NEW YORK - The second fastest Pinewood Derby car in the world this year belongs to Chatham Cub Scout Jack McGannon, who beat hundreds of other cars at the Pinewood Derby World Championship at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square on Saturday, June 29.
McGannon's car, named the Screaming Eagle, was also the fastest of any Lion Scout (a 6-year-old Cub Scout) in the world.
Every year, over a million Cub Scouts in 200 countries build Pinewood Derby cars, gravity-powered wood cars, with a parent. Jack, son of Jamie and Annamarie McGannon, won his Pack 6 race in Chatham in January and the district-wide race two months later, to qualify for the big races in New York City.
“I was nervous when we arrived (at the Marriott) and there were so many people,” Jack said. "I didn’t think we were going to do very well because it was our first time. After the first few races, I couldn’t believe how fast our car was.”
Building the car with his father was the most fun of all, Jack said.
Jack's car was not only extremely aerodynamic, but also was built to have very low wheel-and-axle friction, run very straight down the track, and use its weight distribution for maximum acceleration. Father Jamie's skill in hobby crafts and prior experience in auto racing were ideal for teaching Jack and brother Will about building such fine-tuned cars.
In addition to needing such skills, a racer also needs a bit of luck on his side. Jack and Will’s cars were engineered to be identical, though Will’s car was not as fast.
“We hoped to be competitive but didn’t commit to any expectations,” said father Jamie McGannon. “The only goal was good sportsmanship, enjoyment of the event, and whatever the results, we’d be satisfied just to have made it to this select grouping.”
But as their opening race times began to be posted, the family’s excitement grew. And then the final results: Jack’s car was faster than 350 of the world’s fastest Cub Scout cars and missed first place by one one-thousandth of a second.
“Hopefully next year it comes down to a battle of both McGannon brothers, which would be stressful and fantastic at the same time,” said Jamie.