Sophomore’s soap box derby racing career includes a world championship title

Now retired from the sport, Malena Shipley has earned numerous awards and set records over the past several years


Courtesy of Malena Shipley

Malena Shipley won the Soap Box Derby National Championship in 2017 in Akron, Ohio.

Chloe Dierkes, Staff Writer

How many world champions of something do you know? Well, you may know the Soap Box Derby Racing World Champion: sophomore Malena Shipley. 

For those who do not know, soap box derby racing is a sport where children and young adults build motorless cars to race down a hill.

Shipley started racing when she was seven years old. It all started when she was at a local festival and tried racing at one of the stations. The man running the stand thought she was really talented and asked her to race in a nearby race. 

Shipley and her parents did not think this hobby would turn into a serious endeavor. 

“We thought it was just going to be a one-time thing that I would do, and I ended up going to nationals from there,” Shipley explained.

She started out in local races and her racing career only expanded from there, traveling to compete as far as West Virginia and Akron, Ohio where she raced in the National Championships six times and won it in 2017 in the masters division. Despite its name, the event also features international competitors from across the globe, meaning that Shipley can officially call herself a world champion.

In addition to being crowned a world champion, Shipley has also won a number of awards and records during her racing career. 

In 2016, Shipley took home the Nationals Rally fastest track time, third place at the DQ Rally Challenge, and second place at a national rally, all in the stock division, and was in the National 200 Point Club. 

Shipley likes soap box derby racing because “it was a really different thing to do. I’m also really competitive so anything with competition is really fun for me.”

“We thought it was just going to be a one-time thing that I would do, and I ended up going to nationals from there.”

In soap box derbies, part of the process is that racers build their own cars. 

“I liked the whole process of building the car,” she said. “Being able to make the car yourself and then race it is a really cool thing to be able to do.”

It took Shipley and her dad about a month to build and paint her final car before she retired from racing.

Because soap box derby racers don’t actually hit the track with their cars until the day of the races, she said her preparation “was more of mentally preparing and getting ready for nationals with the rally races I was doing before nationals.”

Shipley mostly raced during the summer, from once a month to every weekend, depending on the amount of points she needs. 

Shipley was a natural at soap box derby racing, but she said, “I think that when I started, I was good mostly because I was really focused. That helped me a lot because focus is one of the most important things. Then when I started rally racing, that helped me get really good at it.”

She stopped a few years ago because it became too much of a commitment, especially with the amount of time traveling took and the commitments she held to other sports.  Also, the expenses of a unique sport like soap box derby racing added up quickly. 

After she retired her collection of cars at the end of her racing career a few years ago, she gave many of them away. In fact, one of them hangs in the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. 

Racing helped shape Shipley into the person she is today. 

“It helped me learn how to set goals and helped me become really focused,” Shipley said. “I had to be committed because it took all of those years to build up to winning the national championship. I had to work towards it and be able to give up my time to race every week.”

The focus, commitment, and goal-setting Shipley learned while racing continues to help her today as she participates in basketball, cross country, and track.

What started as a simple hobby turned into an award-winning career, proving that you never know what passions will drive you to your next chance at success.