Gift of soapbox racer kit puts grandson on a roll


John Iorio's grandfather is always getting him into something; like tapings of TV game shows or sailing courses, for example. And this time, he may have gotten him a trip to the 50th annual All-American Soap Box Derby.

All the sixth-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle School has to do is win a few races with the soap box racer that his grandfather, John Iorio Sr., won for him in a drawing at K mart.

"My grandfather gets in a lot of contests," young John, who lives in Poplar Ridge, said with a shrug. "Once, he won tickets to a Double Dare show.

John Sr. entered this contest several times, using his grandson's name, John Iorio III. But the first the youngster knew about it was when a letter arrived from K mart about a month ago telling him he had won a kit to build a Soap Box Derby racer.

He was one of 400 youngsters to win kits, according to officials at Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. They were offered by a conglomeration of candy companies through K mart.

John III wasn't sure what to think when the kit arrived.

"I thought it would be bigger than this," he said.

John Sr. was thrilled.

"I'm rehashing, reliving the things I did with his father and his two uncles when they were boys," he said.

And John Jr., John III's father, sighed with exasperation. "Oh, man. My father. . ."

Now, the frame of the racer sits on books in the living room of the two-story gray house on Cedar Road, waiting for the shell to be put on.

"He put it together himself," John Jr. bragged. "I just sat in a chair and every once in a while said, 'Nope, you did that wrong, better check the instruction.' He did, and got it right."

John III, tall for an 11-year-old at 5 feet 8 inches, said he still has to move the brake pedal from its spot so he can fit into the racer. And he has to find out where he can enter a race to qualify for the championships in Akron.

Derby rules require a youngster between the ages of 9 and 16 to win a qualifying race near his or her home to advance to the national finals in Akron. For John, that race probably is in Washington on July 11, according to Ken Tomasello, director of that race.

"Each franchise holder has a certain area, and I've got Anne Arundel County in my area," he explained.

Other races for Marylanders are held in Westminster and Hagerstown.

Tomasello said he expects 50 or 60 entries in three divisions. The winner of each division advances to Akron.

John said he has read some Soap Box Derby magazines, but he never thought about entering the races before.

"So this'll be kinda neat," he decided.

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