YAMHILL, Ore. (KOIN) — “She’s the best Oregon’s got.”
Like most grandfathers, Lonny Strode is not shy about touting his granddaughter. But in this case, it isn’t bragging. It’s a fact.
Alexis Lowe of Yamhill won 1st place in her class of 10-to-20 year olds at the All American Local Soap Box Derby Championship race in Salem. That means the 12-year-old qualified for the World Championship in Akron, Ohio.
The 7th-grader said racing is “definitely an adrenaline rush.” There’s also some pressure, but mostly it’s exciting and fun.
“It’s basically like gravity racing,” she explained. “You’re at the top of a hill or the ramp and they drop the gate and you just let gravity take you down. And if you start to drift you just steer it over the tiniest bit.”
In a typical race, Alexis goes 30-35 mph, but at the World Championship the ramp is steeper. She could reach 50 mph in the car she built with her grandfather, the Sun Chaser.
Alexis said it takes dedication and flexibility to win. “If you run into something, like the curb, you gotta, like, adjust on the fly and just got to be flexible.”
Grandpa Lonny said there aren’t any engines in the Soap Box Derby racers. “They’re home built. The kids help the parents or grandparents build the cars.”
Every car weighs the same — “240 pounds with the driver in it,” Grandpa Lonny said.
“We’ve got dialing indicators, we’ve got measurements, gauges, the car is absolutely as perfect as we can make it,” he told KOIN 6 News. “But somebody has still got to get it down the hill and keep it straight.”
Anytime the car moves side to side, he said, “you’re scrubbing speed.”
In Salem, the racers went down the track 2 at a time. But in Akron, it’s 3 racers side by side and the first to cross the finish line wins.
“Some of these races are won by thousandths of a second. It’s that close,” Lonny said. “It’s single eliminations, so as soon as you get beat you’re out. So as long as you keep winning, then you end up in the final.”
If Alexis wins her class, he said, “she gets a full boat scholarship for college. That’s why it’s kind of an important race,” he added, laughing.
He also thinks Alexis has a good chance of winning. She’s a calm driver who’s good under pressure.
“She’s got a good eye.”
The race is up to the driver to win, he said. Lonny’s raced all his life in different sports so racing “is in her blood,” he said, chuckling. “Typically, the girls do a better job. I think they pay attention better, you know? Sometimes the boys have a mind of their own.”
Alexis also thinks she has a good chance at winning.
“I think I’ve come a long way and I’m just super happy and excited. Really, I just can’t believe it. I’m so happy!”
Asked what it will take for her to win, she has a ready answer.
And Alexis Lowe thinks she has a good shot at winning her class.
“Yeah, yeah, I think I do! I mean, I made it this far!”