Back on Track

Derby families and fans gathered in the grandstands to watch the racers in this photo from 2015.

July 15, 2021

Racers can once again experience the excitement of competing at Akron Derby Downs during the 83rd running of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, taking place from Tuesday, July 20, to Saturday, July 24 (Race Day).

The International Soap Box Derby® (ISBD) organization cancelled the 2020 event due to the pandemic. However, following the recent lifting of COVID-19 state guidelines and restrictions, organizers are ready to roll and have chosen “Back on Track” as the theme for this year’s race. FirstEnergy has served as title sponsor of the Soap Box Derby since 2012.​

“We are proud to be part of such a special tradition that brings people from all over the world to Akron and thrilled to see the signature event make its return,” said Ollie Pannell, director, FERC & State Regulatory Compliance. “The Soap Box Derby has been foundational to teaching young students important skills that will help them enter the workforce in the future.”

Ollie, who serves as a board member of the Soap Box Derby, added that the event encourages the use of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts such as critical thinking, problem solving, research and design, while also promoting teamwork and good sportsmanship.

“Teaching kids to build cars using the dynamics involved in racing is an invaluable part of their education, and the more we can support that, the better,” continued Ollie. “With FirstEnergy and the Soap Box Derby being pillars of the Akron community, the championship is a great opportunity to engage with and support the areas we serve.”

Every year, the Soap Box Derby welcomes hundreds of aspiring racers to compete at the world championship races in Akron. Participants fly down the 989-foot Derby Downs track while reaching speeds of more than 30 mph in their homemade, gravity-powered cars. Racers earn their spots in the championship finals by winning Soap Box Derby events in their hometowns or by earning points at rally competitions.

For more information about the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, and to purchase tickets* for this year’s event, visit*

Sounds like fun? Learn more by watching these videos:

A Great Race

Last year’s hiatus marked only the second time since the Soap Box Derby was established in 1934 that the annual championship was cancelled. The first occurred during World War II when there was a four-year break from 1942 through 1945. Also, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the first time that girls could race in the All-American Soap Box Derby.

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