How to make it "more like racing"

Discussions on race planning, preparations and how to run a "fair" and fun race.
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korey99
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How to make it "more like racing"

Post by korey99 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:10 pm

I've presented my pinewood derby plan to my committee, and one piece of negative feedback I'm trying to address is that elimination racing "feels like racing." It's exciting, and it's head to head. My PPN schedule using elapsed times is unsatisfying on that regard. I'm using elapsed time because we don't have time to run a PPN preliminary followed by a PPN finals.

I had an idea that I wanted to ask about. What if I ran my PPN schedule to find the top 4 (all of whom get trophies), then have a 4-car head to head SEEDED elimination bracket to rank those top 4. Run 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3, then a third place race and a champion race. The top seed gets lane choice. The primary goal is giving that race that everyone can cheer and get excited for.

Any thoughts?



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by Stan Pope » Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:47 pm

How about asking the boys which way to go? You could even do this just before starting racing, using the "Final 4" chart if that were what the boys chose, or stopping with the ranked list if that were their preference.

IMO, that "Final 4" race would be anticlimactic. The results probably certain. Nonetheless ...

Tradition appears to be at work very strongly in the Pack. Tradition usually changes slowly unless folks see an obvious improvement. What you are proposing gives a good racing experience (plenty of racing ... for everyone).


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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:08 pm

Generally, those coming from an elimination style to non-elimination want to at least see the top racers going for the trophies. You can do that without having scores of eliminations along the way just by running multiple rounds. I recommend a two round format. In the Prelims, you give everyone an equal opportunity to race. If you can squeeze it in time-wise, give everyone twice down each lane of the track. Then advance the top 6 or 7 racers to run in the Finals. If needed to to save time, just run only once per lane for the Finals.

If time permits, do a "King of the Hill" race with the top finisher from each den.

Don't over think things. It is almost impossible to please everyone, so just do the best that you can.


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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by korey99 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:27 pm

Thanks all. I'm talking about a den of maybe 8 or 9, and I'm time limited, so while I'd love to do a full 2-run 3-lane PPN, followed by a 7-car PN, that'd be a little silly, since maybe only one guy wouldn't make the 2nd round.

The desire to have elimination racing does have a historical component to it. I totally understand why. I'd like to investigate the "final four" option. Even an anticlimactic final four (in which all places are determined to be the same as the seeding) would be useful, in that it'd prove my new non-elimination format works, while hopefully giving some satisfaction to those who would like head-to-head elimination.

In the non-elimination races I've seen, I don't think I saw the kids standing up a cheering for a racer. However, in the semifinals and finals rounds of a bracket, there's a lot at stake, and folks get into it!

I've been trying to research and think through it, but does a 4-car single elimination bracket, along with a 3rd place consolation game, properly rank the top four? The very key point here that the bracket is SEEDED.



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:32 pm

Of course, the huge drawback of an elimination bracket is that racers are not running in each lane. So, someone could easily say they didn't win because they were in the "slow" lane. Even if the lanes run very close, there is always the perception that one lane is the fastest and another is the slowest.

How much time do you have budgeted for just the racing? How many total racers are you expecting?


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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by korey99 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:07 pm

I'm racing 4 dens, each of which will have ~8-10 kids. I figured I could do all four dens of den level racing in 2 hours, using the twice around 3 lane PPN elapsed time racing. I wouldn't want to go that much more than that.

I could draw for random lanes for the "final four", or allow the higher seed to choose first. I'm not sure most of the boys are well-equipped to make that decision though, and there could be some coaching from the stands.

I don't what the reaction would be in the final four bracket gave different results from the qualifying elapsed times...



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:19 pm

OK, Say you have 10 racers per den:

Prelims
40 racers
40 heats total - all racers race once per lane (PPN schedule)

Finals - Top 7 from each den advance
28 racers
28 heats total - all racers race once per lane (PN schedule)

So, we are looking at 68 heats total.

If your average turnaround time per heat is 1.5 minutes, that is a total of 1 hr 42 mins.

You even have time left over from your 2 hours to take your top racer from each den and run them in an overall "King of the Hill" type race, if you want. You can still use a PN schedule for that with 3 byes.


To give you some perspective, for our last pack race, we ran all of the scouts twice down each lane of a 4 lane track and gave our Outlaw racers once down each lane. That ended up being 99 total heats. We did that in 1 hr 15 min. Of course, the race crew was doing all of the handling of the cars. It just takes some basic organization of the race crew and you can get your turnaround time down under 1 minute.


