Racing like a pro
Rising fifth-grader Bridget Murray is the best driver in metro Richmond – or at least the best soap box stock car driver.
Bridget was recently named the champion of the stock car division of the Richmond Soap Box Derby, quite a feat for a first-time participant. Her impressive journey did not end there, however, as her first-place finish qualified her for a trip of a lifetime to the 73rd All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
Bridget’s mother, LeeAnn, works as a receptionist at the Chesterfield office of the Allen & Allen Law Firm, a company with a history of involvement in the Richmond Soap Box Derby. When they offered to sponsor her daughter in the local competition, both mother and daughter jumped at the chance.
“We had never done anything like this before, and I thought it would be something fun for Bridget to try out,” says LeeAnn. “I had volunteered at the derby for Allen & Allen for the past two years, and I knew it was an exciting event.”
So the Chester residents went out to the Richmond International Raceway Complex on June 5 to make 9-year-old Bridget’s Soap Box Derby debut. Racing in the stock car division for 8-13 year olds, Bridget and LeeAnn were both surprised when Bridget won heat after heat of races on the 800-foot course and continued to qualify for the next rounds.
“I just told her to go and have fun and enjoy herself, and she just kept winning!” laughs LeeAnn. “It wasn’t until the end that she ended up losing once to a boy, but it was double elimination, and she didn’t lose again and ended up winning the whole thing.”
“I was pretty excited to win,” adds Bridget. “I didn’t think I would; I just wanted to have fun.”
After the mother-daughter team celebrated the victory with a trophy as tall as Bridget herself, they turned their attention to Akron, Ohio, where almost 500 racers from around the world competed in the All-American Soap Box Derby. The week leading up to the big race on Saturday, July 24, was an event-filled celebration of the derby’s participants.
“On Monday morning there were all kinds of activities,” says LeeAnn. “Every racer rode by police escort to certain spots around Akron, and then they went across a stage and were introduced to the crowd.”
Later that week, the derby racers were recognized at an Akron Arrows baseball game and took part in an honorary parade around the town. Of course, anticipation was building for the big race on Saturday, and Bridget and her family were ready to try their luck on the famous Akron course.
Unfortunately, Bridget placed second in her heat during her first run and was eliminated from the competition – but that didn’t put a damper on her experience.
“I thought it was really cool,” she says of the trip. “I went there and got to race, and I got a chance to talk to the other drivers. I made a lot of friends.”
As for next year, Bridget, who loves skateboarding and hopes to be a wildlife animal rescuer when she grows up, says she will definitely defend her title at the Richmond Derby next year. LeeAnn is also looking forward to next summer’s races.
“Being able to watch her be excited was my favorite part,” LeeAnn says. “Seeing her enjoying her success, especially in Richmond, was very cool. I loved watching her smile when she was racing, and it was amazing when she won.”
Despite her big win, Bridget is modest about her success.
“I think it just happened,” she says humbly. “It was all luck.”