AKRON, Ohio - Director and actor Corbin Bernsen, who generated a buzz around the All-American Soap Box Derby by creating a movie about the Akron race tradition, said he wants to build on that momentum by starting a derby reality TV show.
In an interview with NewsChannel5 on Wednesday, Bernsen said the idea is in the beginning stages and he plans to discuss his thoughts for the show with derby officials in Akron.
Bernsen, who is in town for the 75th anniversary of the derby, said his proposed show would be along the lines of American Idol.
"We'd go around the country to great derby organizations and have races building toward a big race that would be on the same day as the All-American," Bernsen said.
Bersen's movie "25 Hill" debuted in Akron and earlier this month was released nationally on DVD.
The derby has experienced a period of great growth within the last year. For the first time in several years, the event has a title sponsor. The race is now called FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby.
Bob Troyer, public relations chairman for the derby, said other companies have stepped forward with donations and support. Goodyear is serving as the scholarship sponsor and Myers Industries is the official sponsor of the service pits.
"The idea of the Soap Box Derby getting resurgence is felt throughout derby nation. We have a number of race cities who are reporting that they have more interest from people in their communities and have more children racing," Troyer said.
Bernsen created his movie when he read about money trouble the derby was having. He said his film may have "lit a spark," but it was just one factor in positive momentum for the derby.
"You really have to look at the heroes, the people here who've worked with the derby day in and day out and really came in and pulled it all together," Bernsen said.
Troyer said an educational program that brings soap box cars into classrooms around the country is also taking off.
"They actually are building race cars as part of the school curriculum to teach them science and math," Troyer said.
Hunter Norris, from Tullahoma, Tennessee, is in town to watch his step daughter, Caroline Cooper, 12, compete in the super stock division on Saturday.
This is Norris' sixth trip to Akron. His three sons all raced in the Derby and his middle son, Perrin, was a champion in 2004.
Norris was pleased to hear about the derby's resurgence and said building the cars with his children has always been a special bonding time.
"It's probably my closest time with my children I've ever had. That's what soap box derby racing means to our family," Norris said.
Cooper, who will be racing in Akron for the first time, said she enjoyed learning the tools with her step father. Her goal on Saturday is to keep the car straight.
"I've been trying for a couple of years at my local race town so I could have a chance because my step brothers have been here and they told me it's fun," Cooper said.
Exactly 422 racers from around the United States and several other countries will cram into their cars and take their turn down the 989-foot long hill at speeds up to 35 miles per hour beginning with the first heat at 8:40 a.m.
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