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by korey99 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:28 pm

My "King of the Hill" race has some separate time allotted, not included in that 2 hours, which is good.

The problem I have with the 2-round system is that it's going to weird to explain why, for the first den (let's say it has 6) we did something different than for the next den, which might have 8. It'd also be awkward, I think, to explain why we run a schedule with 8 cars, eliminate just 1, then run a PN 7 car schedule. It's kind of an unfortunate deadzone for PN charts in this region. I really like the math and organization of it though.

However, the main goal of this post was to find a way to inject some exciting head-to-head elimination racing, to ease the transition for the traditionalists in the pack.



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:39 pm

korey99 wrote:The problem I have with the 2-round system is that it's going to weird to explain why, for the first den (let's say it has 6) we did something different than for the next den, which might have 8. It'd also be awkward, I think, to explain why we run a schedule with 8 cars, eliminate just 1, then run a PN 7 car schedule. It's kind of an unfortunate deadzone for PN charts in this region. I really like the math and organization of it though.
The next available PN is for 13 racers. For your dens over 7 racers, that is your alternative. Then really you do not need a 2nd round of racing for the den awards.
korey99 wrote:However, the main goal of this post was to find a way to inject some exciting head-to-head elimination racing, to ease the transition for the traditionalists in the pack.
I understand, but it looks to be at the cost of fairness. Frankly, elimination methods are not very fair.

What about doing just a 1 round race for the den awards, then have everyone entered in the overall race? Then it would be easier to do a 2 round race, with your top 7 going for the overall award(s). Maybe allow racers to relube and do quick adjustments after the den races, so you can get different results in the overall race. It gives those that did not win in the den races a 2nd chance.


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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by korey99 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:52 pm

Thanks for the discussion, Randy. I appreciate it.

I do agree that adding the bracket at the end might come at a cost. If we did it, and the results didn't match the top elapsed times, I'd be concerned.

Passing all scouts on to the pack race is a big no no. I got very significant pushback from some other leaders on that one. They said it was like giving everyone a trophy. The tradition is that qualifying for the pack finals bracket is prestigious. I can understand that perspective, though I disagree. They won't win, and 60-70% of the racers qualify for the pack finals under our normal plan anyway.



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 12, 2015 11:05 pm

korey99 wrote:Passing all scouts on to the pack race is a big no no. I got very significant pushback from some other leaders on that one. They said it was like giving everyone a trophy. The tradition is that qualifying for the pack finals bracket is prestigious. I can understand that perspective, though I disagree. They won't win, and 60-70% of the racers qualify for the pack finals under our normal plan anyway.
I'd sell it as a separate race all together. That's why I think that it would be important to have the break to allow re-lubing and re-tuning. Then results can be quite different.

Another option that you might consider is the single round den races and take the top 1 or 2 from each den to race for the overall pack awards. That would hopefully satisfy the traditionalists. Then do the separate race with everyone. It can be a just "for fun" race, have some nominal prizes or go all out and have trophies.


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by ngyoung » Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:25 am

I think the derbies that get someone that is engaging the audience MCing the event can really set the race atmosphere. How exciting and competitive the finals are can really depend on the cars involved. Some years you may have someone blow everyone away, other times it may go back and forth each heat. It doesn't necessarily have to come from the 1st place spot. Sometimes bringing attention to a battle for 3rd can get people engaged.

I figure you are set on your qualifications for your finals bracket but I just had a few more thoughts you may consider. Often packs are even more strict on their finals, only passing the top 3 or even just 1 from each rank/den. This often leads to faster cars not qualifying if they have a competitive den. To prevent that they invite some of the non den winners with the fastest times to fill in their bracket. You can also run a losers or top qualifiers elimination bracket with mixed ranks to invite a certain number to fill your finalist bracket. You could also make a time cut off so anyone as fast or faster then the slowest den winner's time qualifies for the finals.

Depending on your pack and den numbers some years you may have 2/3 of the cars qualify other times it may be less. You always hope that first round weeds out the kids that just didn't really care about making a fast car. Sadly there is usually some that are disappointed but hopefully they have another year for you or another derby dad to take under their wing.



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Re: How to make it "more like racing"

Post by Darin McGrew » Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:56 am

korey99 wrote:Any thoughts?
To me, what makes it "feel like racing" is that the results are based on finish order, not on times. But you said you don't have time to use a points-based system. And frankly, what "feels like racing" is a rather subjective standard.

Another approach might be a quintuple elimination system, like the one Stan has described. Then the results are based on who wins each race, not on comparing times after the fact. And such a system can be accurate and fair, as long as the lanes are relatively even.



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