Description: The soap box derby is a race in which youth racers construct their own gravity-powered race cars and compete against each other for titles. The local Sioux City races began in 1936, and originally only boys were allowed to compete. Many racers have gone from the Sioux City competition to the national championships, though none have ever won the national title. The 1950s and 60s were the heydays of the derby, and in Sioux City and across the nation the race became a much-loved and watched sport. This powder-blue Jaycees car was built in 1967 by Mark Lehmann, who won the Sioux City race that year. The derby competitions were originally held on city streets, but in 2003 Sioux City got its own professional Derby Hill, located near the Lewis and Clark baseball park. That year two girls won the Sioux City competition, 16-year-old Kristi Pickens and 11-year-old Emily Atkinson, both racers reaching speeds over 30 miles an hour.
Soap box races are not the only way Sioux Cityans enjoy their racing. In the late 19th century Riverside Park had a mile-long horse racing track. There was also Evans Driving Park on the north side of town, where harness or carriage driving races occurred. The Riverside track was closed in 1910 and reopened the next year as a half-mile track for horse and automobile racing. The two-mile Sioux City Speedway in North Sioux City was home to the Sioux City 300, an automobile race that was compared to the Indianapolis 500 in popularity. When it began in 1914 the founders had prepared for a crowd of 10,000; nearly 50,000 spectators showed up for the inaugural race and some of the biggest names in racing at the time competed. The Sioux City 300 continued as an annual tradition, drawing in thousands. The races ceased in 1917, most likely due to changes in the racing industry as standardized stock cars became more popular than customized racers.
*See Siouxcityhistory.org for more information on “Sioux City’s Mini Indy”
Donor: Mark Lehmann