Quincy Derby celebrates 20th anniversary this weekend with record 237 drivers

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Racing starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday on the 18th Street hill near the Ted Awerkamp Bridge and Bob Mays Park. Saturday's racing is scheduled to start around 8:30 a.m. This year's field boasts a record 237 cars, with 103 in the Super Kids division and a record 70 in Super Stock. | MRN File Photo

QUINCY — Ray Wilson admits this weekend’s Quincy Derby will be a little more special.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the event once known as the Soap Box Derby. 

“What a lot of people don’t realize is how much work so many people put it into this all year round,” said Wilson, who is in the midst of his 13th year as director of the event that has been sponsored by the Quincy Optimist Club since its creation.

The derby has been a two-day event since 2015. Friday is set aside solely for four divisions of Super Kids — participants with intellectual or physical limitations — while Saturday belongs to the traditional divisions of Super Stock, Stock and Masters Elite.

Racing starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday on the 18th Street hill near the Tom Awerkamp Bridge and Bob Mays Park. Saturday’s racing is scheduled to start around 8:30 a.m. This year’s field boasts a record 237 cars, with 103 in the Super Kids division and a record 70 in Super Stock. The derby has topped 200 entries four times in the last seven years.

“I don’t think there’s any limit on how big this can eventually become,” Wilson said. “We now have the biggest independent derby in the nation. Only the original Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, is bigger than us, but we close the gap a little more each year.”

The 86th International Soap Box Derby in Ohio is scheduled for early July. A year ago, the Akron event had 323 participants.

“We want to eventually become the biggest derby in the nation. I think some day we’ll get there,” Wilson said.

Quincy’s Grand Prix of Gravity had a rather humble beginning — 34 racers back in 2005 — but that seems light years ago, considering how far it has come in terms of raw numbers. The Quincy Derby has attracted 2,458 participants since its inception.

Kalli Mullen of Bluffs may be the top driver to watch this year. She’s trying to become the first back-to-back champion in the Super Stock class. Mullen (48-16) also has the second-most wins in derby history, trailing only Jadyn Vogel (68-20), who retired after the 2022 races with six titles (2016-21) in the Stock division.

Another name to track is Tanner Wisely (40-17) of Coatsburg. He’s tied with his brother, Tyler (40-14), for most career wins by a boy. Tanner won the 2022 Stock championship and has been a perennial high finisher. Tyler is retired from derby racing.

Riley Delgado, the 2022 Super Stock champ with a 19-7 overall record since 2022, also figures to be a force.

Alaina Obert, the all-time victory leader among Super Kids, will try and improve on her 24-win total.

This year’s Quincy Derby Hall of Fame inductees will be Jordyn Liesen of Quincy and Michael Cornett of Quincy. They will both be honored during Saturday’s activities.

Liesen won the 2021 Masters Elite and 2017 Super Stock titles en route to compiling a 25-9 career record. She’s one of 14 racers in the event’s history with 25 or more victories.

Cornett was a 2017 Super Kids champion. His 18 career wins are third most among the Super Kids.

The derby hall of fame now has 21 members.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The name of the bridge on 18th Street was misidentified in a previous version of this story.

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