The first time she got behind the wheel of a Soap Box Derby car, Danielle Fuller was hooked by the sensation of steering the car around a makeshift track, only the wheel in her hands and a brake pad at her feet to help control her speed.
That was in 2012, at the Gorge Gravity Games in The Dalles. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
On Sunday, the 8-year-old from White Salmon won her first individual title of significance, placing first in the Stock Division at the 63rd annual Salem (Ore.) All-American Soap Box Derby Local Championships, to qualify for her first World Championships in Akron, Ohio, home of the governing body, All-American Soap Box Derby. The 77th annual running of the Soap Box Derby finals will take place July 21-26 at Akron’s Derby Downs track.
Danielle, or Dani, is in her first season of Soap Box Derby racing. Her step-father, Jesse Trosper, noted she only raced about half a season because she didn’t get her own car until last winter.
“The guy running the event at the Gravity Games was really impressed by Dani’s driving skills. He told her, ‘You know, there’s a race in two weeks, and you’re invited to go.’ After that race, all she wanted for Christmas was a Soap Box Derby car,” Trosper said.
Dani claimed her first local championship on Sunday by winning five of six races on Salem’s paved 940-foot course (measured top to bottom).
Said Dani, “I like going fast. It’s just me, a steering wheel, and a brake pad.”
The Stock Division in which Dani competes is for racers ages 8-13. Stock cars are designed to accommodate racers up to 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 125 pounds. (The Stock car has a lean-forward design and is sold as a kit with everything included put Z-Glass racing wheels and weights. Painting the car’s shell is not allowed, so drivers have their choice of purchasing one of three colored shells: red, white, or blue. Assembly of the car takes 4-6 hours.)
That Dani has done as well as she has in only a partial first season of racing has been a great surprise to her mother, Lisa Fuller, and her step-father.
“Mom and dad didn’t anticipate her doing that well,” Trosper said about Dani qualifying to represent Salem at All-American Soap Box Derby’s biggest event.
To make sure Dani gets to Akron, her parents are seeking sponsorships to help defray travel expenses. For more information, contact Trosper at Jesse. firstname.lastname@example.org, or 509-637-3234.