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Oak Park Brewing Co. puts new spin on pinewood derby tradition

Pinewood Derby racers get creative at Oak Park Brewing Company

Oak Park Brewing Company held its second Pinewood Derby earlier this spring. Participants built miniature race cars from blocks of pine and watched them zip down the track while hanging out on the back patio.​
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Oak Park Brewing Company held its second Pinewood Derby earlier this spring. Participants built miniature race cars from blocks of pine and watched them zip down the track while hanging out on the back patio.​

When Matt Brown, 35, heard that the Oak Park Brewing Co. was holding a pinewood derby competition on its back patio, his first call was to his dad.

“Do you still have my race cars in storage?” the former Cub Scout asked. “Mail them, quick.”

Soon Brown was hard at work polishing his childhood derby car, modeled after the Batmobile from the 1989 film. It raced again Saturday, taking on dozens of other wooden cars created by hobbyists from all over Sacramento.

The pinewood derby is a tradition originated by the Boy Scouts of America whereby participants build a miniature race car from a block of pine. Racers can make as many modifications to the car as they like, so long as it is not powered and weighs less than 5 ounces.

The Oak Park derby, held at the brewery for the second time, drew a rambunctious crowd of participants and spectators to the four-car racetrack.

“This is the only time we get to drink and drive, right?” said Brown, who lives in Curtis Park, sipping on a beer in the afternoon sun.

The derby had competitions for children and adults that were free to enter.

Chris and Amanda Savarino, of Sacramento, said they turned the race into an educational activity for their sons Kai, 10, and Luke, 11.

This is the only time we get to drink and drive, right?

Matt Brown, 35, derby participant

“I had done this as a Cub Scout and I loved it,” Chris Savarino said. “I’m always looking for a little project to work on, and this was a great way to teach the kids physics.”

Luke’s car, Dragonfire, took first place in the children’s tournament. Licking his prize lollipop, he explained how he spent hours last week polishing the wheels, adding graphite to the axles and whittling the car into shape.

Crowd favorites included the “Van Gogh Go Go” 70s style van with “The Starry Night” painted on top and a DeLorean from the film Back to the Future, complete with a Marty McFly lego piece in the drivers’ seat.

“Gravity pulls it down the track but friction slows it down,” he said. “Momentum has a lot to do with winning.”

In addition to the main tournament brackets, the brewery also held an “unregulated” competition for cars that did not meet standards, as well as contests for the most creative contenders. Crowd favorites included a Van Gogh Go Go car – a ’70s-style van with “The Starry Night” painted on top – and a model DeLorean from the film “Back to the Future,” complete with a Marty McFly Lego piece in the driver’s seat.

“A lot of people want to go for the win, but I say just have fun with it,” said Tyler Stumbaugh, 28, who raced four cars Saturday. “Do something you want … I wasn’t trying to go all out.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola

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