May 17th, 2012 | Martin Cizmar Features |

Stumptown 40: Winning the Race for Equality

Adult pinewood derby champ dedicates win to gay scouts.

stumptown-winnerThe winner of the Stumptown 40.

The winner of Portland's adult pinewood derby had a victory speech.

"This trophy is for all the gay Boy Scouts—EVER!" Nic Peteresen said as he hoisted his award.

It was a nice way to end a long night of racing as the Stumptown 40 rolled through Spirit of '77. Miniature cars built from kits that include a block of wood, four nails and four plastic wheels race down a ramp two at a time in the race.

"When I was a kid and making my first pinewood cars I made glaring aesthetic choices over speed. I wanted to do it right—prove I could win with speed and physics and logic... My early car was a blue metallic shark shape—and it was a snail—but this car was streamlined wind. I made my 7-year-old self proud," Peteresen says. "The best part of the night was raising the trophy... and a bar full of brodudes cheering. Like, woah. I felt strong holding my first trophy for anything ever."

The derby is a Cub Scout tradition, begun by a Scoutmaster bummed his kid was too young to build and race the bigger Soapbox Derby cars adult Portlanders are very familiar with. Gays were banned from Scouting in 1991.

The Stumptown race, which benefits Southeast's arts-focused Buckman Elementary, is, of course, as much about interesting design as speed. Competitors included a Greg Oden car built so the wheels fell off as it rolled down the track, a giant clothes pin and a rocket-riding monkey. And, of course, our WW Subaru of Portland cliches, which beat local designer Sho Ito in its first race before losing by a hare to Mason West's deceptively-speedy bunnymobile.

In its third year, the race doubled competitors to 80. Some spectators were turned away at the door after '77, a sports bar across from the Rose Garden, reached capacity. Cofounder Dave Selden says the field will keep growing.

"We were prepared for mayhem— it takes a lot of time to race 80 cars when it's a double-elimination tourney. There were a few hiccups—all those damn nerds stealing our wifi connection, slowing the bracket software down—but all in all, it was a great time," he says. "The quality and creativity of the cars produced always blows my mind. I loved the DeLorean, the Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwich ... and of course the constantly breaking-down Greg Oden car. So awesome. We'll definitely do it again next year, ONLY WITH A MILLION CARS."

Look through a gallery of cars from this year at the Stumptown site.

 
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