Young Cape racers pass vehicle inspections in Ohio

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Jordan Little supervised while his sister, April, and his mother, Beth, tightened screws on the frame of his Soap Box Derby racer Tuesday in Akron, Ohio. The Littles spent the day inspecting their vehicles and testing them to prepare for test runs today.

Editor's note: This is the second of several stories about a Cape Girardeau sister and brother competing this week in the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. April Little is 13, and her brother, Jordan, is 9.

Watch April and Jordan Little at the Soap Box Derby

AKRON, Ohio -- April and Jordan Little made minor adjustments to their Soap Box Derby cars, passed their brake tests and met weight limits Tuesday during inspections for the 70th annual All-American Soap Box Derby.

Cars must meet rigid weight and construction specifications to be eligible. Race inspectors buzzed around the swarm of vehicles in the pit, checking washer heights, weight placement and body flushness before signing off on each vehicle.

April's car was seven pounds too heavy on her initial weigh-in, so she and her mother, Beth, scrambled to remove enough interior weights from the nose of the car to meet guidelines.

Beth said she was exhausted by the end of the day.

Besides helping Jordan and April tighten the numerous screws on the cars' frames, Beth insisted on moving the nearly 200-pound racers around the track to various test stations. "I think I can skip the gym today," she joked.

Jordan and April attended a minor-league baseball game the night before and got a chance to meet other contestants.

Soap Box Derby winners from across the country bring buttons with their names and hometown to share with others. Jordan said he put so many on his shirt that he began to draw notice in public due to the clatter of his souvenirs.

"We went to the store and people stopped to look at me," he said. "They were going 'What's that noise?', and then they'd turn and see me covered with buttons."

April said she felt strange making conversation with other winners. "It's weird to go up to someone randomly and say 'Hi, I'm April. What's your name?" she said with a laugh.

She and her brother have a charming rapport. They share a dry sense of humor and are almost always in high spirits. April looks after her younger brother in crowds, and she always checks for him if she loses sight of him.

Some contestants and especially some parents at the event seem to be consumed by the competitive side of the week but not the Littles. When a race official bluntly told Beth she would have to remove the more than 30 screws attaching the shell of Jordan's car, she did not get angry or indignant. Instead, she looked at April and Jordan and smiled.

"Are we having fun yet?" she asked. The family then gathered around the car and after making a few jokes dug into the task.

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