Soap Box Derby champion stripped of title

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - For the first time in 30 years, a champion at the All-American Soap Box Derby has been stripped of his title after officials discovered violations in how his car was built.
Rally stock championship winner Wilton Blakely, 13, of Huntersville, N.C., lost his title late Saturday and runner-up Koby Garnhart, 11, of Winnebago, Ill., was declared the winner in that division.
There are no plans to pursue further disciplinary actions against Blakely, said Derby spokesman Bob Troyer.
"I think the disqualification in itself is the disciplinary action," Troyer said.
The violation was discovered during a mandatory post-race inspection.
The car's kingpin, which holds the axle in place in the rear of the car, was epoxied or glued to the floor instead of being placed through a pre-drilled hole on the axle. The glue or epoxy may have given Blakely's car additional stability.
Blakely's steering ability may have been unfairly enhanced by a bearing added to the base of his steering assembly. While racers can place pennies or quarters below the assembly, steel bearings are not allowed. Some glue had also been placed in the area to help strengthen the bolt, which is also not allowed.
According to Derby rules, any attempt to gain unfair advantage or concealment of any illegal materials or parts in the racer is grounds for disqualification.
"These cars are built from a kit that racers have to purchase through the All-American headquarters," Troyer said. "Racers are only permitted to use pieces provided to them inside the kit on their cars. Blakely was in violation of the rules because you are not permitted to add parts to the car."
Blakely's father acknowledged that he had used illegal materials and suggested he might have simply misinterpreted the rules, said Jeff Iula, general manager of the Soap Box Derby.
The last racer to be stripped of a winner's title was James Gronen, who was disqualified in 1973 after inspectors found a magnet in the nose of his car. Derby inspectors found the magnet after they X-rayed Gronen's car.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)