Keeping Pinewood Derby ‘dynamos’ under control on race day

Pinewood-Derby-CarsN.S. asks: How can we keep rowdy Cub Scouts occupied when not involved in racing their Pinewood Derby cars? Readers suggested a variety of activities, competitions, and of course, plenty of good eats.

With more than 100 Cub Scouts in our pack, we use a variety of extra events. First, when a boy’s car is eliminated, he can go to a second track and challenge any other boy to a match race.

We made race-day neckerchiefs from checkered-flag print cloth and awarded them to the best-behaved Cub Scouts. Also for prizes, I hot-glued a small piece of PVC tubing to the back of Hot Wheel racing cars to make neckerchief slides.

We had a small concession stand at which Cub Scouts could work or chow down between races. You can also utilize Boy Scouts to lead games and sing songs.

Former Cubmaster B.G.
New Prague, Minn.

We assigned specific times for registration, uniform inspection, races and presenting awards for each level from Tiger Cub through second-year Webelos Scout. Stations were set up so that the races for one level and registration for another overlapped. With definite times set for each group, the afternoon ran smoothly.

We know from experience how much time to allot for each level. Parents were grateful to know exactly what time they had to be there.

Bourbonnais, Ill.

We reduced running around by taking all cars to a “pit stop” where wheels were treated with graphite. The boys get their cars only when they are due to race. Parents sit in bleachers on both sides of the track with their sons on the floor in front, creating the feel of a racetrack crowd.

Using a projector, we show the names of the four boys who are racing and the four “on deck” on a screen 8 to 10 feet off the ground just past the end of the track.

Each car runs in four heats, once on each of four lanes. Between heats, the Cubmaster hands out awards and we sing songs. Our derby is finished in just under 90 minutes.

Former Den Leader Coach P.D.
Lewiston, Idaho

Our derby is held in a school gym where there is some extra room. We set up a secondary track called “Go the Distance,” where boys can roll their cars down a simple ramp and out onto the floor.

After their official racing is done, the boys have fun seeing how far and straight their cars can go when they are “off-track.”

Midland, Mich.

We have an organized community service project table to make simple crafts for Meals on Wheels, Valentines for Vets or any other idea we can come up with.

Our registration “fee” is a food item for the local food pantry, or $2 per race car, which we use to buy food for the pantry.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.

We keep our Cub Scouts and spectators occupied by having a “Derby Diner” open. We put the church kitchen to use, and parents bake, make or donate food.

We also have a “kiddie corner” for Cub Scouts and their siblings with coloring books and toys.

New Berlinville, Pa.


  1. We set up a variety of activities for the boys when they are not racing. Last year we had foam car sets that the boys could build a car, long paper rolls with various activities–coloring, puzzles, games…, and we played the movie Down and Derby on a tv in the corner. There is a concession stand open. Everyone was super well behaved and the boys had plenty to keep them busy!

  2. We have the software randomly choose when the cars run as long as they run on all 4 lanes. That way the kids are always watching to see when they come up. We have a Drive-in for food during the races. During some of the final setup time, we have the boys do a drivers’ test. They receive a drivers license with their picture for them to keep.

  3. at our winter derby (“Winter Classic) we used a point system and multiple events. I think it was nice because on our track it takes longer to count down than to do an actual race
    1) Pinewood derby…the kids drew for lanes using dominos and a hat. This way they were engaged for every race.
    2) Demolition derby …. the kids had 3 minutes to build a car out of legos, which was sent down a smaller track. they got 1 point for every piece still attached to a wheel.
    3) Slot Cars…the kids got one point for every lap done in a 2 minute block.

    I found out that some kids were really good at slot cars (Despite not actually ever using them), so the only change I would do in the future is to award points for every 10 laps (minimum 1).

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