There is no shortage of entertainment and fun around the HCSS office. At any given time, NERF® darts whiz past desks, bean bags fall into cornhole boards, golf balls are sunk via accurate putts, and video games light up flat-screen televisions.
But on Friday, Dec. 5, at 1:30 p.m., the aura turned serious as real competition loomed. It was no longer about fun and games as the annual HCSS Pinewood Derby Race began.
Software developers, support specialists, IT gurus, marketing professionals, and more all worked tirelessly to craft the perfect wooden vehicle that would effortlessly glide down the metal ramp to speedy victory, leaving its competition in dust and tears.
|Pinewood Derby cars of all designs await their turn on the track.|
Many storylines added to the intrigue. The dynasty, Clint Estep, sat atop a mound of trophies as a four-time champion, and everyone else set their sights to topple him. The plethora of recent hires filling the HCSS office added youth and excitement to the race with the naiveté that one of them could take the crown. And while some stayed up nights, foregoing sleep to build a legendary vehicle, there were a confident few who dared a last-minute entry, hastily designing a Maserati within a Kia-sized timeframe.
As the race began, hopeful car owners fell by the wayside in head-to-head, bracket-style competition. Careening down the aluminum track at a blistering pace, the swiftest cars were not always the prettiest, proving that it’s what’s under the wood that counts.
Then it came down to four. The hopeful Lewis Frey, a late entry to the contest, and newest hire David Suh, lined up to determine who would take the third place trophy and who would take a hike. Suh, a graphic designer, hoped his car’s “Flashy” design outweighed the lack of time spent creating the car, as he had only designed it hours before the race.
Two misfires led to an all-or-nothing battle for third place. Frey’s car twice flew off the track with too much torque before finally overcoming Suh’s vehicle.
“It’s the proudest day of my life,” Frey said. “It was an unbelievable experience. It got a little crazy, but in the end I pulled it out.”
|Clint Estep, Matt Fidler, and Lewis Frey show off their winning derby cars.|
But the real battle came down to the reigning champion, Estep, who eyed a familiar foe in last year’s runner up, Matt Fidler. Eyes narrowed, palms sweated, and hearts raced as both cars lined up for the final race. And in the end, it was once again Estep who claimed victory, proving he’s earned the nickname Clint “The Closer” Estep.
And he assured fans it was purely coincidence that he also built the racetrack.
“You just find a good build and improve on it,” Estep said of his win. “I want to thank…Matt Fidler, just for being such a good contestant.”
Fidler was also gracious, retaking his spot on the second-highest podium.
“I feel great, since this is the second time I’ve been second,” Fidler said. “I attribute that to being almost good enough to win.”
Daniel Howard, who did not enter the race itself, stunned the field when his non-mobile vehicle won first place for “Best Derby Car Design.” The steampunk style wowed voters, even if it did not actually race.
|Daniel Howard's steampunk car won Best in Show.|
“Gold spray paint goes a long way, and it’s worth its weight—in gold spray paint,” Howard said.
Think you’ve got what it takes to build the best derby car in construction? Enter the third-annual HCSS Pinewood Derby Race at the Users Group Meetings in January or February. There will be awards for first, second, and third place for both the fastest car and the best in show, with extra credit for cars that showcase their company logos. The pinewood car kit is $10, and registration is free—but the bragging rights? Well, those are priceless.