FEDERALSBURG — Two Mid-Shore Soap Box Derby racers returned home Sunday as world champions.
Saleta Nichols, 14, of Federabsurg and Owen Connolly, 13, of Easton each qualified for the 82nd All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship Race during June’s Delmarva Soap Box Derby in Federalsburg.
The tandem made the most of their trip to Akron, Ohio by winning two world championships for the Mid-Shore.
Connolly earned the first crown with a victory in the AAA Local Challenge on Tuesday, July 16. Nichols then earned the world title in the Local Super Stock race on Saturday, July 20, while driving the Greensboro Police Department car.
The racers returned home Sunday to a heroes welcome in Federalsburg. Police from Federalsburg and Greensboro, along with the Federalsburg Volunteer Fire Company escorted the racers through town. Federalsburg Mayor Chuck Planner, community members and other racing families welcomed the racers at the Federalsburg firehouse with an ice cream and cake party.
“Congratulations to Saleta and Owen for winning their championships,” Delmarva Soap Box Derby Executive Director Danny Phillips said at Sunday’s welcome home party. “The fact that we have two world champions in town says we are doing something right.
“We have a family-oriented community that helps put on the Delmarva Soap Box Derby each June,” he said. “We are proud of all the racers and families through the years that represent the Eastern Shore so well in Akron.”
The car driven by Nichols was purchased three years ago by the Greensboro Police Department and futures the departments green livery. Greensboro Police Chief Eric Lee and Pfc. Ashley Collison joined Nichols and Connolly for Sunday’s celebration.
“I just want to thank everyone for the support we have,” Saleta’s father Todd Nichols said. “The first set of wheels when she went across the finishing line fell off. Bo Donovan and Strands team came to our rescue. They helped us square it off, tighten stuff up.
“Thank you to Federalsburg, Greensboro, BTR Racing and everyone who came together to support us,” he said. “Danny Pollard is very instrumental with how well we all run. We thank everyone for all their support.”
Connolly received help from his grandfather Fred and father Curt.
“The first time up there is not easy,” Fred Connolly said. “Curt worked his butt off to give Owen a great car. We are all so proud of Owen.”
The Eastern Shore racers believe the Federaksburg qualifying course gives the local racers an advantage when they go to Akron — calling both tracks driver’s tracks.
“Our Federalsburg course really prepares our drivers for Akron,” Delmarva Soap Box Derby volunteer William Greenage said. “It’s not about holding the inside. Federalsburg you have to understand the bumps and transitions in each lane. How you drive one lane is different than the other lane.
“The first year that Owen showed up in Federalsburg he was quick,” he said. “He has always been quick. The same thing with Saleta. Her and Todd showed up in an old car with rusted axles the first year, and she was still beating just about everyone that has been racing for years. She has a great understanding of how to race. Federalsburg is not an easy track to figure out, but she has always been quick. I’m happy for Owen and Saleta.”