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Local Soap Box Derby racing club brings diversity to the track

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Posted at 1:09 PM, May 18, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — As the pro’s gear up for the Indy 500, another group of young racers are preparing for a Soap Box Derby competition of their own. One local racing club is bringing diversity to the track.

Tyrone Chandler started the Riverside Racing Club three years ago to expose more kids of color to the sport.

“I lived in the Riverside neighborhood all my life and growing up we’ve never seen people of color on the hill,” said Chandler.

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Riverside Racing Club

Chandler is referring to the Wilber Shaw Memorial Hill where dozens of kids fly down in the Soap Box cars, they help build themselves.

"I feel like it really makes a difference when you work on the car and not just like race in it,” said 12-year-old Adonis Wellington.

Adonis has been racing for four years and is one of nearly a dozen kids in Chandler’s club.

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Riverside Racing Club

“It gives the kids something to do that's always important and introducing them to someone different,” explained Timdrick Stewart, the Community Engagement Director for the Indianapolis Soap Box Derby who also works with the club.

Over the years, hundreds of kids of color have since been behind the wheel, won world championships and made it to national championships including Stewart, a former racer himself now trying to help other kids get there too.

"We have a very strong race reputation in Indianapolis not just the Indy 500 but Soap Box Derby. I feel like I was a part of the shift as well as far as introducing more African Americans to the sport as well,” Stewart said.

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Riverside Racing Club

The Riverside Racing club however is not just about the competition.

"In the classroom they learn a lot of stem and why this does that and what it's for but when they come here, they actually get to touch it,” explained Chandler who’s an engineer by trade and runs the Urban Youth Entrepreneur Academy.

"I learned about Aerodynamics and stuff like that. I learned how weight affects how your car moves,” added Adonis.

Lessons Adonis needed as he geared up for the 23rd Annual Soap Box Derby Mayor's Cup, a race started to bring inner city youth together.

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Riverside Racing Club practicing

The goal of racing is to steer kids in the right direction.

“It helps them get out of trouble it helps them concentrate get better grades,” said Chandler. "They can't wait to come back here and finish their projects."

It also encourages kids like Adonis to strive for big goals on and off the track.

"Trying to get them those career jobs behind the scenes,” Chandler said. “We do technology, 3-D printing robotics which are some of the same skills that you need to run the scene behind the scenes like at the Indianapolis 500."

"This has made me interested in formula one racing,” added Adonis.

The Riverside Racing Club is for kids ages 7-17 and free for families to be a part of.

To learn more, you can visit the Indianapolis Soap Box Derby or click here.