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BLOOMINGTON - Don Darnell and his 8-year-old son, Zach, of McLean have been involved with Boy Scouts Pack 28 for six years, with Don playing the role of troop leader.

On Saturday, though, the roles were reversed as Zach helped lead his pack with his fast homemade derby car during the annual Boy Scouts of America Crosswoods District Pinewood Derby at Eastland Mall.

"This means a lot to work with my son every year on this derby car," said Don Darnell. "We were making the car at the table and I mentioned we could use a pre-cut car. Well, my son said to me, 'That'd be alright, but we are making memories here by building our own.' That blew me away."

There were hundreds of dads and their sons making these same memories, as each troop took their turn racing cars down an elevated track in the quickest time possible.

Ten-year-old Nick Goff of Lincoln, a member of Troop 110, said the key to a fast race was the design of the car itself. Using his own black and red pinewood derby car as an example, Goff explained that the shape should be raised in the back and then slope downward, similar to the look of the track.

"It takes about a week to make, I think this one is pretty fast," said Goff. "I got a blue ribbon out of it at least."

Don Darnell also said another key to designing the car is to make it as heavy as possible without going over the limit of 5 ounces. The more they weigh, the faster they go down the track, he said.

Seven-year-old Damien Cordes of Farmer City, a member of Troop 137, knew the secrets behind a fast car because he placed second last year with a time of 2.44 seconds. He was hoping to win again this year with the car he and his father, Brent, built.

Brent Cordes said the cars take about a week to design and build, and this year's car was extra special because it was a replica of a street stock 1977 Camaro that their friend owned in Farmer City.

"I love racing, which is why I like this. Plus it's fun to work with dad," said Damien Cordes.

Damien has been a Scout for two years, while his father has been involved with scouts since a very young age, and is currently a 137 troop leader.

"I grew up as a Boy Scout, and really learned a lot," said Brent Cordes. "I actually learned a lot of stuff I actually put to use now in the real world. It just means a lot to now be able to share this with my son."

Waiting for their turn to race at the games, the pair was optimistic their chances were good for a strong finish.

"Let's hope we win," Brent Cordes said.

The first Pinewood Derby was held in 1953 by Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, California. The first reference to the Pinewood Derby in a Scout publication was in the October 1954 issue of Boy's Life.

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