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BSA to build world’s longest Pinewood Derby track, host race across America

Did you hear the big news? I’m talking really big.

The Boy Scouts of America announced today that it will build the Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track — a 2,560-mile wooden course that will begin in San Francisco and end in New York.

There’s more. The Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track will be the official host of a newly announced event called Pinewood Derby Race Across America, beginning in 2028.

Here are seven more things to know about the Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track and Pinewood Derby Race Across America.

1. The cars are huge!

Cub Scouts will build and race wooden cars, each roughly the size of a Honda Civic, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Families will transport their son or daughter’s car to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and meet it two weeks later at the finish line on Long Island in New York.

In most packs, a Pinewood Derby car cannot exceed 7 inches in length or 5 ounces in weight. But in the Pinewood Derby Race Across America, these limits will be supersized: a maximum of 180 inches in length and 48,000 ounces in weight.

The proposed path of the track — subject to change.

2. The track is more than 13.5 million feet long!

The current longest track, according to Guinness World Records, belongs to the Mid-America Council in Nebraska. Their Pinewood Derby track spanned 1,819 feet — a mark the Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track will shatter by 13,515,181 feet.

Thanks to the generosity of a number of anonymous donors, the Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track won’t cost the BSA a dime.

3. Construction begins later this year!

It’s being called the most ambitious construction project since the Egyptians built the pyramids.

The Olaf Sprilo Construction Co. has been awarded the job. They’ve said work will begin in August and that the entire track is being built with recycled wood.

The track will take about a decade to complete and will be finished in time for the inaugural Pinewood Derby Race Across America on May 15, 2028. Why that date? That marks the 75th anniversary of the very first Pinewood Derby race — hosted May 15, 1953, by Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, Calif.

4. The race will take almost two weeks!

A regular Pinewood Derby race on a 40-foot track lasts a couple of seconds.

The Pinewood Derby Race Across America is expected to last about 12 days. The entire race will be streamed live on the Boys’ Life Facebook page and ESPN3.

Five checkpoint gates along the track — in Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana and Pennsylvania — will allow viewers to see which car is in the lead.

Dylan, 7, gets a head start on his car with the help of his mom and dad.

5. Cub Scouts still get to build their own cars (with Mom or Dad’s help)!

One of the best parts of Pinewood Derby is the time a Cub Scout gets to spend with his or her parent or guardian as they design, build and decorate a car together. (It’s the whole point of Pinewood Derby!)

Now, imagine that same moment of bonding times 1,000. Instead of spending a week or two working with your daughter or son on the car, you’ll enjoy several years of carving a Civic-size block of wood by hand! And I didn’t even mention the sanding and painting!

6. The starting gate will be the tallest structure ever!

So maybe I buried the lede here, but I have to point out that the Transcontinental Pinewood Derby Track will be the largest manmade structure in history. Because Pinewood Derby cars don’t have engines, the track’s starting gate will need to be high enough to allow gravity to do all the work — all the way across the country.

Some of the top young minds in STEM Scouts calculated how high the starting line must be so every car will reach the finish line. They included calculations for:

  • The curvature of the Earth
  • The diminished gravitational forces as you get farther away from the Earth’s center
  • The coefficient of friction
  • The difference in elevation between San Francisco (52 feet) and New York (33 feet)
  • The Rocky Mountains
  • Science things
  • Math stuff

They made all those calculations using a dry-erase marker on a large window. Because, as everybody knows, that’s how smart people calculate things.

Their answer: 396.4 miles above the earth.

That’s enough to make it the world’s tallest anything — more than 390 miles taller than Mount Everest!

7. They’re still figuring out a way to make the cars stop at the end!

If anyone has any ideas, please leave a comment below.


Photos by Marcie Rodriguez. Patch design by Kevin Hurley.

BSA to build world’s longest Pinewood Derby track, host race across America

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