AKRON, Ohio, March 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The All-American Soap Box Derby, the greatest amateur racing event in the world, today announced that FirstEnergy Corp., headquartered in Akron, Ohio, has agreed to be its new title sponsor.
The 75th running of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby will feature boys and girls ages 7 to 17 putting their math and science skills to the test, designing and assembling wood and fiberglass gravity-powered cars from kits. More than 500 finalists from 230 races, including competitions in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Germany and around the United States, are expected to compete in the championship finals to be held July 21, 2012. The cars are capable of reaching speeds up to 35 mph at Akron's Derby Downs, the nearly 1,000-foot racetrack that has been the home to the race since 1936.Prior to its three-year sponsorship agreement, FirstEnergy has been a longtime supporter of the Akron event, providing financial assistance and sponsoring several cars for area racers over the years. The company's sponsorship will help expand this unique competition to more communities and families. "We are thrilled that two great Akron institutions – the All-American Soap Box Derby and FirstEnergy – are joined together through this title sponsorship," said Joe Mazur, president of the All-American Soap Box Derby. "Our organization truly appreciates FirstEnergy's past support and we hope this sponsorship will encourage other companies and contributors to join our efforts to bring this unique form of racing to youngsters around the world." "FirstEnergy is proud to support one of Akron's signature events that enjoys a rich heritage around the world," said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive officer of FirstEnergy. "For 75 years, this program has provided young people the opportunity to learn important design and engineering lessons, while at the same time discovering the value of teamwork and friendly competition. By sponsoring the event, we want to help make sure this tradition continues." The All-American Soap Box Derby started in 1934 in Dayton, Ohio. Akron's central location and hilly terrain triggered a relocation of the event in 1935. In 1936, Akron's community leadership and the federal Works Progress Administration made Derby Downs the permanent site for the national event. With the exception of years missed during World War II, racers from around the globe have annually competed in local and regional qualifying events for the opportunity to come to Akron to challenge Derby Downs in the championship finals. "The Soap Box Derby is an Akron icon," said Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. "It continues a great tradition that brings families together and teaches young people the skills that Akron is known for around the world – making things that improve people's lives. Assembling a Soap Box Derby car can be a transformative event in the life of a child and his or her family. By stepping up, FirstEnergy has again demonstrated how a corporate citizen can preserve one of our city's greatest traditions. I am grateful to the company and CEO Tony Alexander for their contribution." As the nation's premier youth- and family-oriented, gravity-powered car racing program, the All-American Soap Box Derby continues to work to attract more participants by introducing racer design and construction skills in math and science elementary school curriculums. In addition, rule changes have been enacted over the years to simplify participation.
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