By Scott Morrison
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — A heightened buzz descended on the soap box derby track on Saturday when more than 100 children, parents, and spectators gathered for the 76th soap box derby races in Anderson.
Derby Director Rick Isom called it the best turnout at the track he had seen since he joined the board of directors for Anderson Soap Box Derby four years ago.
Isom’s 11-year-old son Eli won the Super Stock Division for the second straight year, becoming one of few fortunate racers to book a trip to the All-American Soap Box Derby race in Akron, Ohio.
“It’s awesome to get another chance in Akron,” Eli Isom said. “I really want to thank Gracie (who placed second.) She did an exceptionally good job.”
Kristina Kelty claimed victory in the Stock Division for the first time, having to race her way back from the loser’s bracket.
“I am really excited,” Kelty said. “I came in third last year, and I made an improvement this year.”
Kristina is the latest in a long line of Kelty soap box derby racers. Her brother Kevin won the Stock Division in 2010 and fueled her desire to race soap box derby. Kevin’s inspiration came from his grandfather, whose brother raced soap box derby cars in Indianapolis.
The Keltys are far from the only derby family in Anderson. Many of Saturday’s racers were racing in cars they put together with family derby veterans or other community members who wanted to give back.
“Soap box derby is an opportunity to open a different world for some people,” derby enthusiast Alonzo Anthony said. “People gave time to me when I was young, and I try to do that for kids now. Soap box derby is a hobby for me and keeping it alive is important.”
Anthony helped field several cars in this year’s field, including vehicles for young racers Conye Sutton, Quinn Eldridge, and Arnez Dixon.
“It’s fun getting to spend time with your friends, getting to meet other people, and getting to see some new vehicles,” Eldridge said. All three hope to race in next year’s derby.
Despite the racers’ youth, they understand the importance of soap box derby for themselves and the community as a whole.
“The race is awesome,” Eli Isom said. “The community gets together and has a great time.”
Race enthusiasts hope to capture the momentum and build the Anderson soap box derby group back to some semblance of what it used to be.
“I want to see it get bigger and bigger every year,” Kevin Kelty said. “There are a lot more kids racing this year than last year.”
Rick Isom hopes that Saturday’s turnout, combined with some recent track repairs, will lead to a rally race in Anderson in the fall. He said he had approximately 10 families approach him at the race about buying cars and racing next year.