Akron is best known for two things — tires and the All-American Soap Box Derby, and the 11-year-old from Linden, Va., has qualified to compete against the nation's finest drivers of gravity-powered racecars in July.
On Saturday, Gabby and about 20 other racers competed at an indoor rally in Stanley Fulton Business Complex in Hancock sponsored by Central Maryland Soap Box Derby. Rolling down plywood ramps, the racers got up to about 10 mph on the 200-foot course inside the factory where Fleetwood travel trailers were once made.
The speed was nothing like what racers could attain on the outdoor High Street course used when Hancock Soap Box Derby held its October rally, but it gave the juvenile drivers a place to compete when the temperature outside was in the 20s.
This rally, which continues today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., attracted families from Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
Jim Beville was the Dale City, Va., champ 40 years ago and his late brother, Steve, was the Washington, D.C., champ, he said.
His wife, Trina, said they "stumbled across" a race in Winchester, Va., that rekindled their interest. Jim bought Gabby's race car on craigslist, he said.
"They call us ‘dolly mommas,'" Trina Beville said, referring to the dollies parents use to move the cars about between runs.
"I got 41 points today," said Tyler Myers, a third-generation driver from New Jersey who won one of Saturday's races. His father Ed said 180 points are needed to qualify for Akron.
Ed Myers said he finished third at Akron in 1974 and his father competed in the Soap Box Derby in the 1940s.
"This is our first indoor rally. There's only two on the East Coast. There's one in Pennsylvania and we modeled ours after them," said Scott Fox, local race director for Hancock Soap Box Derby.
Hancock will be hosting another indoor event the weekend of March 12-13, Fox said.
"How to win. How to lose. There's a lot of good life lessons" in the sport, Jim Beville said.
"It's a very competitive sport, but it's a very friendly sport," Scott said.