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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 6 - 12, 2003


Racing down the ramp at Derby Downs

Ketchum’s Coco Knudson in top ten at All-American Soap Box Derby

Express Staff Writer

There were over 20,000 spectators lining the race track at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio July 26—but Ketchum’s Coco Knudson was focused on just one thing, winning.

"We call her the Ice Queen," said her proud mother Lynn Knudson.

Coco Knudson with her Idaho state champion trophy and All-American Soap Box derby t-shirt. Express photo by Jeff Cordes


Coco, 14, agreed with her mother. "I get too focused—getting low in my car and following the perfect line and not turning the steering wheel. Just letting the road take my car."

The reigning Idaho state champion, Coco won two of her heats in the Super Stock division of the All-American Soap Box Derby and ended up finishing 10th of 138 entries.

That’s the best an Idaho driver has ever done at the All-American Soap Box Derby, the World Series of derby racing which marked its 70th anniversary running July 26 at Akron.

"We (Idaho) have never gotten past the first heat before," said Coco.

Coco’s car, put together by her father Tom Knudson from an All-American Soapbox Derby car construction kit, is made out of recycled milk cartons with a platform of wood.

Coco’s decal decorations included a skull and crossbones with a logo entitled Cocobean Race Team.

In her third year of Soap Box derby racing and her first trip to the international competition, she made opponents walk the plank at Akron.

To succeed in the big meet, you have to have a great car, a great driver and a great attitude, Lynn said.

Coco was up to the task.

She worked on her car upon arrival, in pouring rain, Tuesday, July 22. She made her only trial run on the ramp July 23. The drivers were forbidden to work on their cars Thursday and Friday, July 24-25. So Coco went to Six Flags and went shopping.

The racers had to be at the track at 7:30 a.m. on Race Day, July 26. There was a Parade of Champions. Spectators started lining the track.

There were thousands of fans including Coco’s parents Tom and Lynn, and her grandparents Marlene and Henry Swigert of Portland, Ore.

Coco tried to ignore the crowd.

Racing against two other drivers in her first heat, Coco won with a time of 29.00 seconds. In her second heat down the 989-foot track, she improved and won in 28.98 seconds.

She was even faster in her third heat, 28.58 seconds, but lost by less than half an inch. "I thought I was going to do better," Coco said.

An incoming Community School freshman who weighs in at 5-2 ½ and 97 pounds, Knudson along with her best friend Lexie duPont first got involved in Soap Box racing three years ago through their school.

The first two years, Coco competed in Stock Division (total weight allowed 200 pounds). This year she won Super Stock (230 pounds) during May’s qualifier at Elkhorn.

Now, she wants a car with an engine in it. Her father is a motorcycle racer, and Coco wants to try go karts.

"It was a big learning experience," said Coco’s mother Lynn about her daughter’s Soap Box derby racing. "She learned a lot about getting up at a super competitive level."



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