tive Group and Prov­i­dent State Bank were among the race spon­sors.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Ryan Clark, of Hur­lock, races Soap Box Derby. in the Stock Class at Satur­day’s Del­marva

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