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