LUMBERTON — Nine might be 8-year-old Matthew Hodges’ new lucky number.
That was the number carefully painted on his Pinewood Derby car that streaked down the track March 12, out running competitors from Hoke, Scotland and Robeson counties while capturing first place. Two years ago, the No. 9 came in second.
“He had that number the first year, and then he changed it,” said Julie Hodges, his mother. “I said, ‘Well, Matt, you won with number nine the first year, so let’s try it again.”
The third-grader worked for about a month on his black car, which was accented with a silver stripe and two lightning bolts. Julie and his father Jim also helped.
“I help with the painting and the decorations but Daddy helps them with making the cars and the technical parts of it,” Julie said.
Julie and Jim volunteer with Pack 320, which both of their sons have been a part of.
“I think that is one of the things that is not talked about a lot — that fact that in Cub Scouts, there is the opportunity for there to be a lot of bonding between the parents and the young boy,” said Will Robertson, the district executive for the Lumber River District of Boy Scouts. “A lot of these things they do together.”
Third-place finisher Ethan Evans worked on his car for months with his grandfather, Donald Holland.
“As soon as this derby’s over, they start planning for next year how to improve how to make it more aerodynamic and make it faster and what to model it after,” said David Evans, Ethan’s father. “They usually model it after a real race car.”
This year and last year, Ethan’s car looked like NASCAR legend Jeff Gordan’s No. 24 car, complete with National Guard logos. He and his grandfather worked to sand and paint it to perfection.
“It peaks his interest. It gives him something to do with his hands, it involves him with another generation — his grandfather, and it teaches him sportsmanship,” David Evans said. “Just like Scouts.”
Evans won the competition for Pack 301 in February. He said working with his grandfather on the car gives him an advantage.
“He had sons that used to be in Cub Scouts and he used to help them in the Pinewood Derby,” Ethan said. Next year he plans to make his car thinner, which he said is the secret to speed.
“The Pinewood Derby is an exciting thing because little boys love racing,” Robertson said. “… It’s a project they build on their own. It was so neat to see all the creative ideas they had.”
Some cars were traditional muscle cars with flames painted on the sides, while others, like a car made to look like a shark, complete with a fin on top, and a car shaped like a Nintendo Wii remote, were works of art.
The cars, which begin as rectangular pieces of wood, are sent down the track two at a time. The track automatically records times and shows what place each came in.
In conjunction with the derby, a Boy Scout Show was held at the mall.
“The Scout Show is a way for Scouts to get out and into the community,” Robertson said. “Our theme for this year was emergency preparedness, so we had the fire department come out and the emergency rescue team came out with their trucks and of course the kids loved that.”
An industrial fan was set up in the parking lot of the mall so the boys could experience strong winds.
“There idea was to do a hurricane simulator,” Robertson said. “Right there in the parking lot of Biggs Park Mall the kids got to stand in front of the huge fan. It was so big they had to leave it on the trailer.”
Displays in the mall provided information on how to prepare for emergencies like tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.
The day showed off the many activities of Cub Scouts.
“For Matt, it’s a sense of success,” Julie said. “He doesn’t care for sports. For this, he’s able to see himself succeed.”