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Last Minute Pinewood Derby

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Is this thread about how to slap together a Pinewood Derby Race at the last minute. No!!! Some recently resurrected old PWD threads on this forum and lots of personal experience dealing customers purchasing last minute race software from my company got me to thinking about that.


Putting on a good race takes time and planning. Some packs may try to slap a race together at the last minute, but that often doesn't lead to good experience for the racers or their families. So many different types of problems can crop up and need some time to get resolved.


It is better to start the ball rolling at least a couple of months before the race. Pull the track, timer and race software out of storage as soon as possible. If there are any problems with these, you will need some time to rectify them.


Setup the track and check if it has experienced any damage and might be in need of repair. Some have experienced water damage, some have had all sorts of stuff piled on top of them while being stored, and some track pieces may have gone missing. The worst case scenario is that the track is unusable and you need to find another pack that you can rent or borrow a track from.


Test the timer out with the computer that will be used for the race. The majority of the tech support calls and emails that we receive are regarding timer communication problems. Often it is an issue with a USB to Serial Adapter, but we have seen problems with cabling, start switches, the timer units themselves, and the computers being used. With USB to Serial Adapters, as with any USB device, there are device drivers that must be installed so the software can communicate with the timer. Windows will not normally find these drivers for you and install them, so you need to have the drivers that come with adapter or download the latest ones from the manufacturer's website.


Practice with whatever race software that you will be using. Make sure to run a complete mock race so you know the flow of the software and steps to take along the way. You don't necessarily need to have your timer available for that (depending on the race software, that is), but it can help. Think of scenarios that you might encounter and how you will deal with them (ties, cars not finishing, latecomers, someone accidentally not registered, timer malfunction, computer problems, etc).


Make sure that your race crew is organized. If you can do a practice run with the race crew, that is ideal. If not, make sure at least that everyone knows their job. Below are some good resource sites to help you in planning and preparing for your race.


Derby Talk forum - http://derbytalk.com

GrandPrix Race Central - http://grandprix-race-central.com


If you have the luxury of setting up everything the night before the race, that helps greatly. Our pack has been able to do that and we even do check-in that night. Some years we have also been able to provide racers with a couple of runs down the track (no timing or head-to-head races) to make sure that the cars can at least finish. Race day is far less stressful since all cars are already checked-in and everything tested. Just power everything back up and give it one last test.


Lastly, have a Pinewood Derby notebook that you pass on from race coordinator to race coordinator. Include in it setup instructions for the track/timer/software, any special way the pack runs the race, budgets, race crew job responsibilities, and so on. It is hard enough for a new race coordinator to put on a good race, but it is even harder when they don't have anything turned over to them.(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)(This message has been edited by gpraceman2)

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